City Conquest iOS Review
The tower defence genre has seen something of a resurgence, following the increase of powerful technology in the pocket with the birth of the iOS and Android operating systems. Many mobile developers have seen this trend, and this shows in the dearth of such titles on the App Store. Intelligence Engine Design, whilst embracing the genre, have also taken plenty of inspiration and ideas from the RTS (real-time strategy) genre, fusing both elements into this release. It is testament to their forward thinking that City Conquest works on many levels as an iOS-focused experience, and also an example of things actually getting done when a recipient of funding via Kickstarter.
City Conquest is a game about revenge: your civilisation is seen being wiped out in an introduction sequence just before you begin the tutorial. Your aim is to raise up a legion and crush the might of the evil red army. There was a name mentioned, I am sure, but to be honest it is all merely semantics and gets in the way of what this game is about – war and the arms race.
City Conquest is a game in a difficult position. How exactly do you balance out the marriage of two genres, a design choice that could either compound the gameplay or hinder the experience? It is a difficult balance, and City Conquest manages to fall foul of both these concerns. RTS-wise, the game is a tile-based, mission-focused skirmish for the most part. The opening missions take you through these elements and introduce you to the game’s mechanics. Taking a look at the tower defence elements, the game works well as you create and manage your base by funnelling the enemy troops and vehicles (land and air) along a strict path, so you can slowly deplete their health and ultimately lower the damage your base takes. The defence elements are extremely well-done and personally they are the most enjoyable parts of the game. Where the game falls down is in the offensive elements.
This is not to say the attacking portion of the game is awful. It’s just not as fun, enjoyable or as deep an experience as the defensive side of the game. You merely place your troops, and once your forces are replenished, they automatically attack. The only strategy in this element is in the placement of the different attack types in different locations depending on your foe’s defence layout. It is functional, sure, with a very base sprinkling of strategy to its proceedings, but I would have liked to have been able to have more control over how I go about my attacking process.
The strategic positioning and expansion of your Capitol is another one of the better elements of the game. You have to be careful over how much you defensively close your base with turret placement, as each entrance you close off for your foe also closes off an entrance your resource collectors need to drop off valuable minerals. Also the addendum of placing your buildings (skyscrapers) in a position whereby they capture and subsequently destroy (based on building proximity) enemy strongholds is a nice feature. As you collect more resources – split into two elements, Gold (for buying goods) and Crystals (required to upgrade buildings and to purchase your army) – you can upgrade them to unlock further abilities. For example, in upgrading your Skyscrapers (which increase your land mass), you not only improve your income with each turn, you also, when upgraded to the top level, unlock an automated drone that repairs and replenishes your Capitol’s (and other damaged buildings) health. As you get further into the game, you unlock a variety of effects that can aid you in your mission. These are as follows: Heal (does what it says, to a limited area), Bombardment (aerial assault from the mothership), Stun (useful for disabling enemy defences) and Radar Sweep (which also reveals cloaked enemies).
The base experience of City Conquest is a free-to-play affair, featuring the first five missions (twenty in total) that comprise the tutorial sections of the game. Six of the twenty missions are a part of Challenge mode, centering around scenario-based challenges. There are also 100 achievements to garner in-game, which should encourage replayability for the completionists out there. Multiplayer is also free-to-play, even if you choose not to pay for the full version. If you wish to progress further in the single-player, then you have to pay £2.99, which to be totally honest is actually a bargain for what is a comprehensively-featured experience, especially at this price point.
Multiplayer is provided via Wi-Fi Connection only and is simple and well-delivered. Sadly, much of the time I was left hanging as I waited for people to join in. When you do get a game, however, it works pretty well. A shame it couldn’t happen via your 3G/4G signal, but ultimately understandable when you consider all that is going on – it’s a concession, but one that was made for a smoother experience.
Visually, City Conquest is a vibrant and colourful affair, evoking memories of Command & Conquer fused with Starcraft into its visuals, presented in an isometric 3D style. City Conquest is a game lovingly crafted for iOS and scales well across both iPhone and iPad (recommended specs are iPhone 4 onwards and iPad 2 minimum). I played the game on the iPhone 4S and the iPad Mini and the game worked fantastically well across both, with only minor slowdown occurring when many units were on-screen at the same time. It scales up even better on the Retina display on the larger iPad. Level design, as I said before, harks back to the days of the old-school PC, real-time strategy games: vibrant colours and well-drawn sprites, if a little generic in design.
The soundtrack of the game is fairly decent and does its job. Explosions sound effective and the little bits work quite well. The soundtrack has a certain bombast to it, adding to the sense of occasion. However, for the most part I tend to listen to my own background audio, a podcast or even music, in this instance. It is a shame I could not lower the button blips as I tapped on towers, units, etc., even when turning all audio off in the game menu. Maybe this is a glitch in the game audio? I wasn’t so sure as it occurred in every instance of the game.
City Conquest is a good, solid game, taking the traditional tower defence and RTS genres and creating a hybrid of sorts. It works better in the tower defence elements as you build your base to funnel the enemy down a certain path, being battered until their demise and the end of their turn. The base building and land expansion elements work really well also. The game, however, fails in its attacking elements. Still, it doesn’t take away from the fact that Intelligence Engine Design have created what is actually a fun game and one that I will go back to time and time again on one of my many commutes. In this instance, defence trumps offence, and expansion is the most enjoyable means of depleting an enemy’s stronghold.