Sometimes the best thing a reviewer can do to a game is to wait. There are updates that completely change the game, and such an update came recently for Ravenmark: Scourge of Estellion. Now universal that allows the game to be played natively on the iPad makes it a much more enjoyable experience. Other UI optimizations, general tweaks and AI enhancements give even more quality to one of the best strategy games for iOS.
Ravenmark is a turn based strategy game that relies heavily on strategy, I mean really heavily. There is no brawl mechanics to win the battles that can be seen in other turn-based games. Even the Advance Wars series suffered from this tendency to let battles be decided on who managed to produce the most units instead of relying on how to deal with limited recourses. The closest comparison in gameplay is to Fire Emblem in that units are limited, and a lot of them are unique.
Battles are divided into command phase, and battle phase. Ravenmark differentiates itself from the norm by having separate phases, but simultaneous actions. The initiative of units governs who moves first, and not as most are used to the command phase. This takes a while to get used to, but once you get the rules the game opens up. Strategic decisions must be based on initiative, and on how you predict the enemy to move, and finally on how each unit type is effective against another. Ravenmark is not for the beginner in the turn based strategy genre, as it can be quite overwhelming. On the other hand victories are so much more rewarding. Pulling off some big moves early on to trap the enemy key units are among the best occasions in iOS gaming.
With an extensive played tutorial the game does its best to get you up to speed. Once you are left on your own you are free to plan as you wish. With 15 missions in the initial campaign you get quite a hefty playtime depending on your skill.
There is no multiplayer, and that is something the game would really benefit from. Asynchronous or instant would work just as well.
The presentation is ok, but not mind-blowing. There is a definite lack of detail to the maps, and units. The graphics is highly functional though, and it is easy to tell different units and formations apart. There is a great codex section giving information about units, events and the characters in the game. The story is told in most parts as dialogues between the characters much in the vein of Fire Emblem. It feels a bit old school, and without voice acting I tend to skip ahead to the actual game. The music is bombastic orchestral adventure music not out of place in the world of Tolkien.
Ravenmark: Scourge of Estellion is one of the most comprehensive turn based strategy games for iOS. For the strategy gamer it is a must buy, and it will definitely give you a lot of challenge. For the newcomer to the genre all the information, and options might be overwhelming. Depen
ding on who you are I leave it up to you to decide wisely.
Ravenmark: Scourge of Estellion $2.99 Universal for iPad/iPhone/iPod
Seller: Witching Hour Studios Pte Ltd