Mobile developer TapZen has thrown down the gauntlet, bringing its first title, This Means War!, to iOS devices with a simple goal: to dominate the mid-core strategy games space on smartphones and tablets.
TapZen is comprised of industry veterans with ample experience in creating both hardcore console titles (like Gears or War and Halo) and social free-to-play experiences (like Empires & Allies). It’s that experience, says TapZen General Manager Amir Rahimi, that makes TapZen poised to take over the current market.
Speaking with Inside Mobile Apps, Rahimi identified three major “waves” in the video game industry. The first wave was comprised of retail boxed products, and subscription-based MMOs. Then came Zynga and the rise of free-to-play games on Facebook.
“We believe we’re entering the third wave of the industry, which is an interesting blend of the first two,” says Rahimi. “We have the ability to have much deeper experiences from the first wave of games, but you also have this free-to-play and social structure that is incredibly wide in its appeal.”
TapZen’s philosophy, then, is to combine the in-depth gameplay found in traditional console products with “deeper social connections” that it says weren’t possible during the second wave of the industry.
To achieve that, This Means War! has been built with hefty social features in mind. The base-building strategy game initially resembles others in the genre, but it’s been designed with two major innovations to make it stand apart: large scale base-vs-base combat, and in-depth multiplayer battles.
The game’s base building is rather conventional, and will feel “familiar” to players. Users collect two kinds of materials, supplies and red mercury, a powerful source of energy at the core of the game’s fiction. Players collect these items from generators in their base, and can spend them on units and upgrades.
Combat sees users attacking other bases with their entire army, and their entire base on the screen at the same time as the enemy’s. In other strategy base-building titles, users typically take a small group of troops into battle, in a reverse tower defense system, where only the enemy’s base is present. In This Means War! however, the screen is split into two, with the player’s base on one side, and the enemy base on the other.
A battle line rests between the two bases, and introduces a “push/pull” mechanic to battle, inspired by the likes of League of Legends and other MOBAs. Each battle requires a different strategy, based on the units players wish to deploy, and the units the enemy has available. Actual combat resembles a game of rock-paper-scissors, where units have specific strengths and weaknesses against others. It’s those pros and cons that help players create the best army for each encounter.
For instance, sniper units may have long-range firing capabilities, and can hide behind tanks for protection, but they’re also weak to direct attacks. Meanwhile, RPG units are great against enemy tanks, but an enemy helicopter can quickly eliminate them.
In This Means War!, it’s not enough to simply recruit a large group of powerful soldiers and send them into combat without thinking. After all, the enemy’s base is likely protected with bunkers for spawning new troops, turrets for protecting said bunkers, and more. That’s why gamers can change their own base layout before actually starting battle, in order to protect certain areas or create a winning strategy.
This in-depth combat is present throughout the game, from the single-player campaign missions to the “random” multiplayer encounters. Users can attack their friends directly via Facebook or Game Center support, and the game tracks their stats and these “rivalries” over time. Players earn Power Cells, (the game’s premium currency) when attacking friends, so consistent social play eliminates some of the burden normally placed on gamers to purchase currency with real money.
During its three month beta test in Canada, Australia and New Zealand, This Means War! reached a steady 4.5 out of 5 star rating on iTunes. TapZen is therefore optimistic about today’s worldwide launch.
According to Rahimi, “[This Means War!] is the most deep and action-packed strategy game on mobile devices,” and it’s now available to download for free on iPhone and iPad.