Hardcore Droid http://www.hardcoredroid.com Hardcore Gaming on the Android OS Sat, 28 Feb 2015 17:00:34 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.0.1 Paper Dungeons Review http://www.hardcoredroid.com/paper-dungeons-review/ http://www.hardcoredroid.com/paper-dungeons-review/#comments Sat, 28 Feb 2015 17:00:34 +0000 http://www.hardcoredroid.com/?p=33007 Paper Dungeons thumbnailI’m always overly critical about the games I play on my mobile. I’m adamant in my belief that certain genre’s work exceptionally well on a tablet or phone, while others fall flat on their face.  It’s even more worrisome when the game is a port from console or PC. Paper Dungeons, originally released as a Steam Greenlight title, has made its way to the Android, and the question remains – does it work as well as it did on the computer? The answer to that is: better than you’d expect.

Paper Dungeons is a digital table top RPG with a charming art style based around, you guessed it, paper. The visuals are simple,and give the game a delightful aesthetic that’s a welcome change of pace from the typical indie 8-bit, 16-bit romanticism. The dungeons are laid out on a large paper grid, and movement is fluid and easy. Your goal is to trot through the dungeon and clear out all the baddies inside in typical roguelike fashion. Your reason? Something about saving a king or whatnot – the story is not what you’re here for.

Paper Dungeons screenshot

The charming aesthetic of Paper Dungeons should pull in casual table top fans, but the luck based gameplay might be harder to swallow for the hardcore set. In true dice building game style, you choose a set of dice which you roll when you initiate combat. The amount of damage you do is totally determined by the dice roll. This can sometimes be frustrating as it relies solely on the luck of your dice. You can customize your dice set to your play style, utilizing different spells and abilities that enhance or hinder your performance. and it adds some pretty impressive depth to the game. You also gain health with every new square uncovered, and there are mid-level save points throughout that are quite helpful as they are essential for quick play sessions and help offset the games difficulty.

For a $3 dollar Android game Paper Dungeons is packed to the brim with content. There are four single player modes: A campaign mode, which features a full-fledged adventure; board game mode, which places you in a randomized dungeon and is more akin to a normal D&D type game (without the dungeon master, of course); a rogue mode, which is simply a survival gametype, and a puzzle mode. In addition, there’s also a map editor, a campaign editor, and the ability to upload and download custom maps online.

Oddly enough, there is no local or multiplayer option, and while it’s not a total loss, I could see myself really enjoying a coop dungeon crawl with a pal. My idea of a tabletop game is one played with many people, and not as a solo journey. Still, Paper Dungeons excels at taking a pen and paper style game and making it into a viable mobile experience and it’s perfect for both extended and short playthroughs. While a frustratingly high-level of difficulty may deter some casual players, tabletop fans looking for a mobile fix will be pleasantly rewarded by the hidden depth of this digital pen and paper game.

 

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Blood Brother 2 Review http://www.hardcoredroid.com/blood-brother-2-review/ http://www.hardcoredroid.com/blood-brother-2-review/#comments Sat, 28 Feb 2015 16:15:38 +0000 http://www.hardcoredroid.com/?p=32991 Android Review Blood Brothers 2 thumbMuch like its younger brethren, last year’s Blood Brothers 1, the best thing you can say about DeNa Corp’s Blood Brother’s 2 is that it sports a decent story and a lot of richly colored and genuinely beautiful art work. The game itself unfortunately is suffused with simplistic wind-beats-fire-beats-tree combat, repetitive gameplay, and too many expensive IAPs. You play as the Blood Brothers Tactician, crossing the land of Asharina in pursuit of a growing darkness that threatens Asharina’s sovereigns, the Triumvirate.

Blood Brothers 2 boasts a variety of game modes, all of which are tied into BB2’s F2P (free to play) system. The game will no doubt prove a pain for most players. Between its ultimately expensive in-app purchases and requisite data connection BB 2 asks a lot of players. Like most F2P’s these days it uses two currencies; you earn gold for finishing levels and arena fights, and receive BB 2’s premium in-game currency, Blood Sigils, for completing a chapter of the story. BB 2 also employs two different energy systems, one for arena levels and another for Story and Event levels, both systems replenish over time or can be restored with a Blood Sigil.

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In Blood Brothers 2’s story mode you pursue the dark figure Galbraith who claims the Triumvirate you work for are evil. You’ll also fight new commanders who mistake you for invaders. Story-mode levels are played out on a board with two forts, yours and your opponent’s, with the goal being to capture your opponent’s fort. To this end, players can use up to three squads, while your opponent can begin with as many as eight and call for reinforcements later. If a player attacks an enemy while moving across a level map they gain the attack advantage during the ensuing battle.

In combat players select three of their squad’s commanders to face the enemy forces. Commanders fall under one of three classes and each class gains an attack and defense boost against another class, with melee units being strong against cavalry, cavalry beating ranged, and so on. Commanders can also use a variety of special attacks, including sweeping attacks, healing and defence buffs, and area of affect attacks. Players can check a Commander’s stats before placing them to get a rough idea about whether they’ll survive the round.

Each turn you gain tactic points to spend on tactic abilities that have been unlocked, with several varieties available. Players can heal units, damage enemy squads, incapacitate them, or poison them. Each level has a turn limit and if you exceed it, or your army is defeated, you’ll be given the option to continue for one Blood Sigil. Accepting will restore your squads to full health, including any that have been removed from the board. After finishing a level you’ll have a chance to recruit the Commanders fought.

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Event mode is comprised of stand-alone levels which change regularly. They’re similar to Story mode except winning earns you Event Exp. Before beginning Story or Event levels Players can review the enemy squads, check their health points, composition and set up, although the list doesn’t include any reinforcement the enemy will likely call to hinder your progression.

Arena mode represents BB2’s multiplayer. In the arena you use a team of five commanders to participate in PvP battles. In arena the attack advantage switches every turn and you have only a short time to choose which commander to play. Commanders’ special attack can be used here and those not used are carried over to the next arena battle. Victors receive gold and league points (LP) and successive wins will grant a multiplier bonus as well. Players ranking up in arena receive blood sigils and gold and can unlock new perks called masteries to research.

A large portion of BB2 is spent acquiring and leveling your commanders. This can be accomplished in a variety of ways. Your commander can be levelled up with experience from story mode or trained using gold. Commanders have 5 ranks of rarity, from 1 star (common) to 5 stars (ultra rare), with each commander having multiple ranks. Higher ranks have higher base stats and bigger stat increases when levelling up. High rank commanders can only be found in later story levels, or summoned for five Blood Sigils apiece, and any duplicates will increase a commander’s level cap. Low level commanders can also be obtained three times a day from free summons. Unfortunately, every aspect of this system is built to lengthen BB2’s leveling and character acquisition grinds, the main purpose of which is to bore players into shelling out more cash.

To be fair, the story features some good moments and the writers have worked to include humor and lend the game’s characters a measure of depth. What’s more,  arena mode brings an interesting twist to combat and the masteries element rewards those willing to take their time, but they’ll only help you progress so far, to excel in the highest levels you have to pay, and pay quite a bit. Progressing in story mode can be a rewarding tactical challenge, unfortunately, though most of the nuts and bolts of BB2’s gameplay can quickly become repetitive and formulaic.

While there’s a fair amount to keep you busy, the implementation of an energy system and other F2P aspects really slow down the pace of play a few chapters in. Levels can be an enjoyable challenge but after a while devolve into repetitive grinds against identical enemies as the game throws waves of reinforcements at you in the hope you’ll use a costly Blood Sigil. To make matters worse, the need to be constantly connected hampers gameplay as well, freezing mid-battle and presenting you with a load screen every time you switch between menus. Players looking for a good RPG would be far better served checking out any of the games on Hardcore Droid’s Best RPGs of All Time, and taking a pass on this pretty yet unbalanced pay to win title.

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Zygna Closing Offices After $225 Million Loss: Hardcore Droid News http://www.hardcoredroid.com/zygna-closing-offices-after-225-million-loss-hardcore-droid-news/ http://www.hardcoredroid.com/zygna-closing-offices-after-225-million-loss-hardcore-droid-news/#comments Fri, 27 Feb 2015 17:00:55 +0000 http://www.hardcoredroid.com/?p=33009 Zynga Games are the developers behind some of the most popular free-to-play games available on Android, such as Words with Friends and NFL Showdown: Football Manager. They’re even responsible for some of the most recognizable time wasters on Facebook, producing titles like Farmville and Mafia Wars, and have sometimes been criticized for their predilection for the F2P Format.

It’s said that F2P games often target ‘whales’, a small percentage of players who have both the income and inclination to repeatedly purchase premium items or pay to skip wait times, and it seems like Zynga might need to sharpen their hooks after reporting a loss of  over $225 million this year. The company expect to make further losses of $56 million in the first quarter of 2015 and have plans to close their office in China to cut costs. They took similar measure last year cutting over 500 jobs and closing offices in New York, Los Angeles and Dallas.

Despite this downturn in the company’s fortune, Zynga’s chief executive, Don Mattrick, recently stated that “monthly mobile customers are up 87 percent year over year”. So maybe it isn’t that Zynga are missing their mark just that they’re beginning to drive their whales to extinction. You can find out more here.

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Spacetime Games Unveil Fast Paced Mobile MOBA: Hardcore Droid News http://www.hardcoredroid.com/spacetime-games-unveil-fast-paced-mobile-moba-hardc-ore-droid-news/ http://www.hardcoredroid.com/spacetime-games-unveil-fast-paced-mobile-moba-hardc-ore-droid-news/#comments Thu, 26 Feb 2015 17:00:49 +0000 http://www.hardcoredroid.com/?p=32986 We wrote a few weeks ago on how developer Spacetime Games was discontinuing support on some of its older titles to dedicate to a new PvP game they had in the works. Spacetime have now unveiled their newest game Call of Champions, a mobile MOBA where 3v3 teams have to push the Orb of Death into their opponent’s base. Each match is designed to last around five minutes and players have the ability to train and customize their Champion in between fights.

The game will have 20 playable Champions spread over five classes at release, with Spacetime hoping to double that to a roster of 40 in the future. Multiple Maps have been created for the game each with two lanes (upper and lower) and an open central area. Unlike some of its peers, Call of Champions won’t spawn minions to slow your opponents. Instead players have access to defensive structures such as towers and beacons. Call of Champions has every intention of becoming a popular MOB A on the esport circuit and includes a spectator mode with rewind and slow-motion features. Players can also broadcast straight to TwichTv form the game.

The game is in alpha build at the moment but the team at Spacetime hope to have something to show off at the Game Developers Conference (GDC) next week.You can find out more about Call of Champions on their official website here, or see which games were sacrificed for it’s sake here.

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Lord of Aswick Review http://www.hardcoredroid.com/lord-of-aswick-review/ http://www.hardcoredroid.com/lord-of-aswick-review/#comments Wed, 25 Feb 2015 21:14:21 +0000 http://www.hardcoredroid.com/?p=32871 Lords of Aswick thumbnailWhen I first saw the Lords of Aswick thumbnail in the Google Play Store, I was excited by the prospect of an interactive novel designed for Android. I love a good fantasy, and I love the Choose Your Own Adventure book series; Lords of Aswick promised to combine those things. I also love my Galaxy S5; Android devices are so versatile that I expected a modern electronic interpretation of the paperback form to take advantage of the possibilities. Unfortunately, Lords of Aswick did not meet my expectations.

The game opened with an intro to the fantasy setting, followed by my main character’s birth into a poor but noble line from Aswick. From then on, I was able to make major decisions, like my family and given name, and my focus – such as on combat training or religious ritual. There’s no “Previous” button that allows you to reread pages or change your choices – a poor oversight that I hope Hosted Games fixes with an update, especially since the choices have more import as the story progresses. It would have been helpful to be able to review my decision tree and choose a different path for my adventure. Such a feature would have added more flexibility to Lords of Aswick, in the vein of a hard copy book.

Lords of Aswick page 1

As far as the text goes, don’t expect brilliant writing. Early on, the tense changed from present to past with no explanation, and literary devices were few and far between. While there is a lot of work that goes into writing the multiple outcomes required for a choose-your-own adventure, it’s unfortunate that, in this case, quality was sacrificed for quantity. On the other hand, if you don’t mind a rough read, the story does take some dramatically different and interesting turns based on your choices.

The plot borrows familiar tropes from traditional feudal fantasy stories; you navigate foreign and civil wars, decide what to do with royal bastards, that sort of thing. Written with more time and care, the story of the noble House from Aswick could have been more interesting (if still a bit derivative). As it stood, I found myself skimming the writing, searching for plot points and pages where choices were required.Lords of Aswick

For all its faults, Lords of Aswick gets a few things right. There is an extensive index that explains the settings featured in the novel, which helps with decision-making. The design of the pages themselves is clear and easy to read. There’s no in-game store charging players for Aswick-extras. Unfortunately, I still can’t recommend this game to the average player, let alone hardcore Android gamers; even those who enjoy fantasy novels would lose patience with the quality of writing – or lack thereof.

There were too many missed opportunities here to justify the $2.99 price point. There was no artwork except for the opening image, no music even on the title screen, and the text reads like a summary in paragraph form. There were no promises of a multimedia experience, but if players can’t even review previous pages or see a choice tree as with a hard copy Choose Your Own Adventure book, what’s the point? Lords of Aswick is not so far gone that it can’t be fixed via updates, it just needs more work — if this offered the ability to undo choices with a “previous” button, I’d give it a solid three out of five. If I didn’t think the Hosted creative team could do it, I would pan the game completely. As is, I’m not totally slamming it, but I’m not willing to call a choose-your-own adventure that’s not particularly well written and offers nothing new to the genre “hardcore.” Compared to Lords of Aswick, fantasy readers would enjoy a real novel, and gamers would enjoy a more interactive game.

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Kemco Launch 99¢ RPG Sale: Hardcore Droid News http://www.hardcoredroid.com/kemco-launch-99%c2%a2-rpg-sale-hardcore-droid-news/ http://www.hardcoredroid.com/kemco-launch-99%c2%a2-rpg-sale-hardcore-droid-news/#comments Wed, 25 Feb 2015 17:00:01 +0000 http://www.hardcoredroid.com/?p=32949 Developer Kemco Games have been responsible for numerous popular games previously released on Android Play and are offering seven RPG titles for just under a dollar each until the end of February. All of the games on offer use a 2D top down style reminiscent of old RPGs but each have their own unique gameplay mechanic and worlds to explore. The following titles are currently on sale for $0.99 each on Google Play:

Silver Nornir -The world is about to face destruction for the third time in a fantasy RPG with an in-battle co-op combo system.
Symphony of the Origin – Ryle fights through a world of Humans, elves, and dwarves scavenging their weapons to customize his own.
Shelterra the Skyworld – Claude can learn the skills of his enemies and help him in his fight to save Shelterra.
Covenant of Solitude – Fort, the son of a Genie, has the power to summon monsters to aid him in battle and come combine them to create new characters.
Cross Hearts Arcadia – Nirva travels a floating continent with his friend Tynt the fairy who can evolve into different creatures.
Rusted Emeth – Aid Bounty Hunter Jink as he capture target with his giant Mecha.
Illusion of L’Phalcia – Seekers Ryser and Cougar search for the Sword of Amal in a fantasy RPG featuring 3D battles.

We reviewed Covenant of Solitude and Symphony of the Origin here when they were released. You find out why Covenant received a respectable score of 3.5 here, or a see why Symphony received a commendable 3.0 here.

Alternatively you can hit a game’s title to check it out on Google Play.

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Game of Thrones Episode 2: The Lost Lords Review http://www.hardcoredroid.com/game-of-thrones-episode-2-the-lost-lords-review/ http://www.hardcoredroid.com/game-of-thrones-episode-2-the-lost-lords-review/#comments Tue, 24 Feb 2015 19:14:59 +0000 http://www.hardcoredroid.com/?p=32948 android-adventure-Lost Lords-01After the difficult and stressful events of Iron from Ice (episode 1 of Telltale’s Game of Thrones adaptation) Game of Thrones Episode 2: The Lost Lords feels like everything is steadily slotting into place, the game’s multi-stranded storyline beginning to knit together. Admittedly The Lost Lords has a slower pace than the initial episode. Telltale finds itself in a unique position with Game of Thrones. They know that players want to meet and interact with the characters they recognize from the show, but the game can’t really do much with them, or reveal any big surprises that would impact and contradict the main story of the books or TV show. What that means for the game is that some episodes will, by nature, just be a little slower than others.

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While things are hardly sunshine and roses for the Forrester clan, their frighteningly fast descent into ruin plateaus for a bit during this episode.  We finally meet Asher Forrester and learn a bit about his backstory as he tries to make his way in the conquered slaver city of Yunkai as a cocky, swashbuckling sellsword. Mira is still in King’s Landing, trying to help her family the best she can by nursing her relationship with Lady Margaery. Gared Tuttle has been sent to the wall, and is intent on using his position there to protect the house. Meanwhile, a surprising new playable character picks up the story at Ironrath, and we see the Forrester family cope with their losses in some well-written scenes of anguish, anger and grief. Though some plot lines move faster than others, Episode 2 will take you less than two hours to finish, even with four strands of the story to follow.

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Nothing in the gameplay of The Lost Lords breaks the mold established in episode 1. Instead of sections that test your manual dexterity, you’re left with quick-time events and dull busywork to cover the gaps between the sequences of dialogue – which are honestly the parts that count most. These moments – a desperate attempt to clinch a marriage, a conflict of loyalties, even more scenes between Mira and Tyrion – are expertly handled. So while the actual things you do in the game leave a lot to be desired, the situations you find yourself in and ultimately have to talk yourself out of more than make up for it. Game of Thrones is a prime example of Telltale’s knack for finding interesting characters and putting them in difficult situations. Dialogue choices feel meaningful and seem to produce tangible results, even within the episode. You will certainly find yourself worrying about your choices and whether or not you made the right one.

With even stronger, more diverse narrative and settings than Episode 1, The Lost Lords wins points for strong characters, an authentic feel, and tangible player choices. This makes for a strong second act and the game is well worth a purchase.

 

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Tap Heroes RPG Launches On Android: Hardcore Droid News http://www.hardcoredroid.com/tap-heroes-rpg-launches-on-android-hardcore-droid-news/ http://www.hardcoredroid.com/tap-heroes-rpg-launches-on-android-hardcore-droid-news/#comments Tue, 24 Feb 2015 17:00:07 +0000 http://www.hardcoredroid.com/?p=32933 VaragP Studios have released their new fast paced RPG Tap Heroes on Android. A variation of the currently popular genre of tap games, where players repeatedly tap an onscreen object to gather resources or attack an enemy, Tap Heroes is a new fast paced RPG on Android.

Players progress by attacking enemies and collecting coins, and can grow their band of heroes to include mages with the power to heal and rogues who can poison and slow your enemies. Gameplay is rather simple with each action being controlled by onscreen taps and players are able to upgrade heroes and add to their ranks as they defeat bosses and unlock new areas.

Tap heroes uses a nice 2D cut-out style for its characters and reminiscent of paper theatres. On their journey the Tap Heroes will pass through forests, cross deserts, investigate caves, explore jungles, and traverse swamps encountering a variety of ever more powerful monsters.

Tap Heroes is available as a free ad supported version here, or can be purchased app free for $0.99 here on Google Play.

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Evoland Review http://www.hardcoredroid.com/evoland-review/ http://www.hardcoredroid.com/evoland-review/#comments Mon, 23 Feb 2015 23:17:15 +0000 http://www.hardcoredroid.com/?p=32787 Android-action-Evoland-02Many a game in recent years has attempted to mine old-school video game players’ nostalgia, usually with varying results. While they can sometimes be a fresh interpretation on classic gaming conventions, they can also easily be nothing more than cheap throwbacks that fail to build upon their foundations.Thankfully, Evoland does build upon its predecessors, serving as a love letter to the genres that inspired it, as well as a fun reminder of how games have progressed over the years.

The game begins in the style of an original Game Boy title, complete with black-and-white graphics. Your options are limited to moving to the right, although a treasure chest yields the coveted reward of being able to move left! A chest on the left will then grant you the power of four-directional movement! Continue to open chests and you will unlock smoother scrolling, sound-effects, music, improved graphics, and even color! Eventually, unlocks become more substantial and begin to change the actual gameplay.

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This is the main gimmick of Evoland; eschewing traditional rewards such as equipment and upgrades and replacing them with new features and mechanics. As the game progresses, the gameplay will morph into the styles of its two main influences, The Legend of Zelda and Final Fantasy. Certain sections play and control like an old-school Zelda game, with its top-down perspective and dungeon layouts. Other areas, such as the overworld and some towns, take the form of a classic FF game, using random encounters and turn-based combat. There’s even a section that controls like Diablo (minus the pointing and clicking). The game is also not shy when making references with its character names (examples being Clink, Kaeris, and Zephyros).

It would be one thing if Evoland simply included a bunch of references to other games for the sake of it, but it’s the way the influences shape the gameplay and blend together almost seamlessly that makes it stand out. Slowly introducing the different features and mechanics helps players get a grasp on each play style, as well as adding some diversity. As soon as you start to get tired of one style, it will transition into another and continue to do so throughout the game. It also provides a nice sense of progression, making you wonder what new addition will be unlocked next. There’s even an area that requires you to switch back-and-forth between 8-bit graphics and fully 3D models, allowing for unique puzzle solving. The use of its influences in conjunction with its gameplay all feels relatively natural, despite each style being wildly different.

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If there was one major problem with Evoland, it would be the controls. Since the original version was released on PC and built around using a controller, the analog stick and buttons have been mapped to the bottom of the screen. The issue arises when trying to target or avoid enemies, since movement isn’t always precise. What’s worse, dragging the icon for the analog stick will cause it to slide around the screen, making movement even more difficult. This results in frustrating situations where large groups of enemies will attack, usually resulting in what feel like undeserved deaths. It’s a shame that the controls can get in the way of the experience. Thankfully, since the game is only a few hours long, it’s over before it starts to become unbearable.

Evoland serves as a clever reminder that games of the past still have a place in the present and that their styles can even work together in the same game. If you’ve ever played an old-school RPG or action-adventure game, you will get a kick out of seeing the references to classic games. Even if you’ve never played these kinds of games, Evoland can also be a good crash-course to the early roots of the medium. If you can get around the rough controls, take a trip down memory lane with this one.

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Age of Civilizations Asia Review http://www.hardcoredroid.com/age-of-civilisations-asia-review/ http://www.hardcoredroid.com/age-of-civilisations-asia-review/#comments Mon, 23 Feb 2015 23:00:10 +0000 http://www.hardcoredroid.com/?p=32906 AoC-Asia-Best-Android-Strategy-ThumbThere are plenty of types of strategy game that don’t work so well on your average tablet: complex real-time strategy; detailed empire-building games from the 4X lineage; wargames that try to model battlefield physics down to the slope of armor on a Panzer Tank – the list goes on. If you need to fit more than about twenty things on a single screen, or you can’t tap your way through it with only moderately nimble fingers, a tablet is not going to be your friend. But if there’s one sort of strategy game that tablets do extremely well, it’s the turn-based province-mashers of the Risk or Diplomacy type, where the world (or part of it) is yours to conquer, turn by turn, slice by slice. And it just so happens that Age of Civilizations Asia, and the Age of Civilizations series in general, is a prime example.

So for those of you interested in being a latter-day Genghis Khan, here’s the deal: the game provides you with a map of Asia, divided into the aforementioned provinces. Each turn, you earn gold (more provinces = more gold, of course), recruit soldiers, and tell your armies to move about the map to attack or defend one province at a time. The soldiers come only in one type, so it’s the numbers that matter, and one point of gold stored in your treasury will buy you one new soldier: with no technologies, and almost no empire management, the game’s economy is as simple as it can get and while remaining interesting. Luckily AoC Asia adds a fresh dollop of gameplay to spice things up, as you also generate movement points each turn, and any action you take – moving, recruiting, adding defenses – uses up those points. To be a modern-day Genghis, you have to balance the need to do many things with small forces against the need to do a few things with large forces.

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AoC Asia also adds some nice touches to its core gameplay, including a well-rounded set of diplomacy options allowing you to offer non-aggression-pacts, alliances, and peace treaties to your AI opponents. Another neat feature is that the game gives each nation a ‘capital’, or home province, that must be defended at all costs: any nation that holds another nation’s capital for three turns will automatically annex the occupied nation in its entirety, meaning that clever moves can let you assassinate a powerful opponent whose armies are busy elsewhere. And once you have taken somebody’s capital, the game also allows you to create a vassal state from the ashes who can then form autonomous armies and help you beat down your enemies.

 

You’ll have a lot of enemies, too: the default map features fifty-nine starting civilizations, and you can increase that number to sixty-eight if you feel that your Asian conquests need to feature more pipsqueak nations being ground under the sole of your boot. The many different nations, though effectively identical in terms of their capabilities, offer the varying challenges of different start positions – some of which can be rather extreme. I found there was a substantial difference between starting as Israel, surrounded by Egypt, Jordan, Syria, and the numerous other Arab and African states, and starting as lonely Mongolia or Kazakhstan with acres and acres of uncontested steppe territories to expand into at the start of the game. This imbalance isn’t a real problem, though: you can’t play this game against human opponents, so with the hardest difficulty setting presenting only a moderate challenge, I found this was a nice way of tweaking the difficulty even higher.

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In some ways the simplicity of the game doesn’t respond well to these major imbalances, though. Mongolia in particular, with its almost uncontested access to the top right corner of the game map, always grows troublingly large: in my playthroughs most of my successful strategies revolved around forestalling this by attacking the rapidly-expanding Mongolia as soon as such an attack wouldn’t constitute suicide. Another small flaw is that the AI, even at its toughest, struggles to handle pressure placed on its capital: even when I had no plans to actually take it, launching an assault against an AI capital usually put it into panic mode, leaving its outlying territories vulnerable to conquest as it rushed to defend its core. The AI is also unfortunately rather land-focused: I never found it launching long-distance amphibious assaults, instead seeing it constantly focused on the nearest land frontiers available. It also struggles to launch surprise assaults or open up new fronts, and fails to prioritize larger, more dangerous opponents – which usually allows one or two AIs to grow incredibly large in each game if left unchecked. In short, the AI is good enough to be a challenge, but bad enough to be beatable from a weaker position.

 

But ultimately this is largely irrelevant: AoC Asia only occasionally makes deeper strategic play feel rewarding, being mostly about a frenzied tap-fest as your armies sweep across the embattled continent. There’s enough variation and enough configurable difficulty to make the game worth replaying; though not overly deep, I can’t deny that there’s some addictive fun on offer here. Even when the late-game turned to the inevitable mopping-up, I still found myself enjoying throwing troops about with the streamlined, fluid interface. In fact, I had fun; if you feel like that’s all you need from some tablet- or phone-sized strategy, it’s likely that you’ll find it here too. At that kind of price, you don’t need to ask for much more.

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