2015 will shortly be coming to a close, and before the flurry of winter game releases distracts us, Hardcore Droid wishes to share a few Android strategy games that deserve more downloads. What follows is an aggregate of the best Android strategy games you may have likely missed out on. These are games of quality, each one saddled with some unique feature that makes them worth playing and better than others of their ilk. These aren’t big-budget triple-A PC ports, or IAP driven regurgitations of the same old building game with thousands of dollars to throw into clever TV commercials. I like to call them sleeper hits, and I sincerely hope these sleepers awaken.
HD Score – 3.5
Dark Frontier is a tower defense real-time strategy by Sea Ape Entertainment. During his play-through, Editor Travis Fahs pointed out several issues with the in-game text that indicate the game could probably use a second edit in that department, but if people wanted to read, they’d pick up a book. Plot is secondary to the strategic planning required to get through individual waves.
Unfortunately, some failings in the controls keep Dark Frontier from taking a top spot on our list. It is nonetheless an excellent game with several superb qualities to recommend it. First, there is a ton of content broken up neatly into wave segments; 90 total. Second, the challenge design focuses on the subtleties of the positioning of your units rather than the significance of upgrades or raw power. Third, the visuals of Dark Frontier are pretty decent on zoom. Add to that the satisfaction of crushing your enemies, and you may note that DF provides more visceral action than other RTS games.
So while it has some minor flaws, it is still a fun experience and well worth playing. Travis made an excellent comparison: Dark Frontier is like trying to invade Russia by land: sloppy and difficult, but strategically fascinating.
HD Score – 3.5
This real-time strategy game is set in a fictional Japanese kingdom during the feudal period. Will McCool found the game’s plot to be standard fare, but it makes up for what it lacks in plot originality and the pinpoint accuracy of PC games that touch-based games have difficulty duplicating.
Unit types and the player’s ability to control them are fairly limited but the game presents its challenges via the campaign’s clever level design and objectives. The challenge arises from simultaneously executing strategies that call on all your units’ unique skills to defeat a given enemy. Special abilities are real tactics, like the Pikeman’s turtle formation to fend off attacks from archers.
High marks to this game for its visual style, like a combination of traditional Chinese ink wash painting and cell-shading reminiscent of Okami. The reality inherent in its strategy makes Autumn Dynasty stand out from the ancient military RTS crowd. As Mr. McCool pointed out, if you’ve read anything about military strategy the knowledge will come in handy, and if you appreciate artistic flair, the visuals are actually quite appealing.
Strategy and Tactics: World War II
HD Score – 4.0
“If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” is a good motto for Strategy and Tactics. It doesn’t break new ground with its looks or gameplay but what it does do, it does very well. This is one of the best options for military strategy on a mobile device. There are multiple modes including multiplayer, NPC skirmish, campaign of course, and some massive scenarios for up to four players that take the fight into northern Africa.
In his review, John Markley pointed out this doesn’t have the depth of Panzer General, for instance, but the game does have multiple upgradeable units on offer, as well as some weird focus on Mussolini and his embarrassment in Greece.
S&TWWII also earns some style points for menu design; the world map looks real, as if it were a piece of paper that has been folded and unfolded before many a battle, and the notifications window looks like a leather attaché case. Add more points for fantastic music, then subtract some for annoying sound effects. All in all, Strategy and Tactics: World War II offers solid turn based military strategy for those on the go.
War of the Zombie
HD Score – 4.0
War of the Zombie is a real-time strategy title that puts players in the role of the director of Safe industries and gives them the task of wiping out the zombie infection slowly spreading through the world population. Players control a double-hulled military carrier on its tour around the continents, directing Safeteam drops into mission zones to rescue VIPs, recover nuclear devices, kill zombies or crush rebel insurgencies.
Actual missions involve picking and outfitting your four-member Safeteam and steering them around zombies, discarded cars and dilapidated buildings to achieve their primary and secondary objectives. The one caveat I had with the game was the control. It can be tricky to maneuver your team from A to B; if the two points are far away from each other soldiers tend to make up their own minds about how to get therw and will take the shortest approach, even if it takes them through a group of zombies or into a tight squeeze between abandoned vehicles where they sometimes get stuck.
It doesn’t get high marks for the visual appeal of its missions; it looks like The Last Guy or Hotline Miami, but lacks the tight controls of the former and the gross dark humor of the latter. Even so, the breadth of the strategy required to quell virus outbreaks and maintain good diplomatic relationships with the demanding countries of the world while simultaneously avoiding going broke makes this the best single player zombie apocalypse world strategy game available for mobile platforms at the moment. Thanks to Van der Veer Games’ attentive development, the score can only increase for this fantastic game.
HD Score – 4.0
Brought to us by Grab, Amoebattle puts players in the shoes of a microbiologist fighting an infection. You must gather amoebae to battle a host of microscopic predators. Triumph in battle provides players with DNA fragments to build genomes and create unique amoebae; eating the microflora that abounds in these colorful watercolor environments grants the power to replicate amoebae. Each amoeba has different skills and stats, so adjusting the army lineup to fit the mission is the key to success.
Amoebattle has a fresh, vibrant visual style. There is even an AI assistant that bears a striking resemblance to the Reddit alien. The environments are unique; none of the repetitive regurgitated landscapes too often found in RTS games.
The only real issues Amanda Lynn found with Amoebattle was the lack of multiplayer and the lag caused by bigger battles. Ultimately, technology will catch up with this little gem as older phones die their natural deaths, but the Google + achievements don’t add the replay-ability players would get from multiplayer.Overall though, an excellent game that is well worth the $.99 price tag.
Castle Raid 2
HD Score – 4.5
There are quite a few cute, colorful tower defense games out there. This one doesn’t nickel and dime you for the full experience, unlike some RTS franchises that use their ill-gotten freemium gains to fund commercials instead of providing a paid, ad-free or non-pay-to-win model of their game.
CR2 offers players RTS with part passive and part active gameplay. Players don’t control their units individually; once they’re created they wade untended into the fray and commence to whacking the first enemy they encounter. Players can actively control towers which launch spells, missiles and siege weapons.
Castle Raid 2‘s battles run at a crazed pitch that leaves no time for boredom. On top of this insanity, CR2‘s PVE and PVP modes put this game firmly in the “best of” category. Head to head matches against other people on the same device vastly increase the challenge – they luckily include handicaps so that noobs stand a chance against hard core vets. Wrap this all in a neat, pretty package with the cute yet distinct visuals and endearing music and Arcticmill has put out a winner that not enough people have congratulated.
HD Score – 4.5
Developed by Lucky Frame to encourage creativity through technology, Nightmare Cooperative is what’s referred to as a “rouguelike” game, a RPG type inspired by the 1980 dungeon crawler “Rogue,” where players must weave their way through two-dimensional maze levels, unlocking chests and avoiding acid baths and vicious monsters along the way. The challenge is to make it through the maze while losing the fewest characters, keeping in mind that every turn moves all your characters in a given direction, and then the monsters get to take a turn, inching ever closer to your treasure hunters.
Instead of going for the homage-8-bit look, seemingly so popular these days, Nightmare Cooperative opts instead for a unique paper-cut out collage-like style. The sound is also pleasantly unexpected, not predictable MIDI tones, but is instead a melodic mix of guitar and percussion music complimented by the subtle sound effects that produce something Claire Donner compared to improvisational jazz.
The end result of the unique presentation and solid gameplay elements is a quality modern roguelike game which poses challenges that sit just below maddening. Claire Donner recommended this game to anyone who likes classic games and appreciates thoughtful presentation.
HD Score – 4.8
Rising Empires is a 4X game from Hellbound Interactive. John Markley held it up as an example of what a hardcore game is all about. The setting is a fantasy land divided between the surface and the netherworld. Players must pick one of six races to guide to dominance, and choose up to seven enemy factions to the main objectives: explore, expand, exploit, exterminate.
A beefy technology tree, freedom to design units and an insane amount of military options are just three factors that contribute to this game’s hardcore status. The setting is a cleverly designed fantasy world that in and of itself introduces unique challenges to your chosen race. The races themselves interact with the environment in different ways, which necessitates different strategies.
Games of this type could too easily fall back on familiar tropes and themes, which would result in a lack of inventiveness. Instead, Rising Empires presents interesting twists on the genre that provide an incredible amount of flexibility and challenge. The game is the definition of hardcore Android strategy.