It has been a while since we’ve seen a mobile strategy game of high merit on the iPhone platforms. The wait, however, is over as this past weekend hosted the release of Modern Conflict for both the iPhone and iPad platforms. Developed by clickgamer (a division of Chillingo) and Russian developer Gaijin Entertainment , it first caught our attention as a lite version that had made its way to Apple’s top free app charts. Since then, we’ve had an unsated craving as this simple, yet deep, real-time strategy game now eats up a truly absurd amount of our free time.
Fluidly controlled using the devices’ touch screens, it’s a strategy game centered around conquest, with the objective being to destroy all opponents on any given map. With just tanks, helicopters, and the only control being tapping, one would think it boring. Modern Conflict is far from it, however, and with the incorporation of an internal social network called Crystal, it is a title with basically zero flaws.
The game has three modes associated to it: Campaign, Survival, and Spec Ops. As Campaign mode is likely where most users will start out, it seems as good a place as any to begin. In this mode, users can play as the United States, Russia, or China and proceed through a basic storyline. To be honest, the story is a bit simple, and hardly immersive (especially with some of the borderline-corny dialogue), but the play is so fluid, no one is really the wiser.
For each mission, players are presented with a birds-eye view of a war zone that is speckled with shapes, numbers, and lines. Each shape represents a base, with a hexagon being a tank base, and a circle being a helicopter base. On each map, there are typically three factions representing the player, the computer opponent, and neutral bases (with only the first two actually attacking – neutrals just defend). Now, within each base, there is a number which displays how many tanks or helicopters are at that locale.
Here’s where the fun begins: In order to take a base, a user must tap a base they control – one tap will select half the units at that base; two will select all of them – and then tap the location they wish to attack. Should the number of units attacking be greater than the number of units defending, the base will be taken over. The only catch is, for tanks, the various bases must be connected by paths, meaning that if there are bases A, B, and C, with B being in the middle, tanks from A or C must first stop at B.
Helicopters, on the other hand, are not bound by roads and can travel anywhere at any time. They also tend to be faster. This makes them ideal for counterattacks, but it is worth noting that helicopters suffer double losses when attacking a tank base (e.g. over 16 choppers are needed to take a basic tank base with 8 tanks in it), and visa versa.
Now each base, depending on its visible size, can produce a maximum number of units (though an infinite amount can be sent to it from other bases), so the idea is to capture neutral bases as staging areas or choke points for both attack and defense. Moreover, there are usually a dozen or more bases on a map, so the entire game is in constant motion.
To add further depth to the strategy, some bases will also offer various defensive capabilities. Not only will tanks and helicopters that are traveling from location to location shoot at enemies (reducing their attacking numbers) who are also on the move, but anti-armor and anti-air turrets will also attempt to thin the ranks. In a more passive means, some bases are also fortified with a wall which causes x2 casualties to attackers, and others doubly fortified, causing x4 casualties to attackers.
As if the game wasn’t fun enough with all the chaos, Modern Conflict has any number of events that can happen to change up the game. Sometimes these are triggered by a quick counter attack or retreat, while others are random such as the arrival of reinforcements, artillery blowing up enemies, or one of your bases becoming heavily fortified. Typically, these occur when the player is in danger of losing, and with the exception of reinforcements, they only ever help the player.
The only time reinforcements even arrive for the computer is in the Survival mode. Choosing from the U.S., Russia, China, or some resistance guerrilla group, players are given an infinite form of replayability, through procedurally generaged maps. Each level the player plays in this mode gets increasingly difficult with multiple opponents (that fight each other as well), more enemy reinforcements, and seemingly more intelligent AI. The only saving grace for the user is that each level rewards them with passive “skills” that are the noted special events, extra units, extra guns, and so on – just don’t try it on the hardest difficulty. It won’t end well.
As for the last game mode, Spec Ops, it’s really just more of the Campaign mode; just different maps and colors.
Already, Modern Conflict is a fantastic game, but it’s made even better with the inclusion of social mechanics. Upon downloading, users can actually sign up for, and connect to, a gaming social network called Crystal. With it, players can find other friends that use it through Facebook, Twitter, or email and get any number of recommendations for other games based on what is popular, features, or, most importantly, free.
The social features directly integrated into Modern Conflict are a bit basic at the moment, but they do work well as the emphasis is not on them. They are merely an enhancement. The game comes with a metric ton of leaderboards for players to compete amongst as well as dozens of achievements to unlock. Moreover, the game also advertises direct multiplayer challenges. Unfortunately, they do not appear to be active in the game as of yet, so it’s impossible to say whether it will be synchronous or asynchronous. However, considering the very fast paced nature of the game, the former is highly likely.
Truth be told, if you own an iPhone or an iPad, and you like strategy games, even a little bit, then you need this game. No, it’s not recommended. You need it. Of course, make sure you have nothing important to do for a few hours. That said, the game is currently $0.99 for the iPhone and $1.99 for the iPad, but the price is only an initial launch sale. As far as which device to get it on, the larger screen size and longer battery life of the iPad makes the game moderately more enjoyable. Suffice to say, we look forward to any and all upcoming Modern Conflict updates.