Strategy games have really secured a place in iOS gamers hearts over the years. Games like StarFront Collision, The Settlers, Civilian Revolution, Red Conquest, Land Air Sea Warfare, Ravenmark, and many more, including ports from other consoles, and old PC games (Ascendancy, Z, War Of The Lions, and more recently, Imperium Galactica II come to mind). Something that doesn’t happen enough is titles coming to the iOS that are slated for release on other platforms. Amoebattle, from Intrinsic Games (who was picked up by Grab Games in 2011), a 5 man development group who’s first game, Divergent Shift, a DSiWare title, was published by Konami. Since then, they’ve released Penguin Patrol in the AppStore, as well as this most recent title, Amoebattle, built by 3 of 5 members of the development team, from the ground up, which is also slated for DSiWare later in the year.
The first thing that really stuck me when starting up Amoebattle was the insane amount of polish. Generally when it comes to Strategy games, players don’t rely too heavily on the graphics aspect of the genre. However, there are some titles which go above and beyond in this area, Amoebattle happens to be one of them. The beautiful environments and wonderful character design as well as the animations, are all enhanced by the fantastic BGM. Putting that together with the spot on controls, and Amoebattle is almost the perfect RTS package. The only thing missing? Multiplayer or Skirmish Modes. As of now, there’s only a Campaign Mode.
Thankfully, it’s a pretty hefty Campaign, featuring 12 missions that stretch out to between 8 and 10 hours of gameplay, each having numerous quests. The goal in the Campaign is to lead your group of amoebas through different areas to defend against a spreading infection. This infection is taking over other amoebas, and threatening your entire amoeba world. As you progress through the missions, you’ll be able to collect DNA and use it to transform your own amoebas into stronger, faster beings, each having their own strengths and weaknesses. With a total of 9 different creatures, this adds quite a bit of strategy to the already strategic heavy gameplay.
As you explore the environments, you’ll also be able to harvest energy, and use the environment to grow your little amoeba army. Certain areas on the maps will give you boosts, like patches of grass that increases your herbivore’s attacks, goo-like areas that act as a one way mirror so that you can sneak up on the enemy, or get away from them with ease, different goo which lets you replicate quicker, and more.
Each of the different amoebas have different ways of raising their feeding gauges, like eating the plant-life, or destroying enemies, but once these gauges are filled, a little smiley face appears next to your amoeba. When in this state, your amoeba can either stay full, and have stronger attacks, or you can use the energy to replicate yourself. This will be essential in progressing throughout the missions. You’ll also need to be careful when you choose to replicate, because when in the cocoon-like state, your creature is incredibly vulnerable. So replicating mid-battle is a surefire way to kill off your clan.
Also helping out with the enemies are probes. With these, you can greatly turn the tide, using them to gather resources, which you can then use to morph your amoebas, as well as use other probes, like the Cryoprobe, which lets you slow down your enemies significantly for a short period of time. You’ll unlock these as you progress throughout the game, and they can turn out to be life-savers in tough situations.
The controls in Amoebattle are perfect. You can choose one of two control schemes, the first has you using one finger to select amoebas, two fingers to move the camera, and drawing a line towards your enemies to attack. The second control set-up uses one finger to move the camera, two fingers to select amoebas, and has you hold down on enemies to attack. You can also choose to have the camera control inverted, tap to move or tap to attack, and change the camera sensitivity. Along with this, you’ll have a HUD which you can use to select and un-select all of your amoebas, divide them into groups either by tapping to select or drawing any kind of shape around the amoebas you want to select, and then assigning them a quick tab number, which you can also use by double tapping to quick jump to the group, use the small level map to quick jump to areas, and control your replication, and power-ups. It might sound a little confusing, but the controls kind of reminded me of StarFront, which is a very good thing. The only control mechanic missing, and that I constantly found myself wishing was included in the game, was being able to use two fingers to zoom in and out of your main gameplay area. There were many times when I was against the edges of levels, and wound up de-selecting amoebas, triggering a power-up, or replicating because an area I was trying to reach, my amoebas, or the enemies, were right under the HUD Icons. Being able to zoom in and out would have greatly helped with this.
The developers have said that the next major feature they would like to add is a Skirmish Mode, and that the game is already balanced for Multiplayer, and that they’re hoping to get that in. Either way, one of the two would be a fantastic addition, as Multiplayer and Skirmish Modes are a huge reason fans of the genre end up purchasing titles. Amoebattle is priced at $4.99, is Universal, supports the new iPad Retina display, which is fantastic, as the graphics in Amoebattle are definitely a highlight for the game, and make it a title to show off to friends. There’s also GameCenter support with 27 VERY challenging achievements, which add a surprising amount of replay value to an RTS Campaign Mode. For the price, Amoebattle is a great buy. It’s definitely one of the most polished, and well designed RTS games I’ve ever played, on any platform/console. If you’re a fan of the genre, and don’t mind waiting a bit for an extra mode, be it Skirmish or MP, Amoebattle is a title you need to snag. I can’t wait to see where the developers take this game with updates. It could very well wind up being one of the top 3 best RTS games for the iDevice.