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Hills and Rivers Remain

For: iPhone

Familiar terrain

Product: Hills and Rivers Remain | Publisher: Square Enix | Format: iPhone | Genre: RPG, Strategy | Players: 1 | Version: US | App version: 1.0.0
Hills and Rivers Remain iPhone, thumbnail 1
Like gazing across an open plain, it's easy to see from where Hills and Rivers Remain is coming. This simple strategy game treads recognisable terrain cloaked in the threads of a philosophical plot. Unfortunately, thin storytelling and the lack of multiplayer leave the average gameplay exposed.

In a war against the rival nation of Herbert, you take up arms as Alan, commander of the Julius army. The conflict quickly spins out of control and what was a petty rivalry turns into all-out war with the neighbouring nations of Frost and Sandia too.

You start each battle in control of a single territory, the goal being to seize enough land so as to overwhelm and wipe enemy forces from the map. Instead of roaming free among territories, a network of paths link fortresses, castles, stables, and other landmarks together. Units can only be moved along these paths.

On the open plain

Tapping one of your territories prompts a slider, which allows you to select the number of units you want to move. Once set, you then tap the adjacent territory you want to invade. You can't recall forces on the move, so each move must be considered carefully.

Such binary strategy - move or don't move - restricts Hills and Rivers Remain from having depth, though other elements strive to provide some.

Randomly discovered items are stored in an inventory and can be used at will to boost defence, attack power, and even speed up troop movement. Battles can be won without them, but they definitely provide an edge.

Territorial armies

Of greater consideration are special territories, including stables that increase unit movement speed and castles that raise attack power when occupied. Ownership of these territories often determines who wins a battle. As such, devising a plan for victory on a given level means including a strategy for seizing these critical locations.

Even with items and special territories, Hills and Rivers Remain retains little depth. It's briefly entertaining, yet the wince-worthy plot in Story mode and lack of multiplayer offer few reasons for return.

Free mode, which rehashes battles from the campaign, entices some replay - however, multiplayer in local or online form is really needed to bring the game in line with competing titles such as Galcon.

As effortless a play as Hills and Rivers Remain might be, average gameplay guarantees a decent, though far from earth-shattering experience.
Hills and Rivers Remain
Reviewer photo
Tracy Erickson | 30 November 2009
Without a compelling story or multiplayer it's hard to find a reason worth sticking with the plain strategy gameplay of Hills and Rivers Remain
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