Day 335: “Strategic Warfare: Conflict”

Posted: 2011/10/12 in Indie Games

I’m purchasing an Xbox Live Indie Game every day, seeking out the quality titles that got lost in the shuffle and are not well represented in the top 50 lists on the Xbox Dashboard. Today is day #335, and today’s game is “Strategic Warfare: Conflict”.

Back on Day 130 I reviewed a game called “Proximity 2”. A cult hit amongst developers and beta testers of the indie games channel prior to its launch in 2008 (then under the name Xbox Live Community Games), Proximity never got released. It finally did, two years later, and I really enjoyed it. The game gives you a hex-based map with numbers spread across it representing the strength of each hex, and by applying the strength of one hex against another you can attempt to convert it to your colour. Whereas Proximity 2 is a turn-based puzzle game, “Strategic Warfare: Conflict” takes that idea and turns it into a real-time strategy wargame.

First, from the developer (Dugrab Studios):

“Become the hero of Triburius. Fight through 15 levels and face off against 11 unique AI styles and 8 different puzzles. A fast paced realtime strategy game where you will face-off against trolls, two-headed giants, demons and more…”

Looking a bit like the love child of classic arcade game “Rampart” and 16-bit era hit “Mega-Lo-Mania” (also known as Tyrants), “Strategic Warfare: Conflict” is a bit rough around the edges on the presentation front. Everything does the job, and there’s no confusion about who’s who, or what’s what, it’s just not the prettiest game ever. For 80 Microsoft Points, and addictive gameplay, I can look past that. Like with Proximity, you have a series of territories (usually represented by buildings) with numbers associated with them. Here’s where the strategy kicks in.

Each building can house a maximum number of units. Send units off and the building immediately starts bringing itself back up to a full complement of soldiers. You must use those soldiers to capture enemy-held buildings, but every time you send them off that building’s defences are correspondingly lowered. Units march from one building to the next in a straight line, so you don’t suffer sneak attacks (though beware of ships landing on the shores and disgorging troops!). If you see enemy units making a bee-line for one of your buildings, you can send troops there from another of your strongholds to defend it (though that, of course, weakens that building’s defences), and so on.

Unlike Starcraft 2, Halo Wars, or any other real-time strategy (RTS) game you could name, there’s no upgrading, no resource gathering, etc. There doesn’t need to be. The game succeeds by offering a control system so simple that even Halo Wars (which is renowned for its streamlined interface) seems complicated in comparison. Rather than that being a detriment, it ends up being the game’s strength as it leads to tremendously fast battles where you’re constantly switching from offense to defence, as you try to decide whether it’s best to bolster the building(s) your enemy is marching towards or better to attack and take out the building(s) they launched their attack from. The game even has at least one level with a puzzle in it, where careful observation (or, failing that, trial and error) will divine the order you need to conquer the buildings in to succeed.

If you love RTSs for their seemingly unending upgrade trees and rock/paper/scissors gameplay, you may enjoy “Strategic Warfare: Conflict” as an occasional 80 Microsoft Point diversion. If you loved the action of RTSs but could never get into the complexity of them, then this may definitely be your game. The demo is a good representation of the final product, so I recommend a download if you’re at all intriqued.

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