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Crystal War

For: iPhone

Real-time strategy decanted

Product: Crystal War | Developer: GNC Interactive | Publisher: GNC Interactive | Format: iPhone | Genre: Strategy | Players: 1 | Networking: wireless (network) | Version: Europe | App version: 1.2.1
Crystal War iPhone, thumbnail 1
As my dear old granny always used to say, you can always trust a goblin to ruin the party.

In the world of Crystal War the relations between humans, elves, and goblins have historically been fairly cordial, with the three races happily attending each other's summer barbecues and social gatherings.

Predictably true to form, a particularly grumpy goblin warlord isn’t too keen on remaining friends and has instigated a bloody conflict which threatens to tear the land apart.

Assuming the role of a human commander it’s your task to take the fight to the goblin homeland and teach them a lesson in manners. It's a cunning combination of role-playing and real-time strategy gameplay in the guise of a harsh etiquette lesson.

Love is a battlefield

The battlefield is viewed from the side with your commander on the left and the enemy leader on the right. Your objective is to destroy the opposition’s general and to do this your units must first fight through enemy subordinates to reach the general. New characters enter the field of play from the left and stride bravely towards the enemy lines.

Units can only be produced when you have enough crystals. These are scattered around the combat zone and can be extracted by miners. Other members of your army include foot soldiers, knights, magic-users and even mobile artillery units.

You only have access to a few of these forces at the beginning, but cash earned through combat can be spent on more diverse units. It’s also possible to use your money to augment the power of existing units, boosting their health, speed and power.

Type casting

Initially you’re limited to five different unit types per battle, although you can unlock two additional slots once you’ve accrued enough cash. Because there are over 10 different character types in the game you have to be selective about which ones you take into battle.

It’s essential that your army has a good mixture of talents. For example, magic users and archers allow ranged attacks but are weak in close-combat, so it’s a good idea to defend them with shield bearers – hulking defensive solders who hold back the tide of the enemy assault and absorb hits, allowing your ranged characters to harass foes without being attacked directly.

You can also be more direct with your attacks by unleashing special skills such as a storm of arrows, a blinding blizzard, and other elemental tricks. These special attacks can only be activated when you’ve filled up a power bar, which is achieved in combat and by collecting blue orbs that occasionally appear during the melee.

It's a far more tactically nuanced game than you might expect. There’s a large degree of strategy involved with the creation of your army because of the economy and the value of each crystal earned.

Short-lived glory

Despite the involving gameplay, Crystal Wars isn’t actually difficult to complete. As long as you have a balanced selection of unit types and continually tie up the enemy with foot solders – which, rather generously, only cost one crystal to produce – then you rarely find yourself in a position of danger.

Granted, some of the later levels give you cause to rethink your tactics occasionally, but you usually find that a basic change in tactics will yield instant results

The lack of multiplayer hurts the game’s long-term prospects, especially when you consider just how compelling this type of game would be with the unpredictable nature of another person.

It’s a shame that the game doesn’t offer a sterner challenge because everything else – from the gorgeous visuals to the suitably stirring soundtrack – is practically faultless. OpenFeint support also makes a welcome appearance.

Crystal War is an absolute riot while it lasts, but once you’ve bested the goblin general there’s little reason to return. If a two-player mode had been included then there would be little issue in recommending this whole-heartedly.
Crystal War
Reviewer photo
Damien McFerran | 20 August 2010
This exuberant mixture of role-playing and real-time strategy is immaculately presented and intensely gripping, it just doesn’t last very long
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