App Reviewed on: iPad Air 2
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Wave Light Games has been working in its own lane for nearly four years now. Since their release of Demon’s Rise, the developer has been making turn-based strategy games that all feel cut from the same cloth, but not exactly in a bad way. Shieldwall Chronicles is the latest example of this. While this game promises to feature some sort of grand narrative, it mostly feels like the same loose-yet-satisfying tactics game that you’ve come to expect from Wave Light Games.
If you’ve never played a Wave Light Games release, they can take some getting used to, and Shieldwall Chronicles is no exception. This game is not something I would call good-looking or polished in the slightest. Characters stiffly walk around environments and can take a while to animate their movements as the game (seemingly) tries to figure out dice rolls happening behind the scenes.
The upshot of this is that you might go into Shieldwall Chronicles not expecting much fun, but this game has a way of winning you over despite its rough exterior. As roughshod as the game might look and animate, its hex-based strategy actually has some neat systems, complete with a deep roster of units for you to use that all feel unique and interesting.
Choose your fate
At its core, Shieldwall Chronicles is about fighting turn-based battles with a group of six heroes of your choosing. There’s some light story told via dialog boxes to help contextualize these fights, but the bulk of the game plays out on the battlefield. In these fights, you need to manage your heroes’ action points (AP) and use cover to exploit enemy weaknesses.
This isn’t too dissimilar from other Wave Light releases or of tactics games in general. The only real twist that this game tries to put on things is by adding light gamebook elements in its campaign, and when I mean light, I mean pretty unremarkable. During certain exposition dumps prior to missions, you might get an option between two actions prior to a fight, but none of them seem to have any perceptible ramifications on much of anything besides the scenery for your next fight.
Freewheeling is fun
So, if Shieldwall Chronicles looks kind of janky, uses familiar tactics mechanics, and has a lackluster choose-your-own adventure mechanic, then that begs the question: What is good about this game? Some folks might say there’s nothing here to enjoy, but that would completely discount this game's ability to let you have fun with it. It may sound weird, but yes Shieldwall Chronicles is a heck of a good time because it's flat-out better than most games at enabling you to have fun with everything it has to offer, perhaps even so much so that everything else (read: visuals, among other things) falls by the wayside.
I don’t care that this game has wooden animations and boilerplate mechanics because it also lets me control a barbarian unit that can also transform into a werewolf who I can trade out for an ice mage that summons ice golems the next time I play. No matter who I cycle in and out of my party, they'll always be at the right level for me, so I don't have to worry about playing well or carefully. I can just play. And--with a cast that can do things like teleport around the map or summon vines to disable enemy combatants--being able to just play with these characters feels really fresh and fun.
The bottom line
I’m not sure how successful Shieldwall Chronicles might be on other platforms, but having a game that plays fast-and-loose with the rules of tactics games on mobile feels fantastically refreshing. There are definitely a lot of rough edges here, but don’t let that stop you from enjoying a tactics game that gives you limitless opportunities to explore everything it has to offer.