App Reviewed on: iPhone 5
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A long time ago, when I was a young man and had a lot of free time, I used to write about Xbox Live Indie Games. Every single week I’d play trials for every single release and write up a synopsis of each one, good or bad. The reason I’m mentioning this is because there were actually a few stand-out titles that were surprisingly excellent despite their marketplace being full of shovelware. One such title that I’ve always fondly remembered is Relativity. And Relativity Wars is the refined iOS port of that very game.
Imagine an arcade-style 4X game (“explore, expand, exploit, exterminate”) with a healthy dose of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy’s humor and a deep rooted incorporation of Albert Einstein’s Theory of Relativity. Players must colonize habitable planets in order to expand their empire, produce ships in order to aid in this expansion, defend against aggressors, take the fight to said aggressors, and research new technologies. Populations expand automatically and the more denizens a planet has the faster it can produce and research. The real interesting catch is Relativity Wars’ use of its namesake’s concepts.
The strange grid is probably the most immediately noticeable aspect of Relativity Wars’ visuals. It serves an important purpose, believe it or not. Notice how the grind curves around large celestial bodies? That’s a visual representation of gravity. Any ships venturing too close will be pulled in and crash, but if they’re going fast enough they can zip by with little effect. Each ship also holds a set number of colonists and long trips could very well see them all die out before they ever reach their destination. Enter relativity. The faster a ship travels, the slower time passes for all those inside it. The flip side is that it takes a bit to slow down so it takes a soft touch to handle traversing vast distances safely. Of course players can also activate a ship’s autopilot and send it out to colonize or attack without direct control if they’re so inclined.
I’m hard-pressed to find any real issues with Relativity Wars. It’s not much of a looker I suppose, but it’s leagues better than the original. Another possible problem could be that certain devastating weaponry that can create ripples and waves through space might unintentionally destroy a player’s own planets if they aren’t careful. One last thing to remember is that this isn’t a super complex 4X game. It’s a bit lighter on the simulations and feels a lot more arcadey than most.
So long as players aren’t expecting 50+ hour long, endlessly replayable scenarios and are open to learning a little science there’s no reason they won’t be able to enjoy Relativity Wars. It’s surprisingly clever despite looking rather simple. And it can also be quite funny when it wants to be.