We take a look at Jet Set Game’s casual strategy game, coming soon for iPhone and iPod Touch…
Let me get one thing out of the way, I usually hate strategy games. It’s not that I suck at them, its just I tend to get bored very easily. Final Fantasy Tactics was the last game I really got into, which was out a while ago on GBA, and I soon lost interest in that. So, to be honest, I really wasn’t expecting much when booting up Highborn for the first time. In fact I have been putting off previewing it for a few weeks now. Imagine my surprise then when I found myself utterly addicted to it… in fact I haven’t been able to put it down.
Highborn doesn’t necessarily do anything out-right new – although it does feature facebook connect enabled online play – but what it does do is present it with great tongue-in-cheek wit in both it’s cartoon visuals and it’s excellent writing. An example of this is where one of the characters pokes fun at the games overuse of the narrative pop up boxes. It’s also very accessible for new comers to strategy, or casual players of the genre (such as myself). The interface is easy to use, and both moving through the game world, organising your army and engaging in battles is very simple. The challenges are not necessarily a walk in the park though. The preview build I played only featured three quests from chapter one (there are many more promised in the final release), and the last two, especially the third took me a couple of tries and a while to complete, while hopping in and out of the game through out the day. Which shows that despite the long levels, you can dip in and out at will which is great for commuters such as myself, and reduces the possibility of boredom.
In each quest you are given an army. This can comprise of archers, dwarves, knights, sorceresses, and mechanical weapons such as the catapult. Each has there own abilities such as move range (how many spaces on the game world they can move at a time), attack range (how many spaces away from an enemy can they launch an attack), Damage type, Attack type, Magical defence and Physical defense. You also get a hero character, this is a more powerful character in both attacks and defence, but should they die its game over. Other characters are available by capturing various buildings along the way. You must engage in battle with them to make them neutral, and then capture it to align it with your colours. Once they are fighter your corner you will gain that particular buildings residents. For example, capture a village and you will gain a Militia, a weak but useful group of villagers (they re-spawn from the village if they die). Capture a Tower and you will unleash a mad wizard, a powerful tool but very weak in defence. As well as giving you a larger army, buildings can also act as extra firepower. As long as they are in range they will shower the enemy in arrows, often killing them without your men lifting a finger.
As well as your armies own fighting ability, spells are also available. Apart from the Hero’s spell ability, the sorceresses and the mad wizards, to earn many spells you must capture monoliths. Once captured they will allow you to perform that monolith’s spell. Loose the monolith back to the enemy however, and the spell will not be available. Spells come in all shapes and sizes and include: Freeze, which freezes the opponent in a block of ice rendering them unable to attack; Lightning, which which deals magical damage to the opposing units; Ice Storm, causing ice shards to rain down on the unsuspecting enemy… plus many more.
As I said I love the presentation. Particularly the 3D representation of the battles. Much like many strategy games, the battles are canned animations showing how the battle pans out, requiring multiple endings for each character type. What Highborn does is make these incredibly entertaining, with quirky cartoon like animated sequences which are often hilarious.
I’m not going to gush about this game anymore, I’ll leave that for my full review once I have got a taste for what the other levels/chapter in the game have to offer. What I will say though is that I hope Jet Set Games create an iPad version. Being able to see the full game board on one screen without scrolling would be great, as well as many menu options being always available at the side of the screen, such as the spell book.