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.
Firaxis is known for its hardcore strategy titles, including Sid Meier’s games, but Haunted Hollow will be friendly for kids and casual audiences. Two players take turns (on the same device or via Game Center) trying to take over a neighborhood by summoning scary monsters to scare the townsfolk. They eventually form angry mobs and will try to burn the conquered houses and monsters. Expect this one in the coming months.
A number of players have been able to enjoy Command & Conquer: Tiberium Alliances in all its meticulously strategic glory for almost a full year now, but the experience has been tied specifically to web browsers. That’s a problem that will cease to exist in the near future.
Fans of the series should note that this isn’t a typical C&C. It’s not real-time strategy and its not divided into small half-hour long skirmishes. Each of the game’s 50,000 (that’s “fifty-thousand”) player servers houses a gigantic circular world map. Players begin on the outside and attempt to fight their way to the middle, which is far easier said than done. Simply reaching the center of the map can take months of planning and teamwork, and then there’s the matter of holding on to the bases that sit within those areas. Comparing this to the original series is sort of like comparing checkers to chess.
Tiberium Alliances is an incredibly player-driven experience. Hence the “Alliances.” NOD and GDI exist pretty much in name only here as player-formed groups can and will consist of both. Once these alliances have been established it’s up to the participants to figure everything out. Who wants to play the heavy hitter? Who wants to act as support? When will so-and-so be on so that you can coordinate an attack against a nearby enemy outpost in order to take it over and gain its bonuses for your alliance? There’s a ridiculous amount of strategy to be found if players are willing to travel deep enough into the rabbit hole.
Combat is also a rather involved affair with specific units gaining an automatic advantage over specific defenses and vice-versa. By the same token, different buildings within a base have different levels of importance in a fight. The Defense Facility, for example, will repair other buildings over time. Take it out and the base will take a while to get back to full strength. Or there’s always the Construction Yard. Kill that and the base is toast regardless. Of course not all bases can be overrun in a single attack, which is why it’s vital to communicate with other alliance members and really plan complex maneuvers ahead of time.
The overall experience is largely unchanged from the browser-based version, with the exception of a new touch-based interface. However, once the iOS version is released Tiberium Alliances will be totally cross-platform with players able to manage their bases and assemble armies on their computer, then immediately jump in where they left off on their mobile devices if need be. Which will be a boon for any serious players as the community is looking pretty intense and involved. In a good way.
Anyone interested in checking out Tiberium Alliances can do so right now through their web browser, of course. But in another month or so the entire life devouring, free-to-play strategy monster will go cross platform. And then there won’t be anywhere left to hide.
Did the Battleship movie get you all pumped up and ready to take on some hostile aliens? Yeah, me neither. In fact it was fairly unimpressive. ClassicBattleship, on the other hand, is all kinds of alright. EA Mobile’s upcoming Battleship Airstrike looks to sit somewhere in the middle, containing the spirit of the classic board game and coupling it with a faster-paced asynchronous multiplayer experience.
Imagine a typical game of Battleship. Each player takes their turn one shot at a time, trying to find their opponent and sink their fleet before they meet a similar fate. Battleship Airstrike ratchets the formula up a bit by allowing players to take multiple shots per turn. In addition to that, special limited use shots can be purchased with money earned through play in order to gain some possible advantages. Advantages such as destroying a ship with a single hit or deploying a kind of artillery sonar that doesn’t cause damage but will reveal vessel locations within a certain number of tiles.
Once a turn is completed – which may consist of several strategic bombings and even paying for repairs on your own damaged (damaged, not destroyed) ships – it’s all submitted to the servers and the opposition is alerted. Typical asynchronous multiplayer stuff, really. It’s more the mold-breaking multi shot turns and special shells (not to mention the possibility of repairs!) that make Battleship Airstrike enticing.
Battleship Airstrike should be out sometime this fall.
When I first reviewed Aliens Versus Humans I found it to be full of promise, but the lack of a Geoscape and base maintenance of any kind sapped some of my enjoyment. What’s already there is great stuff, but in the back of my mind – and most likely in the back of everyone else’s – it just wasn’t the complete experience. However, Leisurerules has been hard at work since the initial release and are preparing to hit the App Store with their 2.0 update early next month. Just in time for XCOM: Enemy Unknown if all goes to plan. I’ve had the fortune of being able to check it out early, and I can honestly say it’s not going to disappoint.
So why is Aliens Versus Humans 2.0 special enough to warrant such attention? Because it’s essentially a totally different game. The original AvH missions are being sectioned off as “Training Missions,” while the real meat of the game has been designated “Onslaught.” In Onslaught players can expect the kind of portable X-COM experience they’ve always wanted. The Geoscape, ‘pedia, recruitment, research, staffing, manufacturing, and base construction (with multiple bases) is all present and accounted for. It’s practically perfect X-COM in all its immaculate and frustrating glory, only now you can play it whenever and wherever you want. And I helped.
Jim Coughley (coding, artwork, sound, music, testing), contacted me after my review of AvH had gone live, we had a brief back-and-forth regarding our mutual love of the original series and thoughts about what AvH could use in terms of various improvements, then before I knew it I was asked to help out as an advisor for future versions. In other words I take a look at various builds and offer feedback. According to Jim, this was largely due to my love of the series as well as the way I “…didn’t hold back in [my] comments and criticisms and [my] feedback came with sound reasoning…” And now I take a moment to blush (seriously). The lack of a Geoscape was a major (and fairly obvious) issue but we’ve also discussed smaller things like interface tweaks and menu layouts. As someone who loves video games, and especially X-COM, this has been an awesome and surreal experience all-around.
I’m obviously proud (and possibly a little biased) about how Aliens Versus Humans is turning out, but that shouldn’t keep you X-COM fans from checking it out. It really is fantastic and once the 2.0 update goes live it should fill that strategic alien-fighting gap quite nicely. But if you’re still not sure there’s always the free version, limited to early missions only and no Onslaught mode, to try out which is slated for the same release window as 2.0 (early October).
The Game Bakers’ unique turn-based strategy game Squids is back with a sequel releasing later this month on iOS. Squids: Wild West brings new gameplay elements, new environments, and new squids in a planned set of 48 levels for the squids to launch around. The Game Bakers has gotten our hands on a preview build of the game that shows off some, but not all of what fans of fighting squids can expect.
The core of the game is roughly the same, which combines turn-based strategy with the kind of slingshot physics of Angry Birds. Players still pull back to aim their squids in a certain direction in a top-down two-dimensional playing field, and release at the desired power to launch into enemies, with harder hits doing more damage. Four new squids are in the game; two of the new ones, Calamary Jane and Cleef were ones we got to play with, and they are both shooting types, with Cleef able to shoot twice per turn, and Jane having well-balanced stats. All the squids from the original game will be back.
One of the key additions to gameplay are the new seahorses. These appear in some of the levels, and can be ridden when a squid comes in contact with them. The player pulls to aim them like they do the squids, but power is set by a circle that grows and shrinks under the seahorse. Releasing when the circle is the biggest causes the furthest fling and most damage to be done to enemies, with a bonus available for maxing it out. The seahorses can also take multiple moves in one turn with a squid.
We shouldn’t forget about the most important addition to the game: new hats! Plenty of western-themed hats will be available for all the characters, along with many of the hats from the original game. iCloud synchronization is not implemented in this version yet, but is planned to be in the final version. Currently, the plan is for the game to release in late June. Those who can’t wait to play the sequel can check out a small taste of Wild West in the original Squids, available now.
Lots of people have grown up on Worms, and plenty have come to love the little invertebrates thanks to their multiple re-releases on virtually every existing platform, but something’s been missing from Worms 2: Armageddon this whole time. It’s meant to be a multiplayer game through and through, but while the wealth of options has been nice (Bluetooth, Local Hotseat, WiFi) there was still one element needed to make it perfect for mobile – iOS or otherwise – gaming. Good thing Team17 is awesome.
Worms 2: Armageddon now features asynchronous multiplayer. Allow me to reiterate: Worms 2: Armageddon now features asynchronous multiplayer. This means that anyone anywhere can start, continue, or finish a game whenever they have a spare moment. No need to sit around waiting for the other person to make their move. No more forfeiting a game because someone has to walk the dog. Players can simply take their turn, then move on to something else. Perhaps another game of Worms.
The update is live now, so anyone who already owns it can jump on the App Store and start the download. Then enjoy up to 16 simultaneous games to be played at their leisure. Everyone else can download it for $0.99 and start priming those Holy Hand Grenades.
Aliens vs. Humans was created as an homage to the X-Com franchise. That means 90′s-style turn-based strategy action. However, this iOS game only had the combat element of the formula, which many players and our own Rob Rich enjoyed, but many people felt like something was missing. Well, developer Leisurerules has heard these complaints. They are now hard at work on version 2.0 of Aliens vs. Humans, which will add those other strategic elements to the game that people have loudly claimed was missing.
This means that players will be able to build and maintain bases all across the globe. The objective is ultimately to explore Earth to find the hidden alien teleporters, along the way researching teleportation. This will start off with being able to detect different degrees of teleporter activity, which will eventually lead to players being able to build their own teleporter to take the fight directly to the aliens, using recovered alien technology. Teleportation can also be researched as an ability to use in battle, to rapidly move units across the map. The game is still in development, with plans to come out before the early summer, to hopefully quell the anger of those who are so mad about not being able to build bases that they will give a game a lower score in an App Store review. Until that day, this trailer showing off a demo of base building is available.
Okay folks, time to get ready. Start clearing off some space on that iOS device and set aside plenty of alone time because Hunters 2 is looming on the horizon. And not one of those “further away than it seems” horizons. I’m talking the kind of horizon that’s really, really close.
The original game was something of a smashing success, but it wasn’t exactly perfect. Many users took issue with the somewhat limited arsenal, the lack of much variation for the contracts, the repetitive environments, and so on. Well Rodeo Games has taken the criticism to heart. Hunters 2 will feature the same ridiculously awesome strategy gameplay, but also includes more. As in more of everything. More weapons, more environments, more gear, more environments, and even more features. Such as a full-blown campaign mode (*SQUEEE!!!*) It’s also looking pretty spiffy with the new real-time lighting effects. And are those new enemy types I see in those screen shots? I think they are.
Regrettably there still aren’t any real specifics about the launch, but Rodeo Games estimates that we can all look forward to seeing Hunters 2 on the App Store in just a couple of weeks. How much it’ll cost is still up in the air, but honestly, does it really matter? I’m fairly certain there are a ton of iOS users that are anxious to jump on it as soon as it’s available, no matter the price. Myself included.
CultofMac reports that, for the next 48 hours, Calendars+ by Readdle can be downloaded for free. The app works with Google Calendar and the built-in iOS Calendar and lets you manage your work, either online or offline, with an easy to use interface to navigate through. It’s originally priced at $6.99 and will return to [...]