There is no shortage of Castle-defense titles on the App Store. So for one to stand out from the pack is no small feat. Although Crystal War ($0.99)does not redefine this 2d-RTS genre, it offers a very polished experience with many aspects that stand out in a good way. What I would really describe this game is a 2d Warcraft but instead of a human vs. orc conflict the game has humans and goblins battling it out. Yes the goblins are basically orcs in disguise as both are green and slimy in appearance.
The presentation is really well done with OpenFeint support and great background music to go along with the colorful art-style of the game. The campaign opens up with a nice backstory of humans, elves, and goblins that inhabit this game-world (the elves don’t have their own campaign however or at least not yet but can be bought as units). There is also a tutorial included in the first few level of the game.
The overworld map and the game’s graphics really make the game stand out – compared to others in the genre. Clouds move across the world and visible landmarks and roads are detailed nicely underneath. The in-game levels are also nicely detailed but not varied too much. The game scales real well on the iPad as well and this might explain why there isn’t an iPad HD version but it still would be nice to have.
Castle-defense rts games work very well on the iDevices, hence why there are probably so many released ranging from Battle of Puppets to Cartoon-Wars with a wide variety of aesthetic differences and themes. I would go as far as to say that the genre of games it represents go hand-in-hand with the iTouche – whether it is the iPhone or iPad because screen size is really a non-issue unlike 3d-rts games– as bread goes with butter or vodka with cucumber the Russians would tell you.
The reason the controls work so well on touchpad-devices is because of how they are structured. The army fights on it’s own and does not have to be guided or told which units to attack or where to move – it just goes for the nearest enemy units. The icons for unit creation and commander’s abilities are all easy to locate and input. One other aspect of each battle is when the player does well in combat over time there is a chance to earn free units. A blue sphere fills up and a series of unit commands have to be imputed before time runs out. This adds interactivity via touch to the existing formula.
The game revolves around defending a point on one end of the level, and sending troops to conquer the opposite point. Instead of a castle you are defending a commander however who is equipped with abilities you can use or power ups. You also have a wide range of units to choose from and purchase through the game’s built-in shop, and a certain number of slots to fill up before battle.
>An aspect that makes this game stand out from some others in the genre is you actually have to purchase and send out miners so they can gather crystals that are used to build up an army. Crystals are the game’s primary resource although silver, as well as gold, coins can be earned in battle used for the shop.
As your miners gather crystals players have funds at their disposal to spend on troop creation. Some troops are cheap to create but weak in combat others take much time and resource gathering but are powerful adversaries to have on your side. Some troops fight melee while others use arrows or firepower and there are also healing units to aid the player’s army. There is a wide range of micro-management involved in the game that is required to get far as this is a very challenging game with two campaigns thus far (human and orc).
Please allow more than one save game slot so multiple people can enjoy the game on one device. Also a change of difficulty option would be nice as the game is very challenging and can bog down after a while. Players will have to replay old levels just to gain funds for additional troop upgrades and might lose interest so a difficulty slider would be a nice addition.
Another small gripe I have is control of individual units is a bit lacking. The player has no control over what enemy units to attack. I would have liked the ability to select my individual units as they are unleashed and click the enemy-units that I want them to attack.
I also hope for an elf campaign as they are mentioned in the introduction of the game in importance with humans and goblins but can only be used in existing armies as archers or healers thus far.
Overall Crystal War is a great castle-defense strategy game that is definitely worth checking out. It is a solid title in the genre with a lot of depth and strategy. Crystal War is one of the best touchpad gaming implementations to date with the added interactivity of Commander inputs and ‘Simon Says’-like command repetitions to gain troops. Definitely do not miss out on Crystal War as it will challenge you even if you are an avid strategy gamer as it offers fresh-and-challenging gameplay.