Tuesday, April 24, 2012

April iPhone Review Round-Up

It is that time again for another iPhone Review Round-Up. Last month was an RPG month with Rune Raiders, Battleloot Adventure and Adventure Bar Story, while this month is a much more mixed group of genres. I have several months worth of iPhone reviews up so far, so if you feel like you never have anything decent to play on the iPhone check those out by searching our website. This time around I will be reviewing the strategy game Ravenmark, the newly released Sci-Fi RPG/Managment game Epic Astro Story and the WWII tower defense game iBomber Defense Pacific.

Ravenmark: Scourge of Estellion by Witching Hour Studios
Strategy Games are few and far between for mobile gaming, especially since it's hard to make a meaningful one for a low price and one that will appeal to the type of people that play serious games on the iPhone. Ravenmark is a turn based medieval-ish strategy game that should immediately to appeal to anyone who loves the combat in older style strategy games, like Romance of the Three Kingdoms or the Suikoden series. This game adds new things to the genre, while also clearing being influenced by many good ideas about game mechanics. Oh, it also has a real story that isn't generic and it has some characters that are a little bit interesting.

iPhone Screenshot 1

Ravenmark has a lot of content and a fair amount of tactical depth. Your units can get flanked, get critical hits and plenty of other normal strategy options, like unit based abilities, but it has some unique features as well. Your units can band together into columns, as seen in the picture above. When you units become these groups they get a great bonus to attack and defense, plus they get some special considerations, like melee groups can lock shields, but they can only move as a unit, so they are fairly easy to flank with melee units or surround. It is also a fairly bad idea to try to make groups in a closed area type of map, like a city, because it is tough to move around a big block that has very limited movement. These groups are benefited by the standing order feature, which lets you tell a group to advance, retreat, pursue a unit or a couple of other options that are all automated, meaning if you tell a group to advance they will keep moving forward every turn unless they run into an enemy unit. It is a great way to set these columns into motion without using all of your command points on them. Take a look at the game in action.

Since the game has been out they have added another campaign, on top of the pretty lengthy original one, but the game doesn't have any modes other the campaign modes, which take you through a story. My big negative about the game is that it doesn't have any modern level of persistence. If a unit does well in combat, no big deal, they don't gain experience or skill or earn rank, making your non-unique units feel expendable as long as you can still get the three stars for the mission. It would be really nice if they had a system that rewarded you for saving your units, but then again that would be harder to balance and would add a whole new aspect to the game, seeing as how you would have to manage those units each mission and have some kind of selective process. Nevertheless, Ravenmark is very good strategy game, one that I never expected to see on the iOS. It costs $4.99, but filled with content, fairly bug less and has no gimmicks attached (like ads or in-game purchases). I would love to see more games like this on the iOS and I heartily recommend it to any fan of turn based strategy games. 
Ravenmark App Store Page

                                           Violent Score: 4 (out of 5) 

Epic Astro Story by Kairosoft
I am a quite a fan of Kairosoft; I thoroughly enjoyed GameDev Story, Mega Mall Story, Hot Springs Story and Oh! Edo Towns. Earlier this month they released Epic Astro Story, a game unlike any of the other Kairosoft games on the iOS, but similar to Dungeon Village on the Android, except in space. All of Kairosoft's games have been about management in one way or another, but with Epic Astro Story they added to the normal town/building management scenario by creating an explorable home world, planets to explore, caves to unearth, monsters to fight and weapons/armor to research.

In Epic Astro Story you start out with a small square of the planet and you only have a few space colonists in your city, but you will immediately be told to start exploring other squares that are connected to your original explored square. Each square has a difficulty level and can be seen as long as you have an explored area near it. No matter where you explore you always end up fighting at least one group of monsters, for each time you explore anything your party travels through and bumps into unknown events that could be anything from research points, money, a new colonists, strange obelisks, new buildings or enemies.

Most of the games enemies are monsters of some kind, like snowmen or sand worms, but there are also pirates. You continually explore and unravel your world, while also developing new technologies, collecting more colonists and finding stranded aliens. When you find a stranded alien you get an invitation to visit their planet, which can then be explored like anything else, but other planets are the main place to pick up new colonists. Your colonists have many statistics, abilities and they can level up, plus they can be equipped with various weapons and armor, so it has a bit of a lite RPG aspect on top of everything. Check out this gameplay to get an idea of how the game works, but is very early gameplay.

With all that said I can generally recommend Epic Astro Story to any fans of Kairosoft or Management games with a bit more to them just building a city, but I do have reservations. Combat/exploration get's tedious and repetitive by about halfway through the fifteen year cycle and the whole management thing has been toned down to make up for the other aspects. Your city hardly feels like a city and has very few overall structures, making it all feel a bit generic and nearly as unique as the cities in Oh! Edo Town or Venture Town. It is fun to see your colonists battle, work and explore, but by the time you finish one game you won't want to return for another, even with the world being procedurally generated. If you can find Epic Astro Story on sale for anything other than $3.99 then I would say go for it, but as it is I cannot whole heartily recommend it. I love the new direction, but I hate how shallow the experience can feel.
Epic Astro Story App Store Page

                                          Violent Score: 3 (out of 5) 

iBomber Defense Pacific by Chillingo Ltd. 
When I looked at the reviews for iBomber Defense Pacific I kept seeing all these features that promised to be unique and exciting, but they turned out to not be all that unique or exciting. It is a World War II tower defense game that has you building machine gun nests, artillery guns, radar towers, flamethrower towers and all kinds of various units. You use your towers to defend against invading Japanese on land, sea and air, generally more than just land or just sea. You earn stars per mission, just like any TD, and you use those stars to upgrade each of your tower types, all of which can be eventually upgraded into a specialized tower type. There is one tower type that lets you create bombs, which you can drop anywhere on the map, something that also has been done before in TD, but not often. Unfortunately most of the tower types are generic, one that is anti-infantry, one that is anti-vehicle, one that increases nearby towers damage/range/firing speed, one that slows enemies but does little damage, everything you would expect to see, but when you specialize a tower they get a little bit less generic.

iPhone Screenshot 1

The graphics are pretty colorful and inviting, with great looking planes and infantry that look like ants compared to the vehicles or battleships. Every map has some interesting designs, with a plentiful amount of spots to place towers and destructible buildings or crates all over the place. Each map also has a secondary objective, which makes everything a bit more frantic and fun. I like that you have to actively work towards completing the secondary objectives, often to the point where you have to be careful not to use resources on secondary objectives if you need them for your defense. It was nice to see some objectives that required you to attack an enemy building or area while you are simultaneously defending your base. Take a look at the game in motion.

You may recognize the game, it also has a version for PC, seen here on Steam. Like many Tower Defense games this one has a lot of content, but it does get very repetitive and difficulty. Fortunately it's difficulty isn't hard to overcome if you don't mind not getting a perfect score on every level. It is a bit more interesting than most Tower Defense games, especially all the generic fantasy ones, just don't expect it to do anything innovative, it definitely isn't. It is a well made game with plenty to like for those who aren't saturated by the plentiful amount of tower defense games out there and it is available for $2.99, plus it is often on sale.
iBomber Defense Pacific Appstore Page

                                          Violent Score: 3.5 (out of 5) 

Thank you for reading and I will be back next month with another iPhone Review Round-Up. If you have any questions about any of the games feel free to ask, I will answer them to best of my knowledge. 

-Written by Sean Cargle


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