If Hudson decided to make a real-time strategy game based on their one-time platforming superstar Bonk, the result would probably resemble Ancient War. Made by three-person team Triniti Interactive, Ancient War casts the player as a violent god who summons legions of lovable cartoon cavemen followers in order to conquer eight neighboring tribes.
Prehistoric aesthetics aside, the game is most comparable to Cartoon Wars, released on the App Store earlier this summer. Battles take place on a flat, 2D plane with the player’s base on the left and the computer-controlled base on the right. Once units are created, they will automatically march toward the enemy base and fight anyone who gets in their way until someone is left a bloody pulp.
Not being able to interact with warriors on the battlefield makes the strategy simpler and the interface cleaner. Across the bottom of the screen is a row of icons showing the various units, and tapping on one instantly deploys a unit from your totem. Units require different amounts of meat in order to be summoned, but the resource accumulates at a fixed rate so much of the strategy comes from deciding which unit to create and when.
Get away from my totem!
As a god, you can also periodically rain down flaming meteors by pressing an icon. This is great for resetting the field if opponents get too close to your totem (which also serves as your life bar). Finally, you can scroll the screen left and right using your finger to get a better view of the action. It is an addicting formula for a strategy game and it smartly takes into account the iDevice’s lack of precision when compared to a mouse.
Ancient War stretches its simple concept across eight levels, each with four difficulty levels. Games like this are designed to be played in short bursts and, with that in mind, it will take several hours to see all Ancient War has to offer for a buck. Individual battles do not take too long to finish, but battles later on quickly turn into stalemates in which the tug-of-war between you and the enemy becomes monotonous because no one is making or losing any ground.
A fun way to offset this is by powering up your units. Just participating in a battle will earn you gold. You can use your money to power up your measly axe-throwers, or save up to purchase the ability to spawn wizards or even a T-Rex. This system encourages you to replay easier battles to earn gold to help win larger battles, much like grinding in an RPG. The game says units may transform when leveled up all the way, but we never encountered this due to our socialist style of spending gold on all units equally, instead of just focusing on one favorite group.
Customizing your army personalizes the experience somewhat, but it does not distract from the biggest flaw of Ancient War: the lack of variety. There are a number of well-drawn cavemen soldiers to choose from, but all tribes you come up against use the exact same units with slight color changes. In fact, the only differences between the Darkspear Tribe and the Firetree Tribe are the difficulty, minor details in the backgrounds of their stages and how many classes of units they have access to. Even the one or two songs, despite how good they sound, become annoying when heard over and over again. The upcoming updates featuring multiplayer and new missions with new units do sound promising, though.
With Ancient War, Triniti Interactive has refined established RTS ideas to make an impressive, solid game. It is fun, but it has been stretched a little too thin. If this game had been half as long, it would still been worth its 99Â¢ price tag. Of course, having too much content is not that bad of a problem to have. Just know that with Ancient War, a lot of that content will feel start to feel familiar after a while.