As a fellow joyously undergoing round two of newborn child antics – a dismal amount of sleep ordinarily achieved now incised into tentative chunks of middling shuteye – the usual luxuries of time have been rolled back some. Work notwithstanding, iOS gaming has returned in a decent way to salvage some geek-time and squeeze that dopamine teat for a drip of sweet, sweet nectar.
And it’s probably a fine time to return for the moment. Love remains for the Vita, but it remains in dire straits if you’re looking for strategy gaming that doesn’t revolve around the Japanese SRPG set – which admittedly has Front Mission 3 stomping around the periphery, but I kinda need more from the platform.
On iOS, there are a few games I’d like to quickly celebrate.
Some folks might think this is just a moodier FTL, but as Owen Faraday – fine wit and head honcho of Pocket Tactics – did suggest in his preview, there is not much worth in comparing these two searing starborne survival odysseys. They are their own independent beasts, creaking in the silence of space.
Out There, through a Euro comic-deep space ambient pastiche, you’re tasked with charting your way back home after finding yourself alone in the void. Utilising scanning, mining and other scientific means, your ship can be augmented via a mineral and tech crafting system, as well as finding and flying other vessels. Leap-frogging from system to system, the player must calculate every choice as though it was their last. Out There is punishing. Not the turn-on-a-dime-level-scarifying in the way FTL is, but a fail-state is never far away if mismanagement is left to breed.
But what makes this title especially interesting is the way it deftly utilises the parsing of alien communication. Initial contact with alien civilisations is a strange guessing game, with quite well-conceived ideas of slowly coming to understand foreign linguistic qualities and ‘otherness’. Out There is quite remarkable in that regard.
A granular game in the roguelike sense, but with an air of sophistication and artistry that speaks more to classic sci-fi, rather than pulpy adventure, Out There is really something special. Highly recommended.
iOS / Android
A calculator-powered combat CCG. Calculords is a fine thing. A fine thing indeed. What’s more, it’s a free thing. And not in that scungy ‘Jailbird Barry’s staying for the week, but he says he’ll help out with the washing’ free to play we’re so used to seeing on the mobile platform. No, Calculords is an honest-to-goodness free-to-play game with one of the best implementations of the non-intrusive IAP models yet. Never bugs you, never unbalances or emphasises a grind; Calculords is just good stuff.
The aim of the game is to create calculations and have the answers pay the costs of unit deployment. If you manage to use all the numbers up on your turn, you get a bonus deployment phase. I’m a world renowned mathematics dunce, but after a few rounds, it became quite a slick and fast exercise. Units are deployed on one of three lanes and Calculords becomes an addictive push-and-pull against enemy units and the commander’s HP. Alongside units themselves are buffs and debuffs, so it’s not merely a case of hurling materiel and men at each other.
A sharp and snappy little number. Price of free? Who can say no?!
iOS version available now, with Android and multiplayer coming soon.
Autumn Dynasty: Warlords
The expanded sequel to Autumn Dynasty, Autumn Dynasty: Warlords takes the RTS core of the original and injects it into a nifty pocket grand strategy. Taking more than a few notes from Koei’s Romance of the Three Kingdoms, this new one has you rumbling about a fictional middle kingdom in the name of honour and conquest. Developing towns from undignified backwards into thriving, productive hubs, building and training armies with commanders running clandestine operations across the many borders; Autumn Dynasty: Warlords doesn’t skimp on offering meaty strategy on mobile.
It’s akin to my other favourite iOS strategy titles in Starbase: Orion and Ravenmark: Scourge of Estellion. There really are no concessions here. Premium content for premium price. Games of this particular calibre help to gentrify a platform where some heinous business practices continue to run legion.
Another mad thumbs up. Perhaps even two.
iOS / Android / Blackberry
There are a couple of intriguing titles that I may as well throw down here.
Romans In My Carpet is the next game from the talented folk at Singaporean studio Witching Hour. I’m a big fan of their work, and if this fun little TBS is as good as Ravenmark, then all will be right with the world. Looking forward to shunting a Lilliputian testudo about. And by that, I mean myself getting reamed soundly by some strategy god somewhere out there on the other side of Game Center.
Another follow-up to a game I’ve grown very fond of. Starbase Orion developer Chimera Software is turning to the Spanish Main and creating an asynchronous naval warfare game in Naval Tactics, a title that threatens to consume available time. The great Doctor DM Scheer and I used to enjoy the heck out of Wizkids’ Pirates Constructible Strategy Game, so this is certainly one way to reconstitute his ability to decimate my fleet.
Spymaster is certainly the most intriguing, regarding theme. A World War 2 espionage game, it’ll have you building up networks of undercover agents working various operations across Europe. I don’t know how deep it runs or how complex it is, but all and sundry should just read Pocket Tactics’ interview with the developers.
Hope a few of these games pique interest or tickle fancy.