Developer: Digital Worlds
Price: $0.99
Version Reviewed: 1.0

Graphics / Sound Rating: ★★★★☆
Game Controls Rating: ★★★☆☆
Gameplay Rating: ★★★☆☆

iPhone Integration Rating: ★★★☆☆
User Interface Rating: ★★★★☆

Re-use / Replay Value Rating: ★★☆☆☆

Overall Rating: ★★★☆☆

Strongholds is a good looking, easy to use, simple to understand, turn by turn strategy game with amazing potential that underachieves in just one area, FUN! All hope is not lost though, all it really needs are some updates.

What is it?

In short, Strongholds is turn by turn style battle strategy game where you pull, discard, and play different battle cards in an effort to beat an underwhelming AI opponent. The concept is similar to a game you may have played as a kid with a deck of cards you would have carried around everywhere. Only difference is now the math is done for you quickly and easily which keeps the game flowing and of course you’re not losing cards in your backpack anymore. The story-line is a bit weak, and it goes something like this: sometime in the near future, two rival armory corporations separated by a river find themselves locked in an arms race and battle for who can build their stronghold the fastest and destroy the other. It’s cliché, unimaginative, but in the end a strong story isn’t all that necessary for a game as fast paced as this.

Graphics and Sound

img_0031The graphics for this game are actually pretty detailed for what they need to be and although I’ve definitely seen flashier battle sequences, for this game they aren’t necessary . If you are deep in thought and concentration over what cards to play over the next three or more rounds the last thing you need is to be distracted by bright flashing lights and videos. There aren’t many sound effects, but they get the job done and one nice feature the developer added was the ability to let your iPod music to play while playing the game. One down side with that is they didn’t include any in game music either. I like being able to play my own music but a choice would be nice also.

Game Controls, User Interface, & iPhone integration

The game controls and interface are very simplistic and intuitive, within the first minute of playing the game you’ll know and understand how to control and read every necessity for the game. The iPhone integration is stable and efficient but nothing about this game really screams iPHONE! No accelerometer integration and although its touch screen based, obviously, there isn’t anything other than the turn by turn auto-save feature that makes me feel like I couldn’t have seen this on my PDA five or more years ago. Adding something more specialized could raise it’s replay value a bit as well.

Gameplay and Re-use Value

Raising this value in any way would be great because this is where the game takes a steep decline. At first glance the game seems fairly complex and challenging (in the way you would want a strategy based game to be). With “more than a 100 tactical battle cards,” as stated by the developer, and values all over the screen, the first time I played I lost pretty quickly. Then I went back and read the help menu (crucial for understanding all of the attributes) before my next attempt, this is where the game quickly turned from Chess to Checkers. I learned that I could quickly rush build my Stronghold to the magic number of 60 and win each round within minutes with little to no real challenge. After 3 or 4 winning rounds I found myself very bored with the game and little desire to ever play it again. I even gave it a day and went back to it to see if my attitude would change, it didn’t, it’s just too darn easy. At the time of this writing Version 1.0 was selling for $2.99 on the App Store, but since has dropped down to $0.99. This new price point makes in much easier to justify and at least worth a glance.

I may be being a little harsh here and In the developer’s defense it is stated clearly under the app’s “Key Features” on the App Store that the “gameplay [is] designed for short battles that won’t take much of your time.” I understand this, I do, but I’m sorry, if there’s no challenge then there’s no feeling of accomplishment and I’m too busy to waste time just for the sake of wasting time.

All hope is not lost though, I truly believe this game has all the potential to be a fantastic iPhone game. 2 or 3 major tweaks could make all the difference in the world. 1) Make the AI tougher, sure maybe keep the idea of short battles in there for time’s sake, but make that the ‘Easy’ difficulty and then add a ‘Medium’ and ‘Hard’ as well. Perhaps adding a Slidebar setting that allows you to choose how many Stronghold points are required to win could help. 2) Add Wi-Fi multiplayer, I would love to take on my roommates in an epic battle for bragging rights of intellect. Those two features alone would make this game one of the best valued apps that I’ve seen in the store.
 The bottom line is at $0.99 grab it for a short stint of fun but don’t expect much until some new features are added.

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