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TinyWar high-speed (PC) artwork

TinyWar high-speed (PC) review

"Un-Advanced Wars"

Perpetrated mainly by those pesky Indie devs, thereís been a growing trend of taking popular genres and devolving them back to the 8bit days. Thatís where we stand with Tinywars, which approximates the RTS format and pretends really hard itís the NES generation all over again. Itís clever about this; it knows itís not going to be a 1980ís reinvention of Supreme Commander 2, so it scales everything right back and focuses hard on funds gathering and base building.

For the most part, this never deviates from the well-trod RTS formula. You have various factories you can use to manufacture different kinds of units. There are five in total; a base that spits out soldiers, two that produce ground-based artillery and two that offer an aerial threat. On top of that, you have limited defensive options that start with a puny, cost effective watchtower and expand into considerably more expensive options comprising of armoured pillboxes or anti-air placements.

The idea is to take over a map, which is pretty easy going in the opening few stages. Each area of land is governed by a headquarters and, if that should fall, the area is lost. To begin with, all you have to do is stem the tide of invading forces and ensure your outgoing armies can overwhelm any defences in an effort to take enemy HQs before they take yours. So you bolster your perimeter with makeweight watchtowers and you send countless infantry to an inglorious death while your funds grow silently in the background, eventually allowing you to produce tanks, or mow down enemy support with machine gun fire.

The key is clever factory placement. Unlike RTS games that havenít been de-made, produced troops donít stand around waiting for you to lasso them all together and give them their orders. Rather, they immediately start their unstoppable march towards the nearest enemy HQ. If they come across anything in their path, theyíll make a play at destroying it. Factory buildings offer a counterattack of sorts, but are easily destroyed by even a half-hearted convoy, so it makes sense to put them somewhere out of harmís way, like at the back of your area. However, the further away from the battlefront they are, the longer it will take each wave to reach the enemy, giving them more and more time to rebuild lost defences.

This isnít a big deal in your opening exchanges, where youíre pitted against a single enemy, but, soon, other challengers appear, cluttering the map up with multiple armies of different colours. Eventually, the clutter gets even worse with free cities, independent from you or your opposing Generalís control, taking up sections of the map. Suddenly, youíre not just fretting about defending one access point into your lands from a non-stop trickle of enemy troops, but three of four. If you do nothing but defend, then your enemies are free to flood their lands with factories that will eventually overwhelm you. If youíre overly aggressive, then youíre forced to scrimp on your defence network and can be easily overrun.

You can safeguard against this a lot of the time by being picky on what map you wage war on. Each stage offers you four randomly generated areas which can be refreshed an infinite amount of times. Generally, you want to find a map that tucks your occupied lands safely away in the corners as far away from the majority of enemy camps as possible. Because any and all troops will automatically advance on the nearest enemy HQ, you can keep flicking through maps until you find one that guarantees the opposing forces squabble amongst themselves, leaving you relatively free to grow in strength on the outskirts. Thereís something to be said about this being a cheap tactic (and one that could have been avoided with limited refresh opinions), but itís equally fair to say that some maps land you in a completely unwinnable situation. Being stuck right in the middle of a map within spitting distance of several different enemies means that any fledging defences you build arenít going to be enough.

A good defence is key; in a clever design choice, enemy HQs canít be taken down by anything other than infantry, so while itís all well and good marching in heavily armoured tanks and filling the skies with fighter planes, you need to escort your squishy human soldiers through the defence network to take a plot of land. So you spend of a lot of your invasion trying to whittle down machine gun embankments enough so your troops can get far enough into camp to matter. It means that you canít just win the game by amassing the biggest rolling army of tanks and artillery; you need to keep up a human presence, even if they will maintain a ridiculously high mortality rate.

It helps that thereís an option to run the game up to nine times faster than standard once you have all your pieces in place and just need the war to play out quickly and, thanks to this option, each map can be conquered or lost fairly quickly. As TinyWars rolls on, the environment plays more and more of a part, sometimes offering things like grizzly bear units randomly spawning on the map, friendly to whichever Generalís lands they manifest in, or tough alien-tech defence towers randomly popping up to blast at your foes. So youíre not going to get the multi-hour slugfests of modern day RTS, but youíre also going to get a complete absence of multiplayer options and an interface lifted so obviously from touch screen media that it still says press screen to start.

Its brevity of war gimmick means itís well suited for the mobile market I assume it was initially designed for, but thatís not to say it doesnít work on the PC. With a campaign offering significantly harder landscapes and a greater numbers of foes the further you advance, the ability to play warlord in your lunch break isnít without appeal. TinyWars is a strategistís quick fix; a smug run at world domination that isnít going to destroy your evening.

EmP's avatar
Staff review by Gary Hartley (March 15, 2018)

Gary Hartley arbitrarily arrives, leaves a review for a game no one has heard of, then retreats to his 17th century castle in rural England to feed whatever lives in the moat and complain about you.

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Masters posted March 18, 2018:

This is a great review, Gary. You explain a lot, with few words and an easy flow that isn't easy to come by. I didn't have much hope for it, because I have just about zero experience with RTS games -- the only one I've played is the very early classic, Military Madness -- so I was taken off guard when I found myself very interested in your review of this game. I may even look to try it out. Kudos.
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EmP posted March 18, 2018:

Thanks, Marc. It was a game that got to me through the Steam Curator service, which is kicking up some very odd titles (Rage Quest was another of them). Tiny Wars is something that's taking up more of my time than I expected. I keep thinking that I'll just beat a new map and burn away half a hour and four maps later...

Glad it turned out okay -- thanks for reading!

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