Metro 2033: Wars iOS Review
Metro 2033 Wars: Born in the Dark is a real puzzler. It isn’t a puzzle genre title and it certainly never makes the player think to much. Instead I’m puzzling how this game came to exist in the form that I play today on my iPhone. Metro 2033 Wars is a turn based strategy game based in the universe of Dmitri Glukhovsky’s book series Metro 2033, although you may be more familiar with the first person shooters developed by 4A a couple of years ago that went by the same name. The concept sounds like something that should work, the leftover remains of humanity creating factions was one part that really drew me into the series from the beginning. Seeing how those factions are differentiated visually and mechanically sounds incredibly exciting but instead the bigger picture ended up being largely distasteful and inconsistent with what has been depicted in that world in the past. I wish that was the only poor thing that I could say about the title too, but the combat is a mindless slog and the management aspects are balanced in favor of advertisements. Each of these components alone would make me dislike a game but summing everything together creates an experience that is never enjoyable to play.
Aside from the factions drawing me in, I really liked the way that the 4A titles handled visualizing Glukhovsky’s original story. Nothing ever felt like a far stretch from what humans may do if a modern nuclear apocalypse and the concepts were novel. Bullets are used as currency, humans wear anything that they can find, and the protagonist has a lighter that is a .50 caliber bullet. Metro 2033 Wars feels like all of that creativity was thrown out of the window and forgotten. The characters that live underground look like they dropped out of different worlds and then suddenly became integrated because someone threw a gas mask on them. There are naked Morpheus cosplayers, Rocketeer robots and women who couldn’t find full shirts in the metro and all of them look completely ludicrous. Some familiar faces do surface throughout playing this title despite many of these discrepancies including Flora, Lurkers, and other various enemies.
The factions all remain in tact as which is what creates the entire management portion of the game. While one half of Metro 2033 Wars takes place on a tiny grid battle, the other half of the game is all about managing settlements. There are three main resources that these settlements can bring in: bullets, food and recruits. To get any of these though the player must make choices about whether or not they want a settlement to focus on specific areas or not. For instance, if I was losing bullets each turn the game went by I may want to build a storage area which would produce 10 bullets and take away 3 food. Eventually that storage would be able to be upgraded into a technopark which generates 15 bullets or other building that can recruit specific units. There are a lot of problems with this system though.
The first problem that I have with the management portions of this game is that information is conveyed to the player in a way that is so cryptic and sometimes it is questionable whether or not the information is really being shown in the first place. This is a problem that the game has in multiple areas and I will explain in a bit but let me detail more of the management aspects before I get into that. Depending on how you play Metro 2033 Wars the materials you gain may vary but one thing that takes forever is gaining bullets and everything. costs. bullets. But there is a way to mitigate this slog, through watching partnered advertisement videos! This feels like the sickest part of Metro 2033 Wars because this is a game that costs £5.99/$7.99 on the app store and there are mechanics in the game that still feel like they are asking for more of the consumer’s money. Even after the currency balance problems that the game has, the strategy in moving around the Metro is never methodical or rewarding and most of the time you will end up skipping turns grinding against the same group of enemies for multiple hours.
The management parts lead into the battles between your groups and everyone else underground that is out for blood. Battles take place on a grid that I have not seen stretch out further than 6×4 squares. Originally I went into the game believing that battles would be more similar to Disgaea and Fire Emblem due to the square grid but battles are a lot more reminiscent of the tedious grinding that came from the earlier Final Fantasy titles. Each character has a set of skills and depending on their level they may have more or less. All of the individuals have different abilities that range from healing to melee and so on but the biggest problem with combat is how futile all of these complexities really are. There is rarely reason to utilize the skillset that your party members have besides maybe the desperate heal from a character who does not default to healing and sometimes a character may have to shoot out of range. It never feels like the player has to think their way out of a situation and the only time the idea of a challenge is felt really comes from the stress of seeing bigger numbers show up on screen. After killing a couple of enemies though it is a lot easier to look at the situation with a calm eye and realize how much trouble you are not in. Let me also tell you that this game is not tactical in the way that any other strategy RPG is. Characters are not placed in a large map where they must be methodically placed in order to survive, instead they are placed in rows, also very similar to the earlier Final Fantasy titles, making the back characters less likely to take damage and the front more likely.
While neither of these portions of the game are very well thought out and rarely give satisfaction there is always something enjoyable about creating a base and watching it grow. Whether I was grinding the unlimited ad video button in order to crank out bullets or if I was passing the turns by grinding even slower I still wanted to see my group of settlers be happy and rule over the Metro. The game has problems even allowing the player to enjoy that to a degree because of the vague way that information is conveyed to the player. The tutorials are servicable but they are so slow and hand holding throughout their entirety that by the time I reached the actual game I felt like a first time swimmer with floaties in a lake filled with blood thirsty sharks. It was very frustrating watching my first settlers go bankrupt and die from the onslaught of enemies even though the game tried to teach me. Finally, by the time I lost that first file I felt like I finally understood how everything worked. My second group of settlers were succeeding in their uphill battle to survive and I was their commander. The character and quest text doesn’t really differ from the tutorial text either, most of it is just boring people asking you to go do this or help them with that. It never feels like there are interesting characters or storylines in this Metro.
For those looking for an enthralling title for their mobile devices Metro 2033 Wars trips in almost every department. Fans of the Metro 2033 series may be interested in seeing new visualizations of the world that they have read and seen in past titles but the story is as enjoyable as the world above the Metro. What is even weirder about this title is that there are paid £5.99/$7.99 versions on the U.S. App and Play store but the Windows store has a version of this title for free on their store. It helps the advert videos make a little bit more sense but it doesn’t change the fact that the management portions of the game are still unbalanced, creating a slow and dreary management game. The combat does not save the management section’s downfall either, instead it is a tedious grind that never feels as tactical as it should be. Adjusting a quote from Glukhovsky’s original work: Metro 2033 Wars: Born in the Dark is just an empty, dark tunnel that the player is supposed to plod their way through, from “Birth” station to “Death” station.