Rogue Planet tells a story of human versus robot, of old versus new, of flesh versus metal. You have to take back control of the Earth by sending your troops into the fray of battle. As a commander it is up to you to decide who will have to give up their lives for the good of the many.
Rogue Planet is a turn-based strategy in the vein of the popular high quality Nintendo Advance Wars series, and the more surreal Mecho Wars by Luc Bernard for the iPhone. You take turns moving all your troops, and just like in chess you have to plan a couple of moves ahead. Most missions demand you to exterminate all opposition, and to do so effectively you have to know which unit is strong versus the target enemy unit. This is key to success. In missions where you can produce units you can’t just buy the most expensive all the time as that firepower might not be as effective against enemy ground units.
There is a strong story element to Rogue Planet. The hub of the story mode is a large craft with all kinds of different locations. To progress the story you have to talk to the members of the crew. You can’t choose any answers, which is a shame as it would have been more interesting to affect the story. Actually the story mode is extremely linear, and that goes for the strategy part as well. Most maps can only be completed in one way, as they are quite small only offering one or two routes to the enemy. If you are used to the large maps of Advance Wars you will feel a bit restricted.
Graphics are top of the line, and the story mode is told in still images of the crewmembers talking. Both the locations and crewmembers are drawn to give them life, and the artist really succeeds in making it interesting to view the story even though it is only told in text. The actual game also looks truly great with nicely animated unit movement, great backgrounds and weather effects. It is probably the best looking strategy game I have ever seen, and it is overall easy to see that Agharta Studio is responsible for the graphics to make it come alive much like in 1112. The usual battle scenes where you see the battle played out is real eye candy but I usually turn it off to speed the game up a bit.
The music in Rogue Planet is really good with a combination of bombastic orchestral arrangements and industrial rhythmic ambience. Playlists aren’t implemented, and that is unusual for games published by Gameloft. You can however start your own music with the double home button trick or pressing the microphone play button on your headset. Sound effects are great with some really meaty and varied weapon fire sounds, and the ambient weather also gives the game a great atmosphere.
Getting the controls to work for a turn-based strategy game for the iPhone touch screen should be really easy, but sadly Rogue Planet does not get it to work as well as it should. Everything is controlled by touch, and you select a unit by touching it. Then you get a range of movement shown as highlighted squares. Once you choose where to move the first hiccup occur. You get a move to icon, an attack icon if any enemy unit is in range, and a self-destruct kamikaze button. Since the icons vary in number depending on the situation they move about on the screen. If you quickly want to move your troops it is easy to by mistake press the kamikaze button blowing the unit up, and hurting any own or enemy units within a square from the twitchy suicide bomber who was just out taking a stroll. If you choose a unit it is easy to choose another by touching it except if they are of the same type. In those cases you will get a combine units icon. It is easy to avoid accidentally combining troops but it is an annoyance when you want to get your army moving quickly. There are some really good aspects of the controls as well such as the pinch in and out, along a hold and rotate to get a good view of the map.
The story mode comes with 19 maps including the tutorial missions that will take the average stategist around 20 hours to complete, and there are also 15 maps exclusive to quick play mode adding quite a hefty gamelife through replayability. You can also play as the enemy faction in quick play mode, which helps in knowing their strengths and weaknesses. Most maps are as I have mentioned quite small, and have a limited number of routes to attack by. Depending on whether you can produce units or not the levels take from 10 minutes to an hour. The New Mexico level took me over an hour of grinding down the opposition.
Speaking of opposition the AI is quite dumb, and often acts too passive. In the aforementioned Mexico City mission the AI could have met up with my forces, and turned it into a real stalemate. Instead it slowly let it be ground down like coffee, and it turned into a battle for each square. When playing the quick mode you can select to play against a harder difficulty, and that makes the enemy a bit more aggressive.
Most turn-based strategy games I have tried have clear differences between the units, and for example a heavy tank might be strong against medium tanks and weak against bazooka troopers. In Rogue Planet this distinction is not as strong, and more or less all troops can be used in a line of defense or offence. If you just make sure to have engineers to heal them, and Turtle APCs to refuel them it is hard to loose. Actually once you get this configuration of troops into the fray they can kill 50 enemy units using only 6 offensive units, 2 engineers and 2 APCs. Of course not all missions let you build your army, and you are stuck with what the game throws at you. And those missions I enjoy the most, as they get more intense knowing there is no backup coming.
The different characters you encounter in story mode have different abilities on the battlefield giving you a slight advantage from time to time. It is hard knowing when these powerups will kick in, and I find myself scrambling to use the power within the turns it is active. The commanders get unlocked for use in the quick game as well, making it imperative to complete the story mode to get all of the available maps and characters.
Rogue Planet boots quite quickly considering the great graphics, and still it feels a bit clunky going through four menu selections before being able to continue where I left the game. It saves perfectly whenever you hit the home button or get a call. I would like to have the game boot right back into the save game, and have me go back to the menu if I rather play a quick game or local 2-player Wi-Fi or Bluetooth battle. Just a minor tweak to make the game instantly playable while waiting in line.
Rogue Planet is a quality game with stellar production values thanks to the talented French Agharta Studio, solid gameplay and an involving story. The weak AI, linear maps and somewhat clunky controls draw the overall impression down. Rogue Planet gets my recommendation though as a good turn-based strategy game for both seasoned TBS players who wants to strategise on their iPhones as well as newcomers to the genre as the game is quite forgiving. I reviewed this game using version 1.0.0, and as Gameloft promises online multiplayer for future updates Rogue Planet might go from being great to becoming a five star monster. And yeah when I talk about updates I have to mention that I hope they update the rather ugly icon as well.
If you are thinking that you need more strategy games on your iPhone, and you want your strategy to smell of blood Rogue Planet is the one to get.
Rogue Planet $4.99
Seller: Gameloft S.A.