Draw Your Way to Victory with Avatar of War: The Dark Lord on iPad

Avatar of War: The Dark LordWhen it comes to iPad games, some of the best have been strategy games. The touch controls just lend themselves so well to the genre.

That said, the interaction has generally involved tapping units and locations. Well, CDE (Celestial Digital Entertainment) is attempting to tie in another common iOS mechanic — path drawing — with one of its newer titles Avatar of War: The Dark Lord.

With the company based in Hong Kong, bits of the game are lost in translation (namely text), but this strategy game is highly reminiscent of casual web titles that have come before it (e.g. Epic War). Nevertheless, this simplistic title, like its predecessors, is more tactical than strategic using drawn commands to affect the armies of the user on the fly. As interesting as the game may sound, however, it’s clumsy. Many aspects of it seem more like extras, instead of than integral parts of the game.

The premise is the classic fantasy story of some dark entity returning to take over the world (or destroy it). Regardless, it’s evil and the player has to send their armies to wipe it out. Like the noted casual game, Epic War, players must manage a singular resource dubbed “mana.” Recharging over time, mana allows users to summon a variety of soldiers to fight for them that will march from their castle toward the enemy, unless told otherwise.

CommandsThis is where the “path-drawing” controls come into play. Users can draw various shapes in order to command their units to advance (quickly or slowly), retreat, hold position, or use special abilities. For the first three, these are used the most frequently as players must watch each engagement with the enemy (which marches toward the player’s castle) and retreat and advance as necessary. It’s a little clunky though, in that it must always be used, because your units are all idiotic.

You see, each unit has a particular place in army formations. Ranged units for example, always sit at the back, while melee take the front. Makes sense, yes, but when enemy ranged units start hitting melee, the units just stand there and take it unless told to advance, while the range stay too far away to do anything.

Essentially, this means that ranged units are almost always useless against anything but enemy melee units on their own (more on that in a bit), and that all units must be constantly babysat. Moreover, other than having a decent mix of ranged versus melee units (melee to soak up damage while range unleashes it), there is minimal point to use all of the units available in game.

Here’s where things get more obnoxious. When units are on the move, the player’s hero unit becomes attackable. Now, users don’t lose if it dies, but they can no longer give any commands until it respawns. So during one level it died at the very end of the mission and we had to wait thirty flow-breaking seconds to do anything while the idiot melee sat there getting shot by a single enemy archer.

Special PowersEventually, things get better once players start earning more money (from kills) and upgrading their troops and hero. Eventually, you can unlock new units like catapults, assassins, and gryphons as well as earn upgrading spells and abilities that are also activated via drawing symbols. There are a myriad of spells, and all are fairly interesting, but in essence there isn’t much reason to use one over the other. For example, one will boost the defense of melee swordsmen significantly enough that players can beat back the enemy with brute force, while another will allow players to target enemies using mage-class soldiers and burn them to cinders.