A good app takes a long hard look at its genre of choice and identifies exactly what will work on an iPhone, as well as what consumers will ultimately enjoy. After sacrificing heady notions of grandeur to accept the grinding realism of an iDevice's unique capabilities, developers will work on making the experience as polished as possible whilst making sure that everything still controls properly on a small screen. If a feature works, it stays. If it doesn't, it goes.
Ladies and gentlemen: by the above definition - or any definition for that matter - Epic War 3: War Of Heroes is a good app.
Epic War 3 strips the real-time strategy genre down to its bare essentials: attack and retreat. Players choose a hero and a handful of units to take into battle that respawn at a preset rate. Two castles stand at each end of a linear battlefield - and once you're ready, the choice is yours. Do you attack? Or wait for greater numbers?
Two buttons allow you to move your forces up and down the field to assault or counter enemy incursions, with the objective being to gain ground and crush your opponent's base. Forced retreats allow weakened units to regain health, while powerful abilities (such as fireballs or hails of arrows) can be triggered with a single tap of the relevant icon. A few more advanced tactical nuances rear their head from time to time, but by and large the gameplay values accessibility over brainpower.
This might sound like a fairly simplistic mechanic upon which to base a game. And make no mistake: it is. However, this is where Epic War 3 demonstrates that it's been perfectly designed for a handheld platform. The battles themselves are slick, easy-to-control and over in mere minutes regardless of the outcome; but the preparation and overarching campaign provide hours of engrossing diversion.
After choosing your allegiance, each kingdom's grab for power is represented on a turn-based overworld map where players can choose their next target or just watch the opposition squabble amongst themselves. Units can be exchanged and upgraded with gold from previous successful sorties... and more importantly, the respite gives you some breathing space to fully appreciate the achievement system.
Rather than just sating our depraved lust for acquiring arbitrary points, a persistent selection of achievements provides one of the main gameplay pillars. Each award unlocks a new unit or ability along with prestige, meaning that an initially restrictive selection of cohorts soon blossoms into an enormous arsenal of potential combat options.
As mentioned, these achievements persist between playthroughs, meaning that there's a huge amount of replay value rammed into Epic War 3's deceptively small package. Donning my stained games journalist hat for a second, I'd love to see more developers integrate trophies into core gameplay rather than segregating them into a sidelined curiosity. Bravo.
Finally, it's my duty to point out that you can also play Epic War 3 for free at Kongregate. It's a solid option for the thrifty (as well as a great demo), but it's worth noting that the experience is a much better fit for an iPhone than a browser game.
- Streamlined combat works brilliantly on the iPhone
- Deceptively deep and addictive
- Attractive, functional visuals
- Arguably too simple
- Pitched battles can become confusing
- It's free to play on Kongregate
Summary: Epic War 3 can be played for scant minutes or entire afternoons; delivering streamlined tactical combat wrapped in an insanely addictive metagame. Well worth the asking price.
Developer: ArtLogic Games
Compatibility: Compatible with iPhone, iPod touch and iPad. Requires iOS 3.0 or later.
Price: £0.59 – App Store