$1.99 - Developer Website - v1.3.2.
by Jasmine Greene
Lead an armored squad through the perils of this reversed tower defense action-strategy game!
Years ago Anomaly Warzone Earth burst onto the scene doing everything right. It was a premium game on a marketplace that was just starting to go free-to-play. How does it hold up today?
Anomaly Warzone Earth is a reverse tower defense game where you try to navigate your troops through various locations. All the while you have to keep them alive as enemy towers attempt to thwart you. If you loved the Kingdom Rush series, this will blow your mind. This game lets you control the path and the abilities of a squad of mercenaries trying to break through alien defenses. It's awesome, bleak, and overall just epic. It's unlike anything I've played before or since. Not only do you get to choose your paths, you also get to choose the vehicles you bring with you and upgrade. It's just a replay fan’s dream! The only thing missing is a cohesive story, but the gameplay is so good you won’t really mind. This is no gimmick.
This was one of the must have games for your iTunes library if you were a gamer who wanted a quality strategic experience years ago. Today it's still a must have game for the same reasons. A tough, but fair campaign is just as enjoyable now as it was before. And there are varying difficulty levels to test your skills. Beating them really gives you that sense of accomplishment.
With fast and fun gameplay this is still a must have game I have no problem recommending to strategy enthusiasts whether they game on mobile or PC.
Anomaly Warzone Earth has tons of replay thanks to its many additional modes and variable difficulty settings. It's also just darned fun to play and replay. Expect this to be something that you beat over and over again just for fun.
- Excellent graphics
- Tons of replay
- Well-balanced gameplay
- Multiple difficulty options
- Lack of story
Free - Developer Website - Version 1.0.20
by Jasmine Greene
Developer Gameplay Trailer
Titan Brawl by van Omnidrone is a player versus player line defense game. As a mighty titan you control an army to fight against other titans to see who is the strongest. As it is a game played in Real Time, you need to connect to the Internet in order to actually play the game. There’s no practice mode so if you want to play, you’ll need to be on WiFi or use mobile data.
Art wise, it is very much a multiplayer online battle arena game (MOBA) from the design of the units down to the Titans. If you go into this thinking it’s a MOBA, however, you’ll be disappointed.
If you’ve played other line defense games, you’ll be very familiar with the basic gameplay. You summon units onto the screen to attack the other player’s “tower.” In this case it’s the other Titan or totem. In order to summon other units during the match you need to wait until cool downs for those units to refresh. Unlike traditional line defense games there are two lanes where you and your opponent can spawn units. The first one to destroy the opposing Titan wins. The more you win, the higher your rank. You can also upgrade your units, but more on that later.
When I first played the game in my iPad I was excited to see what a versus line defense game would play like. Unfortunately, it was a let down from the very beginning for me. Line defense games are based around knowing when your units will spawn. This affects your decisions on what units to use. In Titan Brawl you aren't even sure which of your heroes will spawn first. It's randomized. This can put you at a huge disadvantage because you could spawn your weakest units while your enemy might have the strongest. It doesn’t really make any sense why the developers would make this design choice. Especially for a game that requires strategy.
Once the match starts, the gameplay itself just falls apart. It’s pay to win. I’ve run up against incredibly strong heroes. One powered up unit solos the entire match. During more evenly matched games, it’s still frustrating. I cannot choose which unit to attack. So that means even if the other opponent’s Titan is close to death, often my units would spend time attacking a unit instead of focusing on the Titan. Other times they would try and attack enemies in the other lane that are out of range.
The worst part is my units would often do this right when they spawn. Instead of attacking heroes in front of them, they would focus their attention on enemies outside of their range. It’s frustrating and not fun.
You can upgrade your units, however Titan Brawl doesn’t allow you to choose what to upgrade on what unit. Instead it uses a blind box (also known as gatcha) system. You spend gems to unlock boxes that may or may not have the upgrade you need. Of course you can also pay real money to buy gems.
There are various boxes, but there are no explanations as to what makes each one different. I imagine the fancier looking boxes that cost more would give better upgrades, but I haven’t spent them time to grind out the gems.
Every once in a while you can buy a specific character for some ridiculous amount of gems. Oddly enough I've found the characters were mostly those I already owned. If I were so inclined to spend money on a new character I’d need to wait several hours until the store updated and then hope it wasn't one of the heroes I currently have. Or I could wait until I've totally randomly collected enough character tokens from blind boxes to unlock them myself.
You can also try out characters you don't have by watching ad videos, but in my experience it's not worth it. One time I had to watch three ads until the system allowed me to try the character.
The final nail in the coffin for Titan Brawl is its horrible swipe recognition. Trying to bring out your heroes is a frustrating, broken chore. The controls for this game are flat out broken. You can potentially play this game for hours, the good thing is there’s no energy system to play matches, but unless you’re willing to sink a lot of money into the game, it isn’t fun to replay.
This could have been a fun two player game were it not for a freemium gatcha system and horrible game design overall. Just like most other Freemium games you see the potential, but it’s so focused on the in-app purchase that the game just isn’t fun for me. But if you are interested of a MOBA game to play anytime on the go, this can be your thing as you can play as many matches as you want in a short time.
- Nice art style
- Play as many matches as you want
- Pay to play
- Blind box unit upgrade
- Poor swipe detection
- No targeting of enemy units
- Poor AI
Free - Developer Website - v6.0.13921
by Jasmine Greene
Hearthstone by Blizzard is a simplified take on the ever popular collectible card game (CCG) genre set in the Warcraft universe. While many players consider it a simplified version of Magic: The Gathering, Hearthstone manages to polish the basic mechanics of this genre while bringing some new gameplay to the table.
Hearthstone is easy to learn, but very difficult to master. An excellent introductory tutorial leads you through the basics of the game. You play against different NPCs and as you do you learn the play style of each class as well as different strategies to playing a game. The gameplay is pretty much a stripped down version of Magic. You choose cards for your deck and each turn you gain mana to spend on summoning your cards. There are two different types of cards: spells and minions. Some of these you’ll find are only available to certain classes. It’s up to you to expertly build a deck that will overwhelm your enemy. As of now there are several different strategies. Here are some of the more popular ones:
- Control – these decks tend to focus on crowd controls spells and board control.
- Zoo – these focus on many small, cheap minions and overwhelming your opponent early on in the game.
- Fatigue – these force your opponents to draw until they are out of cards, leading to damage via fatigue eventually leading to death.
- Face – similar to zoo decks these have a focus on small, cheap cards to dole out damage early in the game. However, these combine more damage and buff spells in addition to minions.
- Spell – this focus more on spells cards to do massive amounts of damage to the other player.
Your deck consists of 30 cards. You can either use a pre-made deck or customize your own. There are several ways to increase your overall card collection:
- Level up your character to 60.
- Complete daily quests for gold and use the gold to buy packs.
- Pay real money for packs.
- Disenchant your duplicates and/or unwanted cards for dust, which you can use to buy most cards.
One of the great things about Hearthstone is that it can be completely free to play. You can pretty much unlock every card and expansion by earning in-game gold. With that said, the game is so fun and engaging that you don’t mind spending actual money for packs.
Speaking of expansion, Blizzard has released several already for Hearthstone. Their latest card expansion is called Whispers of the Old God. This introduces new spells and minions that focus on buffing the minion C’thun. In order to keep the gameplay fresh and force players to change up their decks, Blizzard has made some cards from previous expansions unusable in their standard format. Not only does it keep seasoned players on their toes, it also makes it easier for new players to join in without needing to collect as many cards in the beginning. That doesn’t mean all the cards are gone, however. In wild format, players can use every card they’ve collected in every expansion.
For the most part, Hearthstone is a one-on-one game where you battle other players to see who is the best based on your card deck. However, other modes put an interesting twist on the CCG genre.
- Tavern brawl – this weekly event introduces different rules and mechanics you follow in order to beat the other player. These might be variations on normal games, may introduce mini boss fights or might be totally random games or matches.
- Adventure – this great single player mode allows you to fight various bosses based on the specific theme. Right now the latest adventure mode is One Night in Karazhan. This introduces characters like Medivh and other Warcraft characters. It’s smart and funny and just a ton of fun.
- Arena – Unlike standard mode where you can come in with a prebuilt deck, in Arena you must choose from cards presented to you in the beginning. This adds an extra element of randomness to the game and forces you to play a different style.
With so many different modes and expansions, Hearthstone offers a ton replay value. No two games are alike and you can create different decks to see what play style you prefer. The art here is beautiful and minimal. Besides the regular card art, there are also golden versions that add an animated effect. Each board you play on has interactive objects you can touch that set off different animations. While it doesn’t affect the gameplay, it’s a nice touch and something to kill the time while you’re waiting for your opponent to make their move. Besides that, the music and voice acting are all on point. Your heroes have a handful of phrases they can say, each voiced true to the original Warcraft game. Sadly, a lot of players use these phrases to spam others, so you end up squelching them.
For the most part, Hearthstone is a great game but there are a few drawbacks here. You can only play if you have Internet connection, even the adventure mode. It’s a shame and is especially frustrating in Arena or Ranked mode if you accidentally close out the app or randomly lose your connection.
Perhaps the best and worst part of the game, however, is the randomization. Like other CCG games you have no control over when you draw your cards. Sure you can control what cards are in the deck, but when you get them is up to chance. This means you’ll often get cards in the beginning of the game you can’t use until much later. Many times, this will cost you a game or two…or three. It can get especially frustrating when it seems like your opponent is drawing the best combination of cards. While there is some strategy as to how to build your deck, ultimately the fate of the match relies on the luck of the draw.
Speaking of opponents, more than once you’ll run into one that will wait until the very last second to pull out their cards. This can get very frustrating as you have to wait 30 seconds every turn. It might not seem like much in the beginning, but it extends your play time unnecessarily. What could have been a minute game ends up dragging because the other player takes too long. The worst part is that you can’t block other players so you’ll end up playing against the same person who uses this tactic.
Despite this, Hearthstone is still a fun and really addictive game. I highly suggest it for anyone who wants to get into CCG, but doesn’t want to deal with the complexities of Magic.
- Endless replayability
- Several different multiplayer modes and single player adventure
- Free to play
- Easy to learn
- Deep strategy in deck building
- Completely random card draws
- Only usable with Internet connection
- Some players draw out matches purposefully
$3.99 - Developer Website - v1.1.0
by Jasmine Greene
Game Trailer from the Developer
Warbits by Risky Lab LLC is a deceptively deep, fun and hard strategy game that will test even the most hard core strategy players. Many compare it favorably to Advance Wars, considered one of the best turn-based tactics game for the Game Boy Advance.
Warbits was tough, I mean really tough for me at first, but once I got the feel for how I was supposed to conquer a map it was still hard, but doable. Levels became progressively more challenging as they go and the game introduces new enemies and mechanics. The developers did a great job slowly ramping up the difficulty so it never felt like there was a grind gate.
Those familiar with strategy and tactics game will feel right at home with the mechanics of Warbits. You conquer cities, factories and airfields to earn money, which you then use to build up your forces to defeat enemies. All the maps vary in size and it’s up to you to utilize not only the terrain but your 16 different units. Each unit offers different abilities and also different ratings for attack strength, fuel, ammo, movement, vision and armor. The longer you play the more your units will use up fuel and ammo. Here you will need the the APC - unit that resupplies your units so they don’t lose their effectiveness.
With regards to the map, there are many different ways to win it, which makes the game fun as you come up with different strategies to obtain it. With that said the AI here is no joke. They’ll take advantage of any mistake or weakness you have and go straight for the jugular. It keeps you on your toes and is honestly a welcome change of pace for many mobile games. There are 20 levels in campaign mode, but if you manage to beat all the maps you still have 29 multiplayer maps to play either 2v2 or 4v4.
Its obvious Risky Lab put a lot of time polishing this game and it shows. The graphics are top-notch and blends sci-fi elements with vector art for a bright and very retro feeling game. The writing, often a side note in many mobile games, is witty and kept me smiling. Add into it the super catchy background music and great sound effects and it’s hard to think of another mobile tactics game that even comes close to being as good as Warbits.
There are strategy games with deep experiences and then there are simple ones. Warbits manages to be a great intro strategy game for new players to the genre, yet fun and endearing enough to make old vets smile and enjoy the experience.
- Witty dialogue
- Deep strategy based around unit and enemy types
- Endless replayability
- Very punishing AI
- Steep learning curve
$2.99 - Developer Website - v1.12
by Jasmine Greene
Nanuleu by Selva Interactive is a minimalist strategy game with an interesting concept coupled with colorful art and sound design aspects that will amuse the sight and experience.
With that said, Nanuleu’s minimalist theme goes with games that are classified as simple rather than like other strategy games that involve deep experiences. It is set to be so, but I see some fault in it. Playing the game, you can see what the developers were trying to do but it breeds a feeling that the game seems to be unfinished.
Developer Gameplay video
Nevertheless, there is one aspect where Nanuleu shines. It is in its art and sound design. Despite using basic shapes and a set color palette, Nanuleu manages to look very impressive. The colors included in this game are bright and vibrant with each tree signified by a different color and shape.
The developers added some subtle touches to make the game come alive. For example, the color of your map changes as you expand and claim more land. Also there's a brief animation whenever you place a new path or tree on the map. This attention to detail really increases the quaint charm of the game. The graphics in addition to the atmospheric background music and basic sound effects are the highlights of Nanuleu.
There are three different modes: Apprentice, Warrior and Sage. These represent the difficulty levels of the game. Only the first two options are available to you in the beginning of the game. Once you beat Warrior you can unlock Sage mode.
The basic gameplay is straightforward—use your resources to build paths and capture resources. Once you capture all the white life trees, you’ll unlock an offensive war tree to defeat the enemies. Like other strategy games, you must balance your use of resources and expansion while the enemies attack your base. This means ensuring the proper placement of your protector and war trees to keep your life trees and towers safe. The longer you play the more waves of enemies you’ll need to repel. Unlike other tower games, the map for Nanuleu is random each time you start a new game, so you never get the same experience twice. Unfortunately, this can be a double-edged sword.
Since there's no upgrades or progression system in Nanuleu, advancing its levels often seem more due to luck than skill-based gameplay. Sometimes your resources will be close together and other times they will be very spread apart. This is especially frustrating with the life trees. Not only do you need them to unlock your war tree, you also need them to plant your resource and protector trees. If your life trees are too far apart from your starting area, enemies will easily overwhelm your forces. Yes, the game does tell you where the next enemies will appear and there's a timer to indicate when the enemy tree produces new units, but often there's nothing you can do besides wait. While this aspect of the game isn't unique to Nanuleu, its simplicity makes it all the more noticeable and frustrating.
What compounds this frustration is the fact that the game is real-time. If it were a turn-based game, it might not be as bad, as you can take in the level and plan accordingly. Yes, you have unlimited time when you start a game to plan out your path, but you have no idea where the enemies will appear. That means you'll end up building in one direction and then have to build in another to keep the enemies at bay. A simple indication of where the first enemies will pop up could go a long way in improving the overall gameplay. This isn't a new mechanic either. Other tower defense games like Kingdom Rush show you exactly where the first enemy waves will come from, so you can then plan accordingly.
Speaking of enemies, there are several different types that also gives different attack mechanisms. If they encroach on your territory you will lose the land and any trees placed on these tiles. If you want to reclaim these areas you'll need to build on the land again, which would sometimes lead to wasted resources. The problem with these enemies is that their difficulty seems randomized. I noticed upon playing that sometimes one defender tree could hold off two enemies. Another time, two defender trees were taken down by only one! I believe this randomization has no place in a strategy game. If I don’t have a solid grasp on the strength of the enemies and how to defeat them, the entire strategy aspect of the game falls apart.
Overall, Nanuleu sets out to be a simple strategy game, but in the end it gives you the feeling of having an unfinished experience. As much as I like the style and the idea, I’m not very much fond of it. I believe choosing the game would greatly depend on ones taste in strategy and visual stimulation.
- Vibrant and bright colors
- Soothing atmospheric music
- Easy to understand gameplay mechanics
- Randomized enemy difficulty
- Randomized maps
- Punishing difficulty curve
Free - Developer Website - v1.1
by Meg Stivison
Gameplay video by a gamer
Total War Battles: Kingdom brought to us by SEGA packs so many choices and customization into the usual strategy game pattern of farming for resources and improving your combat units. Sure, players will build barracks, blacksmiths, stables, and so forth, as well as upgrade these units including land tile improvements for better results. But placing these is more than just the typical click-and-wait since there are so many options to consider. Productivity is affected by neighboring buildings, by terrain, by the quality of workers, and by seasons, so each minor choice actually matters in the game.
Once your city is functioning, you’ll be able to raise medieval troops and send them into battle. Each unit has a specialty and a weakness. All of these units can also become stronger by spending earned XP on upgrades. Again, players can choose from a variety of upgrades and customize their units for their particular combat style. Injured units require time or gold to heal, and then they’re ready to fight another day.
Total War Battles: Kingdom allows players to fight one-off combat encounters in Missions, follow a storyline, or duel against other players. There’s a range of difficulty levels, again allowing players to customize their experience and decide between a tense, challenging combat or a quicker and easier battle.
Graphics include stylized stained-glass icons, for that medieval lord aesthetic, and surprisingly detailed battle animations. The pre-battle and post-battle cut-scenes can drag a bit, but one victory dance from my two remaining swordsmen, after a very narrow win, was so hilarious it made all the animations worthwhile. Throughout the game, players can zoom in for a closer look at the land tile improvements or battling troops with ease.
Total War Battles: Kingdom isn’t quite as robust as a Total War computer title, but it offers a complex and responsive game world for strategy gamers or medieval history fans to enjoy on mobile.
- Detailed battles against AI or human opponents
- Meaningful choices in city and resource management
- Many different play styles available
- Not as robust as the Total War PC games
- Paid combat upgrades can make the dueling system pay-to-win
$1.99 - Developer Website - v1.0.1
by Meg Stivison
Introductory video from the Developers
Dungeons of the Endless from Amplitude Studios, is the new iOS port of the popular rogue-like strategy game. In DotE, your space faring heroes have crash-landed their escape pod and will need to fight their way past dangerous obstacles and hostile hordes to achieve their freedom. Players select two heroes to begin the game. You may not be able to tell from the pixelated portraits, but two of the potential starting characters are women and there are more lady space warriors to be found and unlocked in the escape pod dungeons as you go through the game.
The basic resources for survival are science, industry, and food. With science, you’ll be able to research new technologies and use it to your advantage in game. DotE relies on a wiki here, as it’s pretty hard to tell what benefits a mechanical pal or what a dust field generator confer. And in a punishing rogue-like, players aren’t able to experiment and discover these powers organically. You’ll also need the wiki to figure out which weapons, armors, and devices are most desirable as well as how best to use each character’s special abilities.
Each room contains random, pixelated art of alien blossoms, glowing slime, broken crystals, or other space debris, and a random chance of having a reward, like extra resource points, helpful items, or even enemies. One of those found items was a copy of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy—a nice nod for fans of other ridiculous sci-fi adventures. Send your heroes to loot everything worthwhile, while avoiding the bad… just kidding. A word of caution: There is no avoiding the BAD. This is a rogue-like!
I always love seeing space opera themes, pixel art, and careful resource management in games, so DotE was an easy sell for me. And yesterday, I got so caught up in defeating waves of hostile aliens on my crashed ‘pod that I missed my stop on the train. I can’t give a mobile game any higher praise than that!
Watch the DotE Gameplay
- Pixelated space monsters
- Random and ridiculous items to find
- Carefully balanced resource management
- Strange new space friends to unlock
- Punishing rogue-like