Touch Dimensions have brought real time ARPG to mobile with Strain Tactics. After a landslide of exposition, you learn that you are a deceased soldier responsible for stifling an alien invasion. You have been revived and recommissioned, because despite your martyred efforts, the Strain has reached your homeland. Your legend has earned you resurrection, but there is no rest for warriors of your breed.
This new phase of the war is a ground assault in the vein of lawn mowing. Like a child cutting an oversized yard with insufficient equipment, you need a helpful hand. The x-factor here is your Helibase, a levitating mission control loaded with sufficient air support and the almighty gift of perspective. Hovering above the battlefield, you scout out slashing paths and decide when a rain of fire is applicable. Through a series of docking and undocking, troops are able to replenish supplies as your enemy’s numbers deplete.
The fight rages on in static planes with minimal cover. The strategy rests in outfitting and personnel. For a real time combat structure, there is little to none improvisation, even with enemies taking erratic and indecipherable paths. If your team is packed with the correct weaponry and stuffed with ample meds/supplies, then levels are plowed through with ease. Miscalculations are devastating because a permadeath is in effect at all times. The game does offer a reviving mechanic with a Cryovat feature, but it requires a Saving Private Ryan level of devotion to successfully pull off mid-combat.
The campaign pans back and forth from a HQ hub and various battlegrounds. A pull down map displays all territories that require attention. The game progresses like wildlife firefighters trying to contain an ever evolving wildfire. Once one location is cleared out, another will turn red. You have limited pales of water to fight this scattered invasive fire. Prepared to have your ship’s entire load of resources taken by particularly difficult engagements, and get used to pulling out of conflicts to regroup and reassess problem locales.
The largest issue with the game is an element that the developers seem to be well aware of. The pinch, tap, and drag controls are incredibly difficult to keep track of, and fall short of offering precision movements. Soldiers will be running all about the map in the opening battles as you frantically calibrate your miniscule finger drags. Throughout the game are NPC’s that drill in the controls, yet certain maneuvers still remained elusive to me. (Note: I tested on an iPhone. iPad gameplay might ease this particular issue.)
The UI creates almost a complete border around the map, and for the most part facilitates great ease of access. However, the drop down menus will have you squinting to read abilities and features since there is no “select to zoom” option. Toggling between different troops’ supplies is a tedious game of Go Fish as you swap insistently until the correct character is equipped. Fire fights are generally uninspired since soldiers automatically fire at in range enemies, and aiming is rather limited when you have to go through a three step process to have a particular member fire at a selected enemy.
The home screen packs a healthy serving of realism with its futuristic news screen that illustrates all the major elements of the game’s fiction. The dialogue has humorous spunk and the characters have intriguing introductions despite the game’s refusal to include animations. Ultimately, the game treats characters in an expendable manner, which does not aid the already one-note plot. Strain Tactics packs just about as much content as a mobile game is capable of, and brings real time battle planning to your fingertips. The war is being fought on countless fronts, all in your pocket.