Blizzard’s been setting the standards so high over the past few decades, it’s nearly impossible for anyone else to come close. We’ve seen an attempt to duplicate the success of Diablo with Dungeon Hunter, a stab at World of Warcraft with Pocket Legends, and now a shot at nailing the online multiplayer of Starcraft. Armada – Galactic War falls short in a few key areas, but succeeds surprisingly well in others.
What does Armada get right? At a glance, there is no mistaking this game’s influence. You start each mission with a floating mothership and a handful of resource-gathering drones. From there, you have to harvest glowing green crystals (the only resource in the game) and use the mothership to build more land and air units. There are no other buildings or tech trees, which does tend to keep the gameplay fairly shallow.
For the horde! Wait, wrong game.
Moving around the map is simple. Using a button in the upper-left of the screen, you can toggle between scrolling the map and selecting units. A few limitations, such as the fact that you can’t double-tap to select all of the same nearby units, make this system workable, but still less than perfect.
Armada lacks a storyline or campaign mode, so the action is online-only. There always seemed to be opponents ready to play us at any time, and the game uses the Zing network to match you up with others. Win or lose, you’ll earn credits that can be saved up to buy permanent upgrades to your units. One problem with this system is that the upgrades are prohibitively expensive, and you’ll have to put in several hours of playing to unlock a modest armor or attack upgrade.
Why are those Zergs in a rush?
All three races, while they may look a bit different, behave in generally the same way. Despite this, it doesn’t take long to encounter lots of variety among the tactics used online. Some opponents will try to rush you with a few weaker units, while others will build up massive fleets and try to dominate the map’s resources. This variety of strategies you’ll see online is the most Starcraft-like aspect of the entire game.
Another welcome feature is that since the Zing! network keeps all your saved data online, you can switch between devices and still keep your progress. This game looks and plays especially great upscaled on an iPad.
We think Armada – Glactic War is a good attempt to bring online RTS gameplay to the iPhone. It’s no substitute for the real thing, but if you’re desperate for a bit of that addictive Starcraft formula, Armada could keep you happy until Blizzard decides to develop for the iPhone in a more substantial way.