There are quite a few casual games I’ve downloaded from the App Store that have provided me with entertainment for, oh, half an hour, and then were basically worthless. Why? Because there’s a tendency to design a game’s challenge around getting the player to figure out one pattern particular to the game. If you like that, don’t download Crystal War: Blood Field. If you like games you can actually play, however, keep reading.
If you’ve played the original Crystal War, there aren’t going to be many surprises as far as how the gameplay works. Which might make you wonder why this wasn’t released as an update, rather than a sequel. Devs trying to make an extra buck? No, and I’ll explain why below.
Those who are new to the Crystal War experience, here’s the premise of each stage: A human army (featuring some elven allies) and a goblin army both try to gain control of the field of battle and kill the opposing army’s lieutenant. To build ranks, you need cash (isn’t that always the way?); to get cash, you mine crystal. The crystal mining takes place right in the middle of the action, and the miners themselves cost cash too.
Warriors of any type don’t mine, and the miners are worthless at warring, so protecting them adds another layer of complexity. In Crystal War: Blood Field you can choose whether you want to play as a human, or as a goblin. You can also choose to play against the computer in one of several single player modes or you can take your mayhem online and play against a real-life opponent. The latter option is what makes this game really exceptional.
The controls are set up in a way that will be intuitive for those who have played any type of battle sim or castle defense. You select a unit by tapping the associated icon, which deducts the price from your budget; a second swipe indicates whether you want that warrior or miner rushing into battle now, or if you want to group him with other like units and send them out together.
Part of the satisfaction of this game is nailing the strategy for each stage, which is no easy task because you’re facing multiple layers of challenges which have to be balanced against one another. Victory isn’t handed to you on a platter—trial and error and use of brain cells are absolutely necessary. Dealing with dozens of unit types, the need to protect miners, and the surprisingly challenging task of killing your enemy’s leader don’t always require the same thing.
Getting into the groove means harmonizing all of these goals, and that’s what makes it fun. Fun is one thing, must-have is another. It’s the network modes that are going to guarantee this game top spots in the App Store ranks. Even if you can beat the game in single player mode in your sleep, there’s always going to be another worthy opponent out there when you can play against real people.
The game’s aesthetics are pretty standard 2D fantasy fodder, nothing to praise or complain about. A satisfying background of martial music and solid sound effects accompany graphics that offer enough detail without cluttering the screen too much.
It’s being able to snag a well-crafted game like Crystal War: Blood Field at a mere $.99 that makes gaming on iOS so awesome, despite the duds that are out there. Crystal War: Blood Field is available now for download in the iTunes App Store.