On booting up Age of Strategy the first thing that you will notice is the sheer amount of content. From the menu you have access to lots of content, the core of which is a series of campaigns, these are a collections of maps that are linked together with a short text story. There are loads of campaigns to play through, most are fictional battles but some are based on historical events. It seems that some of the campaigns are fan built and that this content is added to the game regularly; I was intrigued by the ‘History of Hungary’ section that seems to be filling up with battles based around the Hungarian empire. Perhaps the developer is Hungarian or there is an Hungarian fan of the game submitting content, whatever the case it is interesting that this level of detail is what the developer is aiming for.
Aside from campaigns you can play one off maps or a random game. One off maps are maps that have been designed by fans. Some are pretty cool ideas, for example one is a battle on a chess board, while some are more are serious battles that will make you think about every move. Random mode is like a skirmish game where you can battle a number of AI’s. I like to unbalance things and set up or match in 2v2v1 with an AI on my team or 2v2v1 on my own. You can also play multiplayer online, but I haven’t had a chance to jump in a game yet.
On a first play it seems comparable to Advance Wars, you have units that you move around a battlefield and bases that you can capture to produce more units. There are also worker units that can build different buildings such as attack towers or barracks. It has been a long time since I’ve played AW but there seems to be a wider range of units and buildings in Age of Strategy. The AI is simplistic but seems to be under constant tinkering by the developer. I enjoy the simplicity of the AI because I like strategy games where the human has an upper hand simply because they can work out what the AI will do. Those who find it too easy might want to join a multiplayer game or make the game harder by giving the AI an advantage like setting the game as 2 vs 1.
The length of a game can be quick or long depending on the size of the map and the number of players. On a large map with a lot of players it can start to take a long time for the CPU to take it’s turn, but fortunately there is a ‘skip’ button that hides the animation. Still, on very large maps it started to take a few minutes to wait for every team to have their go.
Unlike many indie strategy games the game never feels too difficult to progress, campaign maps get harder but never feel frustrating. There is also an option to skip a level at the cost of a gem. Gems are the games upgrade system but this is not Candy Crush style robbery and you do not have to buy gems to put yourself on par with other players. Gems are unlocked by completing campaign missions in a certain amount of turns. There are plenty of gems to get very easily and a good reward system to keep you playing. Unlike most Android games multiplayer games can turn the ability to use gems off so that nobody has an advantage. If you do decide you do want to buy gems then there is no official system in place to pay through the Android store, instead he will give out a decent amount of gems to anybody who promotes the game on Twitter and the such. There is a donate button if you feel like you want to give some money back.
The game is self-described as having ‘limited graphics’, but if graphics are your thing then you properly won’t be looking for a turn-based strategy on Android. Personally I think they are more than adequate, images of units make it quite obvious what they are supposed, a man on a horse with a bow looks suitably different than the man on a horse without a bow. I presume that keeping the graphics ‘limited’ also means that the download is smaller. The only gripe I have is that sometimes it is hard to tell which team a unit is on, this might be because the units were quite small on my phone and some units such as the knight were hard to tell what team they belonged to. You can click a unit to find out if you can move it or not though and on a larger tablet it might be more obvious. I had no other problems playing it on a phone, you can zoom in and out and it never had a problem working out what I was pressing. It did seem to make my battery run flat quite a bit faster, but still much less than any of the top graphic heavy games on the store.
Age of Strategy is a game that represents what I hoped the play store would become about. An independent title by somebody who clearly cares about the game they are making. The game doesn’t feel finished, not because there is content missing or bugs but because the developer seems to constantly tweaking and updating, it feels more like the game is forever growing. The ‘Gems’ system does not affect the gameplay one in any negative sense and is simply a way to give back to the developer for his time if you so wish. There is a forum where you can give feedback and it is taken on board and discussed. It is upsetting to think this is what the store could be about, we need more of this and less ‘pay to win’ EA style games.
This is currently my favourite game on the Android Play Store, I’m starting to lurk about the forum and see what is up and coming next. I’ve recorded a video of myself playing it which you can see below. The game engine works very well and I wonder if it could be used as the basis for a Civilization style game, something which I think hasn’t been done well on the market place.