KIL.A.TON is real-time combat that drops a load on you

Posted: August 15, 2009 in Shooter, Strategy

Turn-based combat games have enjoyed a resurgence in the iTunes store over the past few months. And, while there are a number of them, only a few are worthwhile. So, when KIL.A.TON was released, my initial reaction was ho-hum. The reality is that KIL.A.TON is a first-rate artillery game with a well-implemented twist—real-time battles. This means more intense battles where enemy tanks shoot when you shoot ratcheting up the game in terms of strategy and intensity. And if that doesn’t interest you, maybe the level of content will because the play time can be significant when accounting for the campaigns and customizations.

“Last tank standing”…that’s the mantra in KIL.A.TON as your team of tanks battle through a variety of terrains. Aside from the real-time action, the game incorporates a variety of elements including time constraints, equipment upgrades, and an AI that plays tough. The creative scoring system awards points for revenge and taking down the leader among other things while deducting points for destroying yourself. The game has three modes of play: Campaign, Custom and Online. Campaign mode has 4 campaigns—Proving Grounds, Alpha Centauri, Tau Ceti, Sigma Draconis—each with 3 scenarios. Each scenario consists of several rounds where points are awarded for tanks destroyed with the total tallied at the end of each campaign to determine the overall winner.

Also under campaign is Free for All which provides 4 survival scenarios—Frantic, Nuke-o-Rama, Close Combat, Redirection. These occur in unique environmental situations with a limited set of weapons. For example, in Nuke-o-Rama, each tank is provided with unlimited nuclear warheads which tend to destroy everything within the blast zone. Each of the rounds in this example begins and ends usually pretty quickly but you’ll have fun nuking each other. But the survival scenarios are really some of the best the game has to offer. Let’s just say you’ll have tanks flying around while others are blasting away.

Under the Custom play mode, you have the flexibility to establish your own parameters including the number of enemy tanks, shot clock, and choose from 4 levels of difficulty—easy, normal, hard, insane. You even have the option of changing from a real-time to a turn-based game. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to try out online play, but know it is available.

The environments supposedly on strange planets look decent, and the animation runs smoothly on my iPod Touch 2g 3.0, although some of the tanks can have behave quirky in gameplay which I’ll explain shortly. A soundtrack that could easily have come from one of the Terminator movies or a B-movie rounds out the game.

KIL.A.TON doesn’t disappoint when it comes to weaponry and defense. By default, each tank has a unlimited amount of standard shells and the ability to hover. But if you decide to go shopping for the latest in war gear, you can do that. After each round, money is awarded which can then be used in the mercenary equipment store—think Safeway for Blackwater. Here you can choose from 17 weapons and defensive tools, which include Super Shell, Minigun, Rockets, Rolling Mines, Bunker Buster, Dirtinator, Nuke, and Omega Strike. Other items that come in handy are the Repel Shield and the Repair Kit. The equipment store is intuitively organized and tapping each weapon brings up a brief description. And, weapons can also be sold at a discount of course.

The gameplay in KIL.A.TON is fast paced and once you’ve played this, you’ll wonder why more turn-based combat games don’t offer a real-time mode. While surviving is the primary objective, the secondary one is to score points by destroying others. Each tank has a health bar with the points leader further identified by two stars. The AI is well balanced and not a slouch by any means. The weapons gauge is located in the middle along the top of the screen. Here, you can toggle and select the weapon to use from your purchases. You can also select defensive systems such as health repair, shields and hover mode. The aiming mechanism in KIL.A.TON is probably one of the easiest to use. A circular guide appears around your tank that can be rotated by touch to aim. A gauge in the guide indicates the power behind the launch which is set by holding down the Fire button located in the bottom right of the screen. Releasing the fire button will launch the weapon or activate defensive systems. A nice touch is that the gauge uses a red line to indicate the power level on the previous shot which helps in planning for the next one.

Since the game is in real time, the other tanks will also launch their weapons or activate other systems so depending on the campaign scenario, up to 6 tanks will be in action simultaneously. One of the things is that irks me is the quirkiness of hovering tanks and how they tend to drop and flop like toys onto the terrain. There are times when tanks fly into the side of the screen and drop standing up in the corner. In addition, tanks can pile on top of each other which frankly just doesn’t look right.

Also, if your tank happens to be destroyed with other tanks still remaining, you get to watch the rest of the scenario play out. The problem is the lack of a fast forward button to speed up the game in this situation. It’s interesting to watch the first few times, but can be monotonous after a while.

What makes KIL.A.TON a standout is the strategy involved. I mentioned how the leader in points is indicated on-screen by stars. Bonus points are awarded for taking out the leader, and trust me, that becomes very apparent when your tank is the leader. The other tanks will come after you with fervor, and of course revenge points are awarded if you manage to blow up the tank that destroys you. Another dynamic is that as the game increases in difficulty, additional enemy tanks as well as the proverbial shot clock become factors. In some rounds, you literally have a few seconds to plan and get a shot off. Keep in mind that tanks must be fully destroyed to get points with enemy tanks often destroying each other or taking the points from you because they destroyed a tank you were working on. All’s fair in love and war right?

After each round, a scoreboard shows points awarded as well as enemies by each tank. There is a scoreboard that tracks your career totals by game type, wins/losses, and weapons used.

All in all, KIL.A.TON is a solid real-time combat game with an easy-to-use targeting mechanism that novices and advanced players should take to pretty quickly. The level of content and the organization of the different game modes are admittedly very entertaining and provide high replay value.

Albie Meter: 4 Stars (surprisingly fun and challenging real-time combat with loads of weapons and content; if you enjoy games such as Star Hogs or iShoot, then you should consider this game because it adds a faster paced twist to a familiar concept; format allows for quick or prolonged playing sessions)

Check out my review at http://toucharcade.com/2009/08/17/kil-a-ton-turn-based-artillery-with-twist/

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