Mecho Wars scores with an original TBS game

Posted: June 14, 2009 in Strategy

There’s a saying that beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and in many ways, you can say creativity follows the same route. Over the past few months, I’ve played more games for the platform that I would have imagined and am always when something fresh comes around. That’s what you have with Mecho Wars, a turn-based strategy game based in a fantasy world seen through the pastel-colored eyes of Luc Bernard and the inspiring music of Sean Beeson.

The game takes place in a faraway land known as the Divination Deserts with a storyline revolving around two warring factions—the Winged Crusade and the Landians. Playing as the Winged Crusade, the objective is to win battles and eventually the war over the Landians. Visually, the first thing that strikes you is the bright pastel colors, mostly the pink of the game field. The structures and the characters all take on a futuristic and cartoonish look that appeals to me, and I can tell you that these are creatures you haven’t seen before. The original soundtrack should appeal to many, and frankly, it’s one of the better ones I’ve come across.

Mecho Wars has two three game modes: Single Player, local only wifi Multiplayer, and Challenge. Single Player mode is the campaign and follows a linear storyline taking you through the rise of the Winged Crusade in 13 stages categorized in 3 acts. Once stages are completed, they are unlocked and can be replayed. Challenge offers 6 additional maps not found in the single player campaign. I can only hope that additional stages/levels are added to further exhibit the talents of the devs, and it may be worth adding an option to play as the Landians.

Two issues I came across are the lack of AI difficulty settings and an instructional tutorial, which I think need to be addressed. People with different skill sets have no options to adjust the game’s difficulty level and with the current version, it will undoubtedly be too easy or too hard as well as impacting replay value. In addition, the game has no instructions or breakdown of weapons or defenses which I can see being a problem for some. Only through trial and error did I figure out how to play the game, which just shouldn’t be the case.

Each side has 9 different units at their disposal with their own attributes (speed, attack range), strengths and weaknesses (impact against specific opposing units). On the Winged Crusade side, these include the Soldier, Ace Soldier, Elpho, Mage, Cannon, Bob and Birdie. For example, Mage offers midrange movement and extended attack range, while Bob and Birdie are the air troops that fly over water. With the Landians, their units include the Landian, Bazooka, Tech, Rocket, and Tank among others. The imagery for all the units is imaginative, and in general, you probably wouldn’t want to see these in your nightmares…very creative and detailed.

Unlike other turn-based games that show battles in the form of boxes attacking boxes on the game field, Mecho Wars sets itself apart by literally showing the battles in the form of animated scenes. This is done tremendously well and where the detailed illustrations shine. While you can turn off the option, I don’t why you would. You literally see the opposing factions shooting each other and the resulting consequences. In a way, this takes turn-based games up a notch in how battle scenes can and should be creatively displayed.

Beyond the graphics, the big differentiator for Mecho Wars is the use of time. Each wave of attack or defense is represented by hour which impacts strategy. In the Divination Deserts, large bodies of water surround the land masses, and once the hour reaches the midnight hour, the water freezes into solid ice, making it possible for land troops to travel across to other land masses. Of course once dawn arrives, troops better not be on the ice since it reverts back to water. It’s a rather unique approach involving the environment, and I hope they expand on this concept more in future updates with other environmental conditions.

The gameplay is similar to other turn-based games in that you must find ways to finance defenses. Initially, the objective will be to build and capture cities and factories. Cities prosper and generate wealth, while factories provide troops and defenses. So as with any RTS, resource management plays a key part in success and failure. Tap on structures for a list of available options. The other thing to note is that you are limited in the number of accessible defense resources. For example, in the upper left or right corner depending on where you tap, a menu appears showing the amount of available funds, the time, and a count of available troop resources.

The control scheme is what you would expect it to be. Using touch, drag along the map to view different parts of the map. Placing and moving defenses involve tapping on a unit to bring up a grid showing where that unit can be moved. Once you move to that desired area, you have two options: choose an action to see what happens, or tap to negate the move. If you choose to see an action, a window appears with a selection depending on the situation (e.g. stay, attack, dismiss, capture). Note: Dismiss gets rid of the selected unit and adds back to your resource pool. By the way, tapping on specific units may be tough for those with big fingers, and occasionally, I initiated an attack I didn’t intend. This is probably why NORAD requires two keys to activate nuclear weapons.

Each level begins with a text box showing unit movements, offers tips and suggestions, and provides an overview on objectives. For example, in the first act, you’ll be faced with finding and capturing cities, which serves as a good introduction. Key rule of the game is to protect your headquarters (H.Q.) because once that’s captured, the game is over. The same applies on the Landian side so your underlying goal in addition to managing resources and placing units is to capture their headquarters. Capturing their factories will hinder the production of units. Anytime during the game, a brief overview of a specific unit can be pulled up by tapping on it. Even the status of the land, water and ice can be accessed this way.

Mecho Wars is certainly a feast for those who enjoy creative, original artwork. The gameplay is engaging and polished, and while there is issue with the lack of AI settings and local only wifi multiplayer (global online should be available in a month) in the current version, Mecho Wars offers a fun turn-based strategy game that people should definitely consider.

Albie Meter: 4 Stars (recommended for RTS and turn-based gamers looking for originality and well-presented gameplay; levels and limited multiplayer may be an issue for some, but in general, this is a worthy game)

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