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Reign of Swords Review (iPhone/PC) tactical game

2008/09/09 [iPhone/iPod Touch/PC] [1] Reign of Swords
Version Reviewed: 1.2.42

Reign of Swords is a wargame lite for iPhone and PC. It's got a fairly basic selection of generic units, a few special abilities, and a beginner level campaign. The single player campaign consists of main story missions and optional skirmishes. Skirmishes can be grinded repeatedly for more recruits and upgrades, while multiplayer fights can be won for the same sort of rewards. Even if you stay offline and don't play the skirmishes more than once, the campaign difficulty is still around the beginner level. The campaign is fairly non-linear, so if a skirmish or mission is too difficult, you can come back later with more appropriate units. I do like that there is a deployment cap for each mission based on the value of each unit, so you can't just grind until you have a mass of the best units in the game and slaughter everything. Unit upgrades are handled with currency earned by winning fights - if you screw up your unit upgrading, you can always grind skirmishes until you get what you need, although if you plan correctly you will not have to grind or fight online to get the units needed to clear the campaign.

Strategies are fairly basic and you're generally just moving from point A to B killing everything using standard tactics, aside from two or three missions. Rarely you'll be put into a defense or escape situation but they felt pretty uninspired. There are quite a few missions where you're expected to siege enemy fortifications, which tends to be boring as it takes a while to push through chokeholds even using the best ranged and air units, especially when you need to wait around for allied and enemy units to take their turns. If you're a beginner to the genre you'll probably appreciate the simple combat, as most of the mainstream reviewers seemed to. The main problem with the strategic depth is that there aren't many units that feel different from your average generic foot soldier/mounted unit.

There's multiplayer, but not in the way you'd expect. Instead of a full on battle, you give your units general tactics then the AI plays the game for you in your absence and reports the results. This is meant for people who don't have time to play out a long battle, but it defeats the purpose of tactical combat if you're relying on the computer to do most of the work. Even stranger, once you commit your units to a "PvP" fight over the net, you can't use them elsewhere to keep playing the single player campaign. Reign of Swords 2 does away with this so apparently it wasn't as popular as the developers thought it would be.

The touch controls on the iPhone version are unfortunately poor. The game fails to register a tap unless it's placed perfectly on the games smallish grid, leading to repeated tapping just to get the game to recognize a tap. I've played the majority of tactical TBS titles on iPhone and this is the first I've ever encountered such a sensitivity issue, and looking at other reviews suggests I am not alone. Once you issue a move command to a unit, the UI changes to a vastly different setup where you need to drag from the selected unit outward instead of being able to scroll the map as usual and click on the destination. This is both needlessly confusing and inefficient. The PC version using a mouse and keyboard is generally the superior choice for controls.

Graphics and sound are fairly bland and unassuming. You can't turn off movement or combat animations but they go by quickly so it's not a big deal. There are no fully animated cutscenes for combat between two units. The plot is a simple empire conquest tale and all the units on the field are generic, so don't expect an SRPG level plot here.

Strategic Depth: Low-mid. Wargame-lite with a couple units, not a lot of customization.

Strategic Difficulty: Mid to high beginner level. Sometimes you'll need to bring specific units to win efficiently, but it's pretty obvious what to take most of the time. Grinding takes all of the guesswork or strategy out of what units to upgrade.

Overall Score: 6.9 iPhone, 7.6 PC. Despite costing a few dollars more, the PC versions controls are far better. It's mildly amusing if you need something to occupy your time while mobile, just don't expect much besides the basics.

Reign of Swords II brings much of the same, with the addition of about 8 new units, and real tactical turn based multiplayer. The pace of the game is helped by more responsive controls, faster movement animations and better map scrolling, and the game auto-selecting the next unused unit automatically. There are additional graphics and the campaign has a bit more story to it. Whereas Reign of Swords felt like a freshman effort, its sequel feels a bit more experienced and the additional unit variety helps keep things from getting too monotonous. The difficulty is about the same, though, and there are some boring stretches where you have to move your units around the map and through teleports with no combat whatsoever. I'd give Reign of Swords II an 8.0 and I'd recommend getting it over the first game if you have a choice.[img]
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About mjemirzianone of us since 1:31 AM on 05.18.2009

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