Reign of Swords: Episode II

In this turn-based strategy game set in a mystical Middle East, you have to lead a conquering army from nation to nation.


Currently Unavailable

Previews

Reign of Swords: Episode 2 Hands-On

War in the Middle East these days depresses us. Thankfully, Reign of Swords: Episode 2 has all of the sand-swept deserts, with none of the tanks, bombs, or missiles. The closest thing in this medieval fantasy game to heavy artillery is a catapult or ballistae. If you enjoyed the horsemen vs. mythical creatures showdown in The Mummy Returns, you’ll probably like where this game is headed stylistically.

In case you’re not familiar with the series, the original Reign of Swords is a turn-based strategy game with an army that you can customize between stages. When you deploy your troops, you only have a certain amount of points you can spend, so battles don’t get too unbalanced. You can also take on side missions to earn loot that helps you upgrade your army. For example, a shiny medal turns a powerful Knight into a nearly unstoppable Hero.

Each character starts with 100 health points, but that doesn’t last long. Instead of fighting at full strength until they’re dead, units cause less damage as they get hurt. As a result, you have to be thoughtful about which enemy units you target, and if you really want to get into the nitty-gritty details you can drill through the provided information about which weapons are most effective against which kinds of armor.

This isn’t completely necessary, however. Even though it takes about half an hour to get comfortable with the combat system, you’ll soon figure out how to keep your troops in formation while dealing out damage to the enemy army. On levels that let you choose your own troops, your strategy’” long range, short range, or hit-and-run’” is all up to you.

Early on in the single-player campaign, we began to encounter some of the new gameplay features that make the battles a bit more interesting than in Reign of Swords 1. Warp portals dot the early levels, and since you can’t move immediately after stepping out of one, you’re vulnerable for a turn.

Also, several of the new units have very handy abilities that can shape the battle, should you choose to utilize them. A new unit called the Craftsmen, who you must rescue in one of the first missions, can build huts to regenerate health for other units. We like to think of these little tents as porta-potties. Craftsmen can also pound a few nails to repair a broken section of wall or weakened siege weapon.

Ah, and the artillery. We’ve covered many different kinds of catapults on Slide to Play, from those that launch penguins to the kind that whacks orcs from Saga, but these siege weapons are among the most interesting. The new Ballistae unit delivers an electric bolt across three spaces, making it essential to thinning out the enemy’s advancing ranks. Catapult and Trebuchet units are iffy on the accuracy, but can make even the strongest units go squish after a few rounds.

The new units are definitely the stars here, and we haven’t even mentioned the fantasy units like sandtrap-creating Dune Sirens, parasitic Blood Gorgers, and a never-lonesome Conjurer (he always summons some monstrous buddies to keep him company).

The creative new fighting units are definitely a reason to check out this sequel, but the new multiplayer features are worth a look as well. Instead of playing out automatically after a brief setup like in the first game, the online battles will actually be turn-based. You’ll also be able to move one turn, send it to your opponent, and have them send their next move whenever they’re ready. Unfortunately, we weren’t able to try out any online games for this preview, but they sound promising. Plus, we’re also told you can carry over your same army from the first game, if you’re particularly fond of it.

Hardcore strategy players will want to spend time poring over every new addition in this sequel, but even newcomers will probably be able to catch on quickly. Consider this: even if you’ve never played or really enjoyed a turn-based strategy game, Reign of Swords: Episode 2 may be the one that makes you appreciate the genre. Bringing new players on board’” now that’s a hopeful sign for iPhone gaming.

More stories on Reign of Swords: Episode II

Reviews

Reign of Swords: Episode 2 Review

Turn-based strategy games, love them or hate them, are a mainstay in video games. They’re incredibly deep and require constant planning, patience, and brainpower to master. This combination often turns off casual gamers due to the slow pace and steep learning curve.

Nevertheless, for those that enjoy them, they have an addicting quality and longevity that make great ones worth their weight in gold. One such game, Reign of Swords: Episode II, has hit the App Store, and we’ve spent ample time exploring its intricacies. Has it got the depth strategy gamers desire?

The iPhone has a distinct advantage over much of the mobile competition, as its interface feels designed for this genre. Rather than dragging an analog stick or mouse around to select tiles or scroll through menus (of which there are many), tapping selections makes preparation for each scuffle on the field a breeze. We’ve already covered many of the basics of gameplay in our hands-on preview, so having read that, you have a taste of what’s in store.

Just follow the Yellow Brick Road!

As a sequel, Reign of Swords hasn’t changed drastically, and it frankly didn’t need to. If you played the original, or any turn-based game for that matter, you know exactly what you’re getting into: building an army, placing each unit strategically, and battling to the bitter end. What Episode II brings to the field is refinement and additional features.

There are 36 unit types, several of which are new (The Blood Gorger, Dune Siren, Craftsman, and the Ballistae being our notable favorites) and an interesting variety of mission objectives. Additionally, rewards are currently being doled out on a weekly basis to keep you coming back even as other games vie for your attention. These additions are enough to breathe new life into the series, and for fans, it’s easily sufficient to warrant a purchase.

For the fence sitters, it is the multiplayer that should draw your attention. This time around, the action is live, allowing players to combat in pseudo real-time. Future additions are even more promising: push notification to keep battles going over longer periods of time, messaging friends, and additional units and lands. As it stands without these, though, this is still an excellent multiplayer romp that should attract new people to the genre.

Bloodsucking leeches may be cute, but they do not make good pets.

The $4.99 asking price might seem too steep for some, especially since Reign 2 isn’t much of a graphical upgrade from the original. One could argue that the unit sprites hearken back to the good old days of mobile gaming, but we have come to expect a little more from our sequels. We don’t need a fancy 3D overhaul, but at just 6.7MB, this game isn’t going to fill up your device, and the developers could have added a bit more refinement. Animations are generally good, and the sound effects are solid even if they often cut off abruptly.

Minor presentation quibbles aside, this is a game that outshines the original (which was no slouch) by keeping a solid foundation and building upon it. Newcomers might want to give the $1.99 original a try (you can import your army to the new game), but with the substantial multiplayer offering, we have no qualms giving this game a firm recommendation.