I really like rymdkapsel. Not just because I'm a sucker for games that are cleverly simple or highly stylisitc, but because it's fun and challenging. Actually it's extremely challenging, which is why I was excited to learn that it's getting a couple of new gameplay modes in the near future.
Tag: Tactics »
X-Mercs: Invasion is a game about saving the world from evil aliens. And from evil mercenaries. You shoot lots of evil stuff in the face, really. You’ll slowly start to unlock new things to do as you progress, but your activities are mostly divided between four tasks: sending squads on missions, researching new technologies, manufacturing items and equipment, and building up your base of operations. If you’re looking around and thinking this sounds like a free-to-play XCOM, well, you’re not wrong. That’s totally what it is. Don’t write it off yet, however.
What really struck me is how much thought was put into these tasks and wait timers - yes, there are wait timers. Manufacturing items takes varying amounts of time, resources, and money, depending on what you’re putting together. Research follows a similar pattern, although you can only ever research something once so the initial cost is a bit higher. Of course building new structures and clearing out space also takes a certain amount of real time to finish, and should be familiar to anyone who’s played a free town builder before. Lastly there are the soldiers, who will take time to heal up if they’re wounded in combat.
I found that I really didn’t mind the waiting in this case. It’s not all that far removed from having to wait for wounded soldiers to heal or for new tech to be researched in XCOM, and in an weird way it actually works really well on a thematic level. I mean, if my shotgunner was inches from death when I extracted the team, it kind of makes sense that he’d need some time to get back into fighting shape. Severity is a factor, but in my experience heal times can take anywhere from a minute to 20. Fortunately you can also have soldiers waiting in the barracks, then put them on the team to fill any gaps and get back to fighting.
The tactical combat is also reminiscent of that other game I keep referencing, however there are only three main soldier classes and you won’t have to deal with figuring out what the rookies will eventually specialize in (although there’s technically a fourth class since any soldiers that have been KIA can be brought back as a cyborg, complete with a unique skill tree). Another key difference is that the items (just items, not equipment) you manufacture are consumable, so any one of your soldiers can chuck a grenade or two during a mission but you’ll need to remember to make more. Or you could just stockpile them like I tend to do, sine they’re really cheap to make. What’s also really interesting is that the items you need to speed up production (nanites) can be purchased using in-game currency. I’m curious to see how people will respond to such an approach.
I do have a few concerns about repetitive missions, PvP elements (I haven’t been able to try it out yet), tiny text, having trouble telling what can be tapped on in the menu and what’s just set dressing (it took me days to figure out what to tap on to access the Shop), and the ridiculous outfits and physical dimensions of the female characters, but I am currently messing around with a beta build. So who knows how much any of that may change for the final release?
Mode 7's Frozen Synapse is now available for free on the iPhone and iPad. Frozen Synapse is a challenging tactics game where you control a team of soldiers using simultaneous turn-based play to let you plan out your moves before you send them against the enemy. It includes 5 multiplayer modes, a 55-mission single player campaign, and a random skirmish Generator.
Frozen Synapse is pretty deep and intriguing, so you should definitely try it out now while it's free.
One of the bigger surprises for me coming out of PAX East this year was definitely A Druid's Duel. It looks like a fairly simple and cartoony strategy game, and it is, but it can also be incredibly complex and fun.
The basic idea is that players are fighting over territory. Every time one of their druids moves over a tile they lay claim to it, and it generates Mana on their next turn. Mana is required to summon more druids and to use druid special abilities, so it's kind of important. Each druid can move and/or attack each turn, as well as use their abilities if there's enough Mana to go around, and that's pretty much it. However, it's the interplay of all these elements - and the constant push and pull between players - that makes it so much more complex. It's kind of like Chess, if all the pieces could transform into animals and cast magic spells.
A Druid's Duel should be hitting the App Store this summer.
This week I was able to get a look at Travian Games’ Epic Arena, and it looks pretty cool. It’s an asynchronous hex-based tactical arena combat game with multiple factions to control and several arenas to fight in. There are also some new gameplay modes that are being added to the current Facebook version, which include a faster Blitz mode (each player has only 60 seconds to decide what to do on their turn, and there are ELO rankings) and solo Challenges (players are given a predetermined scenario and must figure out how to complete it), that will also be available once it releases on iOS.
The core mechanics involve using five actions per turn to make the most of the units you have available while attempting to either decimate the opposition or destroy their artifacts. Different factions (and their units) play differently, of course, and it’s also possible to use special one-off Power Cards that can do all sorts of different things - and come in different rarities.
Epic Arena should be releasing in the US in about a month or so as a freemium title, and will support cross-platform play.
A while back Rodeo Games released Warhammer Quest, and it was good. Quite good, in fact. It garnered a fair amount of praise even before releasing new campaign DLC. And now it's been chosen as Apple's App of the Week.
So basically Rodeo's critically acclaimed and (arguably) best tactical RPG to date is currently free. Totally and completely free. You'll still have to cough up a few bucks for the extra content of course, but I mean come on. Free Warhammer Quest. Download it!
For those of you who don’t know, the original X-Com: UFO Defense is one of the most beloved strategy games in existence. It was only fitting for it to receive a modern update of sorts, but XCOM: Enemy Unknown turned out to be a modern update that was treated with the utmost respect by Firaxis (Civilization IV, Civ. V). Now that same re-imagining of a genre cornerstone is coming to iOS. XCOM: Enemy Unknown’s lead designer, Jake Solomon, was kind enough to answer some of our questions regarding the upcoming mobile release.
148Apps: You and the rest of the Firaxis team obviously have a ton of reverence for X-Com and it shines through in Enemy Unknown. Has X-Com had any influence over other projects you've worked on?
Jake Solomon (JS): Since the first time I played X-Com, it has been one of game designs that exemplifies to me a great game, and that means that it’s also been a big part of how I think about game design to some extent. Specific influences are probably harder to point out, but I still crack it out and play the original from time to time.
148Apps: What's your fondest memory from the original X-Com? Mine is making it to the point where I'm invading alien bases without having lost a single soldier on the way.
JS: Wow, that’s really hard to pick one memory. There are always a handful of moments from a game that you remember, and you take them together and you can tell these war stories about the game. For example, I remember this one game where I had this one rookie who was so useless and I was like: “Son, you’re going to Mars. I can make that happen for you.”
148Apps: How about the aliens? Any particular favorite or least favorite? I find I have a sort of love/hate relationship with Cryssalids.
JS: The Chryssalid is iconic for sure. I guess the one I don’t miss is the Silicoid. I mean, it’s a rock, and it spits at you, and it leaves a giant trail showing where it went. It’s such a non-threat.
148Apps: Deciding what to cut, keep, and change when streamlining X-Com’s mechanics for Enemy Unknown must have been pretty tough. Was there anything you all were actually glad to see go?
JS: I don’t think I was necessarily happy or sad about specific changes we made. We felt the mechanics changes were necessary because of the systems we wanted to include in the game, like soldier and alien abilities and the class system. We did want to make sure that all of the decisions you were making were meaningful ones that had real consequences within the game, and keeping that in mind was sort of a guidepost for the mechanics design.
148Apps: The iOS port of Enemy Unknown looks like it's coming along quite well. Was an iOS version always planned or was it a result of the game's PC and console reception?
JS: There was a discussion about whether the iOS version was even feasible at first. Unreal 3 does scale very well, but we still had to go investigate the tech side. And what do you know? It worked really well. After that it was largely a matter of adjusting the interface and making some changes for storage size.
148Apps: Please tell me the option to customize soldiers' names and appearances is still in there!
JS: Yes, you can still fully customize your soldiers. That’s such a huge part of how people play XCOM that it wouldn’t have been the same if that wasn’t in there.
148Apps: Have there been any features for iOS devices that aren't prevalent on consoles/PCs (camera, QR codes, augmented reality) that you've considered incorporating into this version of Enemy Unknown? Not necessarily as major elements but as little extras or something?
JS: We wanted to make sure that the game that we released on console and PC played solidly on the iPad, so getting that experience solid was our highest priority. I’m sure there are cool things we could do with the camera and location tools, but that’s something to think about for the future.
148Apps: I could see Enemy Unknown's multiplayer working quite well on iOS, especially if it was asynchronous. Any chance of that happening or is the focus entirely on the campaign right now?
JS:There will eventually be an update that includes multiplayer, and that’ll be a free update for people who own the game.
148Apps: Will the iOS version of Enemy Unknown include the "secret" characters and/or extra Council DLC missions? Or might the missions be available as add-on content?
JS: We’ve been focusing on creating the best release on iOS as possible – we hope this release like the PC and console will drive a lot of interest and community feedback!
We here at 148Apps would like to extend our appreciation to Mr. Solomon and the entire Enemy Unknown team for answering our questions and for making a remarkably excellent strategy game. No specifics on a release date or pricing are available yet but it’s due out “this summer” and will have a “premium” price tag.