Rogue Planet: Turn-based Combat Strategy at Its Best

Posted: November 23, 2009 in Strategy

Over the past few months, the iPhone/iPod Touch platform has seen a fair share of turn-based games combat games, and for the most part, they’ve been a mixed bag. The latest release Rogue Planet is not only good, but really sets the benchmark for others to emulate. An extensive and engaging storyline, elaborate map designs and 3D artwork, ongoing strategic and tactical combat, and naturally responsive controls make Rogue Planet, the star in the TBS category.

While the storylines in a typical TBS game are usually afterthought or generally light in substance, Rogue Planet incorporates a significant story that evolves nicely over the course of the game. You are part of a space expedition that has returned to Earth to find it absent of human life and overtaken by hostile alien forces. The goal is simple: eliminate the hostiles and take back the planet.

To accomplish that, Rogue Planet provides two modes of play—Story and Quick Play—that take you through some visually stunning maps prefaced by polished animated cinematic screens. The environments that integrated into the maps are elaborate and diverse from the weather conditions such as snow and rain to the different terrains. Besides that, the maps are designed to instigate combat so rarely will you go through a round without entering a battle. Each battle is then illustrated through lively 3D animated artwork which you can turn off if that isn’t your thing. If you’re new to TBS games, Rogue Planet’s eye candy will likely be enough to lure you in.

Story mode consists of 19 single-player missions beginning with your arrival all the way to the final battle. With mission names such as First Contact, Resistance, San Francisco, and Ambush among others, Rogue Planet challenges as much as it entertains. Along with 3 levels of difficulty—easy, medium and hard, Quick Play provides 15 single, self-contained missions where you can play either as humans or as the hostile forces. Local multiplayer is available and runs smoothly, although it’s disappointing that online multiplayer was omitted in the current release.

Each map is categorized by in small, medium and large, and a gold, silver or bronze medal is earned based on difficulty level. Successfully completed missions in the story mode also become available for quick anytime play. In addition, 4 profile slots are available so you can save multiple games.

One of the neat although not very deep aspects of Rogue Planet is the intelligent interface designed to keep players engaged in the story. Before each mission, part of the storyline is presented with bits of text dialogue between characters, accompanied by animation. Players can then travel to different parts of the ship such as the Bridge or the Science Lab to speak with others on board. While a step in the right direction, this can ultimately feel a bit contrived since it doesn’t impact the overall direction of the game.

Aside from the rooms, the menus are intuitively designed. Along the top of the screen are the basic controls such as the zoom button, tutorial/help, objectives, pause and end turn. Located at the bottom of the screen are available resources such as commanders, money and production. Speaking of the resources, the game offers a good variety of attack units at your disposal. Both humans and hostile forces have their own set of engineers, troops and attack vehicles to choose from at a cost.

The touch controls are well done and easy to learn. As is typical with TBS games, a grid system is used in the movement and placement of attack units, and Rogue Planet is no different. Depending on the unit, specific actions are presented as a series of buttons from basic commands such as move and attack to more specialized ones such as colonize and regroup. One distinctly different function is the Kamikaze which enables units to self-destruct taking itself and others with it. Used strategically, it’s quite effective from a practical sense as well as a weapon of last resort.

Aside from everything that’s been mentioned, the gameplay in Rogue Planet is second to none and should exceed the expectations of gamers of all ages. Unlike other games, the combat is consistent and almost continuous with an AI that is equally as cunning as it is well balanced, which by itself is an accomplishment.

As you progress through the campaign, be prepared to be surrounded and proactively attacked if you’re not on your toes as the AI is aggressive and relentless. Besides combat, planning and understanding the attributes of your forces is essential. For example, vehicles known as Turtles (humans) and Whales (hostile forces) can be used to transport troops quickly and to a wider area. Commandos (humans) and Centurions (hostile forces) can destroy and occupy buildings, while Engineers (humans) and Droids (hostile forces) are used to repair bridges. Visually, the attacks are fun to watch involving weapons of mass destruction, bombers and aerial assaults.

Too often, gameplay is dumbed down on the platform in order to speed up play. That’s not the case in Rogue Planet. Each mission regardless of whether you’re playing in Story mode or Quick Play can take up to 45 minutes to complete which honestly is a huge positive because it points to a well-balanced AI as well as to the depth of the game.

Rogue Planet does have a few issues. Aside from the lack of online multiplayer which should be in the next update, online scoring is limited to Facebook, and no playing of your own music. In addition, progress is only saved at the end of each round but not during.

All in all, Rogue Planet is a polished game that delivers a rip roaring combat experience. With hours of gameplay tied to an entertaining storyline, beautiful artwork and animation, easy-to-use controls, and intuitive menus, Rogue Planet should provide newbies and advanced gamers with their TBS fix for a good long time.

Albie Meter: 4.5 Stars (polished and entertaining game with depth; beautiful artwork and responsive controls; missions are long and should provide hours of gameplay; lack of online multiplayer and autosave only at the end of each round)

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