Since the launch of the iTunes App Store, I’ve been longing for a Fire Emblem style turn-based strategy RPG to hit the iPhone. There have been no shortage of strategy games on the platform, but up until I found War of Eusthrath HD for iPad (which hit the App Store on June 11th), I hadn’t found one that was right up my alley. Having poured in close to 16 hours into the game in the past week, this game has sent me to strategy RPG heaven.
War of Eustrath is essentially Fire Emblem with Gundam-like mechs. You control a squad of troops who ride mechs, which in this game are called GEARs, as they fight through enemy robots and rival GEARs. You gain experience every time your characters enter conflict and you have the ability to improve their stats in a number of characters in between missions. You’ll manage resources within and outside of battle to make sure your team is in top form. To tie the whole thing together is a story told through events within the game as well as cut-scenes before and after missions. If you have played Fire Emblem or Final Fantasy Tactics, you will be able to jump right in.
Speaking of jumping right in, controlling this game is a breeze if you’re played a strategy game before. Touching the screen to select actions or move your character makes perfect sense and feels a lot better than using just about any other input device. Porting this game as is to the iPhone would be troublesome, but the extra screen space on the iPad makes the user interface a breeze to navigate. The art style and graphics also help strategy RPG players feel at home thanks to it’s good-looking Japanese anime art style.
What makes this game truly a winner is the battle system. It is fun to strategically engage in battle when you have to think about variables such as character abilities, weaknesses, spacing, resources, terrain and timing. All of the core things you would want in this style of game are present here and work well. The levels scale nicely in difficulty as the game progresses and the save system makes it easy to stop at any point. Since I’ve purchased this game, all of my gaming time has been devoted to playing the War of Eustrath, which says a lot when I have so many other games I could be playing.
As much as I’m loving this game, I can’t dance around it’s faults. The level designs themselves aren’t the greatest in terms of variety. The majority of levels take place in the forest and the objectives almost never vary beyond “kill everything on screen”. The overall plot and plot progression is cliche to pretty much any player of the Fire Emblem series and is hampered even more by poor writing. I have never played a game with more grammar and capitalization errors in my life. I really wish the developer, iQubi, spent as much time with the writing as they did the gameplay, because this game really needed it.
Speaking of gameplay, it’s not without its faults, either. The game doesn’t make it clear why turns happen the way they do. It’s not just about you moving all your characters and then the computer moving all of their characters. The game will jump between the two factions and even have characters move twice before the opposition gets to move. It also irks me that the game does not allow me to see the movement ranges of my opposition. Knowing how far your opponent can move is key to forming a strategy, but that can be difficult if the game doesn’t clearly indicate to you how far they can move without taking you out of the action.
The most alarming fault of the game is that it crashes frequently. I would say about once every 90 minutes of gameplay or so. Short-term, it’s not a big deal, because re-booting the game usually takes you right where you left off. However, the game shouldn’t be crashing as consistently as it does.
I don’t mean to end this on a bummer, especially when this game does so much right. War of Eustrath HD is the game for you, if you’re looking for a Fire Emblem equivalent on your iPad. At $8, it’s a steal. This game as is (minus the crashes) could easily justify a $30 price tag on the DS or PSP. If you’ve never played a turn-based strategy RPG, there may be cheaper options to test the waters, but if you’re ready for this type of experience, I recommend you give this a go.