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Developer: Noumena

Price: $4.99
Version: 1.0
App Reviewed on: iPhone 4

Graphics/Sound Rating: ★★★☆☆
Game Controls Rating: ★★★½☆
Gameplay Rating: ½☆☆☆☆
Re-use/Replay Value Rating: ★☆☆☆☆

Overall Rating: ★★★★☆☆☆☆☆☆

Taking art design and gameplay cues from Nintendo’s Advance Wars series, Tiny War attempts to marry strategy elements with a persistent game world, complete with player-vs-player battles and massively-multiplayer functionality like in-game chat. It’s an ambitious pursuit that ultimately hits almost every conceivable roadblock on its path to success. Coupled with some questionable monetization schemes, it’s hard to recommend Tiny War even to the most ardent strategy fans.

Tiny War’s gameplay is broken up into two phases: base-building and resource collection; and turn-based strategy-RPG combat. A lot of time spent playing the former falls under the “tap something and wait a while” genre popularized by the likes of Tiny Tower and Pocket Planes. Buildings within the player’s base take a while to build, leaving plenty of downtime away from the game.
The base-building aspect might look like something from Command and Conquer but no units move outside the base in real time; troops exist only in menus until a battle is triggered, at which time a grid is drawn up and combat takes place in a turn-based fashion.
Tiny War boasts a comprehensive tutorial that unfortunately highlights the game’s key flaw rather well: between base-building, upgrading production centers, assigning and customizing commanders and creating troops, it can take hours just to get to a combat encounter. The dense, unintuitive interface doesn’t help. Menus aplenty here. And while hardcore strategy fans might appreciate the level of customizability and control over the minutiae, actual combat is pretty shallow.

In-app purchases allow for the purchasing of the games resource, which lets big spenders power their way to high-end units quickly and in huge numbers. This leaves non-paying players at a huge disadvantage. In single-player games this kind of monetization just serves to reduce grind for the impatient, but in a multiplayer game it destroys any sense of balance in player-versus-player encounters.

But the most questionable part of Tiny War is the incentives developer Noumena offers. Those who review the app in the app store and give it five stars get a respectable amount of in-game resources. That kind of ploy for positive reviews shows little confidence in the game’s quality and, regrettable, is pretty well earned.

Tiny War is incredibly ambitious for an iOS app. The idea of an MMO strategy game for a mobile platform is fantastic; it’s just a shame the execution falls short of the game’s potential. And with such an emphasis on in-app purchases, it would have been nice for the app itself to be free. Here’s hoping a follow-up has a more refined strategy.

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