Danger Alliance: Battles
There are arguably two main reasons why – almost 1500 hundred years since it was first invented – Chess remains a popular and widely played game. Firstly, it’s incredibly simple. Secondly, it’s incredibly deep. Anyone can play it, but to truly master it requires commitment and a mind capable of planning ten, twenty, thirty moves ahead while always being mindful of your opponent’s movements. Though Tome Studio’s Danger Alliance: Battles may have replaced the thirty-two pieces on a chess board with two five-man squads of heavily armed cartoon soldiers, there’s little doubt that this iOS release is hoping to capture a little of that timeless, tactical magic.
Danger Alliance: Battles doesn’t mess around; after booting it up you are presented with three options – difficulty, game type and map. Take your pick, hit start and off you go. Though there is some brief exposition and scene setting, the impact on the actual gameplay is negligible – all you need to know is that the enemy is over there and that your job is kill them. The decision to avoid throwing tons of exposition and scene setting your way is probably a sensible one – this is, after all, a tactical turn-based actioner intended to be played on the go.
Two game types are available; Strategic Victory and Elimination. Elimination (which is accessible from the outset) pits two squads against one another with the sole objective being simply to eradicate the opposition. Strategic Victory mixes up this basic template with control points that must be captured and held in order to accrue points.
As the two modes of play are relatively simplistic, there is a lot riding on the game’s presentation and, more importantly, the scope for strategic thinking. Visually, the game is crisply rendered, with the cutesy characterisation of your squad members exuding an easy charm and the small maps showcasing a fair degree of design flair. The art-style – which leans toward the cartoony – is colourful and attractive and is well supported by sparse but atmospheric soundtrack. Think whistling winds, distant bird-calls, the odd drum-beat here and a high-hat there – it all works well to emphasise the leisurely pace of the game.
As good looking as the game is, the art-style does clash and this can make it difficult to identify your troops, especially from the default isometric perspective. You are given a fair degree of control over the camera, but even with this, it can still be frustrating, especially when two opposing characters wearing identical hats find themselves side-by-side. This may well be less of an issue should you be playing Danger Alliance on the larger screen of the iPad, but on the small iPod Touch/iPhone screen it’s a definite issue.
The gameplay is also something of a mixed bag; on the plus side, selecting your troops and issuing orders is incredibly simple, making Danger Alliance an easy pick up and play experience for even the most casual of gamers. Movement is very much point and click, as is targeting enemies to open fire. The range of abilities available are also easy to understand and (on paper at least) seem well conceived to create a rock/paper/scissors structure to the gameplay.
Sadly, though all the required elements are in place, the scope for varied, interesting and engaging tactical manoeuvring can feel a little limited, with many games turning into wars of attrition as you line up your squad and blast away, or as the two teams get so entangled as to make the impact of shrewd planning minimal. There are tactical concerns that you must bear in mind – should a character find themselves isolated and too far away from the healing hands of his squadmates, for example, death can swiftly follow. But such concerns for the most part sit on the periphery rather than inhabiting the core of the experience, which is a shame. Sluggish enemy AI also doesn’t help matters.
If the single player can grow a little tiresome, things are much more enjoyable when you add another human player into the mix. While there is currently no online mode, the two player hot-seat model available works well and being able to taunt a human opponent as their dinky soldiers collapse in a hail of gunfire definitely adds to the experience.
Overall, Danger Alliance offers a good looking, well produced and accessible turn-based strategy experience that can be recommended if you’re looking for a light-hearted strategy-based distraction. Unfortunately, its relative lack of tactical depth and the brevity of options mean that it fails to deliver the type of strategic challenge that it is no doubt aiming for and there’s every chance that, playing on your own, you will quickly tire of the six maps, two modes and AI opponent. Add another human player into the mix however, and it’s a far more engaging experience, though sadly the points of criticism remain. There are still reasons to be cheerful because despite its foibles and shortcomings, for a game created by a two-man studio, Danger Alliance remains a reasonably impressive endeavour. With Tome Studios promising big things for the future, this definitely has the potential to transcend its current state and become an essential experience for strategy fans. A work in progress then.
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