Strategy-game developer Firaxis has made a couple of small but impressive forays into iOS territory this year with turn-based titles Haunted Hollow and Sid Meier’s Ace Patrol, but it’s poised to go a lot bigger this summer. Specifically, it’s bringing its 2012 strategy blockbuster, XCOM: Enemy Unknown (which debuted on Mac in April), to iPad, iPhone and iPod touch — and we’ve had a chance to take it for a spin.
A slick cyberpunk vibe with a futuristic neon glow sets the stage nicely for Frozen Synapse's brain-twisting tactical combat encounters. When it first launched on Mac and PC, this cool indie strategy game garnered high praise for its unique asynchronous take on turn-based combat and play-by-email style multiplayer matches. This iPad port gloriously packs all of the clever strategizing and insane resolutions of the original – and even lets you play against desktop users – without losing anything in the jump to the portable format.
Firaxis, the developer behind Civilization, has been busy on Apple platforms lately. The past few weeks brought us an excellent Mac port of XCOM: Enemy Unknown and the kid-friendly iOS strategy game Haunted Hollow, and now the company's rolled out Sid Meier's Ace Patrol, a free-to-play, turn-based tactics game set in the skies above World War I.
In the tradition of Plants vs. Zombies, Go Home Dinosaurs delivers streamlined tower defense action on iPad under a delightfully absurd premise. As a projectile-tossing gopher, you'll collect coconuts to fill each stage with an array of offensive turrets and structures to ward off colorful dinosaurs attempting to disrupt your precious BBQ. And the game even adds in a puzzle element, as the defenses arrive on Tetris-like pieces that must slot into the purposely cramped grid layouts. While not always the most electrifying mash-up, Go Home Dinosaurs still charms as it (lightly) challenges.
Tower defense games sprung to life on the PC and have also thrived on consoles, but it's on iOS devices where we've seen the largest and most diverse number of great entries. These strategic affairs challenge you to protect a base from waves of increasingly tough and complex enemies by placing offensive turrets along the way, and the tactical thrill of managing an effective array of fortifications can be hugely satisfying. Need a brainy fix wherever you are? Here are our picks for the 10 best iPhone tower defense games, each of which offers a distinctive test.
Known for console and computer heavy hitters like Civilization V and XCOM: Enemy Unknown, Firaxis’ latest strategy game is the unexpectedly kid-friendly and cartoonish Haunted Hollow for iPhone and iPad. Starring familiar monsters like vampires, ghosts, and witches, this free-to-play game offers a surprisingly rich level of depth and enjoyment that is sure to please any fan of the genre.
Everything about Lego Star Wars: The Yoda Chronicles -- from its overhead camera to its unit building mechanics -- resembles a real-time strategy game. The adorable characters and familiar Star Wars iconography could have made this free-to-play affair a worthwhile introduction to the genre for newcomers, but for a game with all the trappings of a strategy title, it curiously lacks any real strategic decision-making.
Though it draws heavy inspiration from a particular sci-fi franchise well known for boldly sending a spaceship full of uniformed crew where no one has gone before, Star Command doesn't fiddle around with any namby-pamby prime directive. The galaxy is full of danger and backstabbing aliens looking to get a piece of your sweet tech. Sure, diplomacy is sometimes an option with the strange crafts you encounter in this slick pixel-based quest, but it's just way more fun to blow your adversaries out of the stars or die trying in an often intense and chaotic adventure through the cosmos.
Resurrecting a beloved old gaming franchise for a modern audience seems like a challenging, thankless task. Even if you succeed in making something great, you run the risk of alienating existing fans if you stray too far from the original formula. When the alien-fighting strategy revival XCOM: Enemy Unknown was released last year on PC and consoles, however, it accomplished something we thought was impossible: It made just about everyone happy.
When Craig Stern, the singular force behind Chicago video game developer Sinister Design, unsuccessfully tried to fund his Mac game Telepath Tactics at the tail end of 2012, he saw the result not as a closed door, but as an opportunity — a chance to refocus both the campaign and the game itself to better execute his battle plan. And now that the second Kickstarter has doubled its original goal and generated much more backer enthusiasm with a few days still left to go, he spoke with Mac|Life to discuss how initial crowdfunding failure doesn't have to be ultimately fruitless.