App Reviewed on: iPad Air 2
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Element is a real-time strategy game that creates a sense of stark loneliness in space. It’s the final frontier, and you aren’t out there by choice. You’re going from planet to planet mining resources because it’s what you have to do to survive. This premise, paired with an appropriately minimal aesthetic make Element a quality strategy game.
In the universe of Element, you are in charge of an army that is fighting for survival. Your home planet can no longer sustain your people, and now you’re in a fight to mine the resources of other planets in your system so you can survive.
This dark setup leads your way to Element’s gameplay, which is a real-time strategy game where you fight on the surface of entire planets, spinning the globe around as you build resource collectors, defenses, and attack units.
Element isn’t exactly like your typical real-time strategy game, and that’s probably a good thing. If this was like having Starcraft on your phone, playing it would be more trouble than its worth. Instead, Element has a pretty streamlined approach to base-building that gets somewhat complicated by the game’s planetary map system.
This means that battle units automatically attack each other so you don’t have to worry about micromanaging them, but this only frees you up so you can spend more time rotating your spherical battlefield to make sure you’re covered on all fronts. This shift makes Element eminently easier to play on a touch interface, while also cleverly adding a depth to other gameplay elements like territory control and observation rather than constantly positioning and repositioning units.
War never changes
I definitely appreciate Element’s unique twist on real-time strategy games, but the thing that ties it all together for me is the game’s aesthetic. The game’s low-poly look and desolate, synth-laden soundtrack really sell the game’s stark premise. It makes space feel like the cold and unforgiving place it truly is.
There are some drawbacks to creating a world that feels so muted and bleak. For starters, Element’s minimal approach can make it hard to discern differences and details between units. Also of note is the fact that this aesthetic kind of bleeds into Element’s gameplay, resulting in every level feeling kind of same-y.
The bottom line
As far as mobile real-time strategies go, Element is a solid pickup. It streamlines aspects of the genre in ways that make it great for mobile play while still retaining a somewhat traditional feel. It may be a little too start in its presentation for its own good, but the foundations upon which Element is built are completely solid.