If you’re unfamiliar with Rodeo Games’ Hunters series, they’re top-down, Turn-Based Strategy games set in a distant future where corporations and their mercenaries rule the cosmos. It’s an especially ripe premise, but one that went sadly underexploited in the first episode. That changes in Hunters 2 (Out Now, $4.99 Release Sale), which has received an eight-mission campaign in addition to the daily bounties players of the first are already familiar with. In practice, the player’s team of Hunters are much the same strong, silent types they were in the prequel rather than characters in their own right; the story is pretty light as far as TBSs go. It does, however, provide a highly varying mission sequence and a central mystery that got me wanting to dig in right off the bat, and that’s enough to eliminate my biggest gripes with the first.
The Hunters gameplay formula has always been highly interesting and now it’s even a little more fleshed out than it was before — no mean feat on the developer’s part, because it carried a lot of depth to begin with. Key features remain the same: a fog of war that enemies just love sneaking around in, level designs that encourage you to split up your Hunters and storm into compounds from multiple directions, and an action point system that lets characters make multiple movements or attacks in a single turn. There’s a tradeoff between a Hunter’s armor class and his action point total; a better-protected character can do fewer things in one turn than a lighter-armored but more flexible character. Action points not needed in the current turn can be used to make units watch over tiles in their attack range and intercept enemies that pop out of the shadows. Units fall into base classes but the player has plenty of control over their equipment and development through skill trees.
Among the new things in Hunters 2 are exotic weapons and skills that give you even more options for budgeting those action points. Plasma cannons can be charged up in the Mega Man sense at a higher cost than normal, miniguns make luck a significant factor in a mission’s success, and units can temporarily boost their action points or go berserk on all enemies in range. Campaign levels are filled with explosive aliens that make kamikaze runs on the player’s team, and that’s in addition to enemy Hunters. Also introduced are powerful turrets you can man with your mercenaries once captured, but it’s too bad these don’t pop up more often. Finally, there’s an interesting “name your price” equipment forge where the player determines weapon and armor attributes.
The first two campaign missions might leave series veterans wondering whether the challenge suddenly went away, but not to worry — the rest of the chapters will have your mercs dropping right and left. If all the explosive aliens and watchful enemy snipers aren’t enough, the player can embark on a “Hardcore” game where units don’t get revived and the player has to pump the team back up with fresh recruits.
Hunters 2 manages enemy movement much, much better than its predecessor did when I reviewed it last year; no waiting around for hidden enemies to do whatever it is they do before they pop out of the shadows now. One thing I would still like to see is a way of reversing character movement; if you accidentally park one of your dudes in a doorway he’ll hold up your entire operation until he can be moved in the next player turn. The game’s nuances are well handled with an info button in menus and optional pop-up explanations in battle, but touch sensitivity on both could stand some more work. Otherwise the interface handles swimmingly.
Rodeo Games certainly put a lot of effort into bumping up the presentation on their second title. From virtual blood splatter to the satisfying whoosh of flamethrowers to the addition of suitably atmospheric music, everything’s received a bit of aesthetic polish compared to the previous episode.
iFanzine Verdict: Hunters 2 outshines the first in every way — this is definitely the one you want to start with if you’re a TBS fan and just now learning about the series. It’s still shy about fleshing out the Hunters universe as much as it deserves, but when it comes to gameplay and strategic depth Hunters 2 ranks at the top of the genre on iOS.