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.