Crystal War by GNC Interactive is one of those games that really work well on a touchpad. I would go as far as to say that the genre of games it represents go hand-in-hand with the iTouche – whether it is the iPhone or iPad – as bread goes with butter or vodka with cucumber the Russians would tell you. It is a “castle defense” game where you are defending a point and sending troops to conquer the opposite point. Instead of a castle you are defending a commander however who is equipped with abilities you can use or power ups.
What I would really describe this game is a 2d Warcraft but instead of a humans vs. orcs conflict the game has humans and goblins battling it out. Yes the goblins are basically orcs in appearance and both are green and slimy as some d&d players might point out.
Make no mistake though – this is a real time strategy game, but one where you concentrate on battle and upgrading units and abilities, not city building, and it is done on a 2d plane against one enemy from left to right. Despite it’s simple appearance, Crystal War is a very challenging game with complex decision making and strategy required to complete each campaign. You have crystals as a resource that you mine with workers you have to create or pay for in crystals and choose many other units with various mineral costs for battle. Some are cheap to create others take much time and resource gathering. Some fight melee while others use arrows or firepower. There are also healing units to aid the player’s army.
The real decision-making comes in-between-battles where players have to choose what units to use and what to spend their gold on – earned by killing enemy units but don’t confuse it with crystal resources mined for units. Whether they want to upgrade or create units or whether the gold will be spent on abilities the player has at their commander’s disposal like raining down arrows from they sky with the click of a command. There are limits on the number of slots for unit-types available and it is possible to upgrade the number to seven unit-types per battle.
The reason this game works so well on touchpad-devices is because of how it is structured. The army fights on it’s own and does not have to be guided or told which units to attack or where to move – it just goes for the nearest enemy units. The icons for unit creation and commander’s abilities are all easy to locate and input. One other aspect of each battle is when the player does well in combat over tim there is a chance to earn free units. A blue sphere fills up and a series of unit commands have to be imputed in order before time runs out and units will pop up.
Despite it’s flair Crystal War can get repetitive and turnoff certain gamers due to it’s difficulty and in-between battles repetitiveness. Players will have to replay old missions to gather gold and when the mission-battle is won again, a star appears over it on the game map. Also, another downfall of the game is that the player has no control over what enemy units to attack. I would have liked the ability to select my individual units as they are unleashed and click the enemy-units that I want them to attack.
Overall Crystal War is a great castle-defense strategy game that is definitely worth checking out. I recently found out it isn’t the only game of it’s king on the App Store and I would guess it is due to how well such RTS interface really works on the touchpad. Battle of Puppets, Medieval, and Cartoon Wars are some I noticed already gathering a fan base and good critiques. I am also hearing the WiiWare title, Swords and Soldiers is coming to the App Store soon. This is one genre I believe that has a great future on the iDevices and one of the best touchpad gaming implementations to date. Definitely do not miss out on Crystal War as it will challenge you even if you are an avid strategy gamer but it is simple enough for anyone to pick up.
I give it 4.5 out of 5 stars.