An ambitious game, held back by its interface.
As both an RTS and Tactics veteran, I picked up Templar Assault expecting something akin to the turn-based versions of the bunker levels in Starcraft. The good news is that Assault delivers. The eight campaigns available in the free version—out of 15 in the elite—have a cramped, eerie feeling that allows for comparisons with mainstays like XCOM, Chaos Gate, and others, but a somewhat inconsistent turn mechanic make it fall just short of the breakout hit it wants to be.
The game as a whole is deep, with a huge amount of available customization between three player classes, a multitude of units, and a huge armory of weapons and armor. The new expansion “Narvidian Dawn” (see MidWinter News) adds even more to that arsenal. The depth is somewhat blunted by the unintuitive equipment system, at first, but you get used to its idiosyncrasies and then it’s not a big deal. Most of the weapons and armor are elite only, so there’s a point in favor of dropping the two bucks asking price, but I didn’t have any trouble completing the available missions with the range of gear available to the free game.
I’ll talk about what annoyed me first because the issues weren’t all that game breaking, though they were very frustrating. My main complaint is that the touch controls aren’t always the most responsive. Combined with the way that commands stick, you occasionally end up making moves you didn’t intend to make and getting squad members killed. Granted, this inability to undo moves is likely to prevent you from circumventing the limited field of view or as it is known the “Fog of War.” After all, if you could move and undo, you could easily have your units scout a wide area of the map very quickly. However, a confirmation of the move before doing so would be a welcome fail safe for the touchscreen freaking out and making you move backwards five times.
Speaking of the “Fog of War,” it’s perhaps the most interesting addition to a tactical game I’ve seen. Assault draws from the PC tactics handbook here. If, like me, you didn’t cut your teeth on games like Jagged Alliance or Xcom you’re in for an added challenge. It’s a completely different paradigm from the one set up by Final Fantasy Tactics, Ogre Battle, and the like. There’s a tension in not knowing how many enemies are out there and when you will run into them. Of course this tension, more often than not, lead me to turtle up and let the enemies come to me. There were only a few times where this plan of action was impossible and those levels were the most enjoyable of the whole campaign selection.
Overall, the game is great. While the graphics are rather rudimentary they’re serviceable and don’t detract much from a turn-based title like this. Even so, the feel of the setting comes through in the gameplay and interface, even if the story is sparse beyond simply trying to kill the aliens. Still, the small quirks are frustrating, especially when a turn doesn’t restore spent actions, but they don’t greatly diminish an otherwise entertaining and challenging game.
Bottom line? I give Templar Assault a three and a half out of five. There are a few design decisions I don’t agree with and control limitations keep Assault from being the truly stellar turn-based strategy game it wants to be. Despite this, Assault remains both an interesting and deep turn-based tactical strategy game and does well drawing on and channeling nostalgia. Because of this however, it doesn’t transcend or cross over into the mainstream and those without some investment in either the genre or type of setting aren’t likely to pick this up. Among its peers and competitors though it stands up well and in doing so offers a new experience for the Android as a platform. If this type of game is your kind of thing, Assault is definitely worth a look and if you are curious about tactics style games, the free lite version is something you might consider the next time you visit the Play Store.
Is it Hardcore?
Assault is both an interesting and deep turn-based tactical strategy game and does well drawing on and channeling nostalgia. Small interface issues don’t mar an otherwise enjoyable experience. Fun for the initiated and worth a look for the curious.