Death comes in many flavors in FTL: Faster Than Light for iPad. Will your crew slowly suffocate from depleted oxygen? Be eviscerated by carnivorous space spiders? Get caught by the heavily armed armada fleet that's always in hot pursuit—or something far worse, perhaps? An unpleasant fate is almost a certainty in this challenging strategy affair, but the push to survive and conquer the obstacles thrown your way with each light jump is where FTL's magic lies.
First Strike grants a God's-eye view of the end of all things, and inadvertently shows us the beauty in chaos. Like trout leaping from water, nuclear bombs plop down to Earth, slaughtering millions. Mushroom clouds bud like fungi on lumber, and the stars, unjudging, watch Ragnarok in the inky blackness beyond. Were it not for radial menus popping up and shifting national boundaries, a passing observer might mistake it for a new feature in Google Earth.
Skulls of the Shogun, a game about a recently slain samurai fighting his way though the afterlife, is nothing if not slow. Its bright palette, bawdy humor, and straightforward concepts suggest an easy, breezy turn-based strategy game, but large maps, limited moves per turn, and cutthroat enemy armies combine to make skirmishes feel long and drawn-out. Don’t mistake “slow” for “meticulous” or “tedious,” though, as Skulls of the Shogun is neither, opting instead for a series of tense, chaotic, down-to-the-last-man tête-à-têtes.
Running a clandestine agency devoted to fighting diabolical alien invaders is tough, but as XCOM: Enemy Unknown taught us, it gets a lot easier if you can steal things out of the enemy's playbook. And when those things include extreme genetic modifications and hulking robot exoskeletons — two of the biggest features introduced by the Enemy Within expansion — the fight doesn't necessarily get easier, but it does get a lot more interesting.
It’s been only six months since Sid Meier’s Ace Patrol brought its unique, tactical take on World War I air combat to iOS, and already we’ve got a sequel. Pushing the action forward to the Pacific during World War II, Ace Patrol: Pacific Skies pits American and Japanese aces against each other in missions that range from simple dogfighting to defending or destroying vital ships, bases, or other structures.
There was never any real doubt that 2012’s turn-based strategy darling XCOM: Enemy Unknown would be a good fit for iOS. Its isometric battlefields, uncomplicated menu-driven controls, and methodical turn-based pace all practically screamed for a touch-based interface. The only question was what it would look like once it got there—and now that it's here, we can say it’s lost impressively little in the translation.
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.
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.