Mecho Wars is based on the turn-based strategy formula established by the Advance Wars series on Nintendo’s portable consoles. In some aspects Oyaji Games has succeeded in refining, and adding new elements to keep it fresh. In other aspects I feel some key elements from the formula have gone missing.
Mecho Wars tells the story of a conflict between the Winged Crusade and the Landians. The story mode lets you take part in leading the Winged Crusade in their pursuit to conquer the Divination Deserts. You have an army of land, air and marine units at your disposal. Units from the Winged Crusade and Landians all have their own look, even though they have corresponding traits.
The turn-based combat is perfect for a mobile device such as the iPhone. Each turn you get income based on the number of structures generating revenue you have. You can build in your factories, and there are a lot of different units to choose from. To defeat the enemy you have to conquer the HQ. Only your basic foot soldiers are capable of capturing enemy buildings, at the same time they are quite vulnerable making it hard to bring them forward to the frontlines. There are a set number of units you can have active at the same time limiting large armies from forming.
The first time I played Mecho Wars I was blown away due to the cool colour palette used. It looks awesome, and I get a kick out of looking at it. The more units you can produce, and the more you get to meet in battle the harder it becomes to tell them apart. Knowing which unit is vulnerable to which is hard. You get a percentage of calculated enemy losses when you attack but no information about what your losses will become. Battles tend to draw out for much longer than enjoyable due to units being too cheap to produce in relation to income. Just having ten units to attack with slows everything down as well as the opposition can keep building more units as I attack. Not being able to tell enemy units apart is also a major drawback, as I can’t really tell what I am facing when it comes to strength. It is nice to have unique units to play with but at the same time it would be much easier to gameplay just having the same units with different colours like in Advance Wars.
Something really fresh about Mecho Wars is the inclusion of a day/night cycle. It is not only there to give some graphical variation but plays a major role in gameplay as well. The water found on the map freezes during the night making you and your enemy able to traverse the ice. Marine units on the other hand freezes to the spot, and can only attack from that point on. The first time it happened I got really slaughtered by the Landians when three of my strongest marine units froze, and became sitting ducks.
I think the game feels kind of slow between turns, as you have to see what buildings generate income and what time it is. The battle animations look cool but I skip past them, and removing them with the menu item made the game bug out and freeze during enemy turns. So keep them turned on as of now.
The campaign consists of 13 missions including a tutorial. The missions are really uneven in challenge, sure the first couple is and should be easy. But then harder missions are mixed with too easy missions. There is only one standard difficulty, and newcomers to the genre might get trouble with completing the campaign. Other than that I find it compelling with some amount of humour in the dialogue. The story is told in Advance Wars style with still images of talking characters along with text. I think Mecho Wars contains a really cool gallery of characters enhancing the story.
The AI is a bit slow in making moves, and quite often seem to lack any strategic knowledge. I could easily place three marine artillery units along a bridge to blast countless enemy infantry units into smithereens. It took the AI five turns to change tactics. The difficulty lies more into the fact that the AI builds a lot of units instead of it having a great strategy.
Beside the campaign there is a challenge mode featuring six different maps albeit still only one level of difficulty available. A pass and play local multiplayer lets you play your closest mate while waiting for a promised online multiplayer mode.
As far as strategy games go for the iPhone Mecho Wars is quite good. It is one of the few not relying on the tower defence formula. I can’t help feeling it is inferior to the Advance Wars series. With some tweaks here and there it might go from being a good game to becoming a must have.
Presentation and graphics
The unusual colour pallet really works in making Mecho Wars an unique experience. Distinguishing objects and terrain on the map is really easy. The choice to create unique units is both a blessing and a curse. A blessing to the eye having lots of different steampunky creations to behold, and a curse when it comes to identifying properties of the different units.
Touch controls work really well in selecting, and moving units. At times I find it hard attacking, as you have to touch the attack option first, and then the enemy unit. But that might be more because of my fat fingers than a fault on behalf of the game.
Mecho Wars plays and feels a lot like Advance Wars, and that is a good thing indeed. Of course some aspects could have been better such as the enemy AI. As it is now the enemy AI needs a bit of tweaking to make it feel like a competent adversary.
Not having unit stats, and quite frankly having too many units to choose from is negative when it comes to creating a good strategy. Also the limitations to how many units you can support is negative to the gameplay as you can’t just muster an army to destroy the enemy. Gameplay is more about slowly wearing the enemy down, and it takes too long in my opinion. When knowing the outcome but having to play 45 minutes to reach it makes me tire of the game.
The inclusion of day/night with freezing water really adds to the game, and the strategies you can create.
Not to great in the reviewed version with a campaign limited to 13 missions, and just six challenge maps. The lack of difficulty levels might alienate both those finding it to hard as well as those finding it too easy.
Once the promised multiplayer mode is implemented I think this game might become a hit among strategy players.
Mecho Wars was on sale just some days ago, and at $0.99 I had no problem recommending it. Now at its ordinary price of $4.99 I find it harder to recommend it as clearly. It is a good strategy game now, but I recommend you to wait until Oyaji Games updates it to a great game with online multiplayer.
Mecho Wars $4.99
Reviewed version: 1.0