Rubicon’s recent release of Great Big War Game (out now, $2.99) is a turn-taking hex-grid based strategy game for iOS that goes the full nine yards in every facet imaginable. It has a lengthy single player story campaign that will take you a long time finish, with a variety of mission objectives used across the course of the game, as well as a both local and online asynchronous multiplayer options. On top of all that is a varied assortment of soldiers and vehicles with differing abilities, all of which you’ll have to use strategically since there are no super units as they’re all specifically powerful against certain other units only.
However – before you get to any of the gameplay itself – the first thing you will notice in Great Big War Game are its graphics, which have been rendered entirely in cute super deformed 3D. While I normally wait until the end of a review to discuss how a game looks, graphics are extremely important in a turn based strategy game where you can spend the bulk of your time staring at the screen contemplating what to do next. If – for some reason – you decide that you don’t want to watch the soldiers move around and shoot at each other, Rubicon even included an option to speed the game up by turning off all animations.
The gameplay found in Great Big War Game is divided into days, during each day both sides will get a chance to move all their units and – assuming they have the resources on hand – order up more units from their bases (so long as you have enough money, a single base can produce multiple units each day). Your human units – as well as any vehicles that have a mounted weapon – can perform two separate actions each day, one for movement and the other for taking some sort of unit specific action. Whenever you tap on a soldier it will both list all the viable spaces they can currently move to based on their speed and the surrounding terrain, as well as if there any targets they can reach from their current position and what sort of damage they’d currently do (damage is effected by the type of target, distance, and elevation).
The units you have at your disposal include the basic grunt, who is only slightly good at fighting soldiers yet can easily be amassed in large numbers thanks to their low price; the scouts, whom don’t really do anything at all other than push the fog of war back extreme distances compared to everything else; the snipers, whom have long range and are absolutely lethal to soldiers but not very effective against vehicles; the bazooka carrier, whom is extremely effective at damaging vehicles but worse against troops than the generic grunts; the mechanics, whom can be used to steal your opposition’s oil wells and training facilities; the grenadier, whom does moderate damage to soldiers and vehicles (as well as your own if you’re not careful); the technician, whom can be used to install sentry turrets that will fire at any and everything in their attack radius at the start of each day; as well as a diverse assortment of vehicles with varied purposes, abilities, and damage properties.
Mastering all of the tools in your arsenal will be absolutely vital to victory when playing either the AI or a human opponent, since Great Big War Game’s set up insures that no one unit can win in every situation. Furthermore – without supply trucks there to back them up – your frontline forces will simply run out of ammo/gas after a while, so even having the proper soldiers for a skirmish will never alone see you to victory. Finally, the built in AI also includes three different difficulty settings should you ever feel that you are getting too good at dealing with the way the computer behaves in campaign mode.
The aforementioned campaign mode itself not only serves as a great introduction on how to play with the bevy of units available, but furthermore provides the player with a staggering 50 stages all with scenarios and maps that differ greatly. If a player were to only play through the campaign story, and never touch a single multiplayer match, they would get their money’s worth out of Great Big War Game many times over on the value of that alone. Thankfully, since the campaign missions can become quite lengthy as the game goes on, the player’s progress is auto saved in the likely event they ever need to leave in the middle of a stage.
While Great Big War Game does have IAPs – pretty much the same as almost all other games ever released on the iOS platform – they have been implemented here in a way that I not only am not offended by, but I even actively approve of. Instead of offering to sell the player winning aids, the lion’s share of all purchasable extensions for Great Big War Game take the form of extra map packs for the multiplayer mode. The remaining IAP option lets you completely customize the appearance of all the soldiers and flags in the game, and it even will let you see what all you can do with the appearance editor upfront before you make the purchase (it just won’t let you save the results).
With the matters of gameplay all now out of the way, I’d now like to take a moment to talk about the layer of humor found present throughout everything in Great Big War Game. Whenever a new soldier is created at a barracks you will get random military jingles out of them, such as, “I don’t know, but I’ve heard: killing’s wrong, that’s just absurd!” Furthermore, during firefights you will see various things such as soldiers cheering “Another win for the second amendment!” when they successfully take out an opposing target. Heck, the opening story to the campaign mode involves the Generalissimo – wearing only his hat and underwear – ordering his newest captain to find the first nation that isn’t them and immediately invade it. Thankfully for those out there that might be offended by the game’s laid back humorous take on war itself, there is also an option to turn off all of the in game voice chatter from the soldiers (the between mission cutscenes will still happen, but they can be skipped).
iFanzine Verdict: Great Big War Game is funny, simple to control, with a diverse assortment of actually well balanced units, filled with massively high production values, has IAPs that don’t impact the gameplay at all and only add more maps, contains a lengthy campaign mode with silly cutscenes, and has the ability for local and online asynchronous multiplayer. If you like hex-based strategy games then you should more or less get this immediately, as you’re simply not going to find a game in this genre on the iOS that got more care put into it than Great Big War Game. If – on the other hand – you don’t like turn based strategy games like this, you should still consider trying Great Big War Game as its of such amazing production values and gameplay balance that its truly in a class all on its own.