A few hours of Uniwar on the iPhone have shown me: I underestimated Advance Wars.
I mean, what’s so hard about Advance Wars? It’s a typical turn-based strat. You make your land, sea, and air units. You make some big ones and small ones, add some basic RPS, add terrain bonuses and penalties, crank out a bunch of maps, and you’re done.
Of course, that doesn’t give you a satisfying game. Uniwar’s two biggest flaws:
- Unit glut. You simply have more units than you want to control. Half the map is filled with units moving around, healing up, taking up space, doing nothing. The delicate practice of using your few units to restrict the enemy’s movements is pushed to the background.
- Drawn-out games. After you’ve essentially won, it can take quite a while to actually complete the mission. I last played a mission that I “failed” at the end because I didn’t farm my objective long enough before winning. I’m not sure I’m willing to replay it.
The biggest culprit may well be the maps (or the terrain movement penalties– chicken and egg). With few open stretches of land, you spend many turns moving units one or two spaces, clogging up the abundant choke points. Flying units help, though you’ll end up resorting to them not because they’re better suited, but simply because you’re bored.
Furthermore, combat just isn’t lethal enough. You’ll stack up a totally overwhelming force against an enemy base, simply so that you can kill off the infantry on it faster than the base can produce another one.
Uniwar is fun– it’s just not Advance Wars. And it illustrates a troubling constraint on iPhone games: shoestring development budgets. While Uniwar would be a much better game with some more time to tweak the units, playtest the maps, and improve mission design, it’s hard to say that would pay for itself at $3 a pop.