Steambirds is a turn-based game in which you relive the aerial battles of the World Wars. The game adds the twist of a steampunk theme, and is set in an alternative reality beginning with the invention of fusion aircraft. It focuses on the strategic element of war which works well for the turn-based gameplay. Unlike a lot of turned based games there’s no shortage of action; and don’t worry about waiting around – this is not a slow-paced game.
Your first mission takes place 1907, which by itself proves that the game is not set in our universe. (Personally, I feel that this detracts from the quality and authority of the game.) The next few missions are quite easy, allowing you to settle into the game and work out how to control your aircraft.
You must use and fight against different types of airplanes, which depending on the mission have different weapons: missiles, bombs and poison gas. There are also different tactical manoeuvres to master: speeding up, tight air movements of your plane, and a 360 degree spin attack, which I loved!
Uh oh... someone better bail out!
Later in the game there are some very difficult missions, requiring a lot of foresight and quick decision making, which I suspect could mean the end of the game for some people. I think this problem could be fixed with the addition of more levels, allowing for smaller jumps in difficulty. And that brings me to another point: with such a well polished game I don’t see why there aren’t more missions; judging by comments on the Play Store, a lot of users have finished the game with perfect scores on every level. Sad to hear, but shows how fun this game is!
The game also includes a ranking system, and although (much like the storyline) I don’t believe they follow any official air force ranks, they seem realistic, so they still suit the game. Whether this lack of detail was intentional for the alternative reality I don’t know, but I would have liked to see real facts adding to the polish of the game.
Graphics and Music
The music is well suited to the game, giving it an old war atmosphere. The graphics are tidy and polished with a simple interface and well thought out controls.
You play the game from an aerial view, looking down on the battles with the ability to zoom in and out and pan around the battle field. Tapping an aircraft will give you information about its health, as well as stats on the aircraft’s performance, weapons, speed, agility and armour. All of this adds to the tactical focus of the game.
I often find that turn-based games are slow and lack action, but with Steambirds you need to think fast and start strategies early, especially if you want to get the glorious four star rankings that denote a level completed without losing any help. (As a side note, aiming for these rankings helps to compensate for the lack of levels, somewhat). There’s no doubt that the gameplay is Steambirds’ strongest component.
Multiplayer: Local Versus
Battles can get very heated!
There’s a fun multiplayer mode in the game that allows you to play with a friend on the same phone. You start by selecting the airplanes that you’ll both use, and then the fun begins!
Player 1 will tap the screen to gain control, then decide on their best strategical plans; once finished they pass control over to Player 2 to do the same. Both players then watch as their planned moves are carried out.
I found this mode very enjoyable, and it’s great to see a mobile game implementing an extra mode that suits its gameplay so well. Like the rankings, this mode also helps make up for the shortage of levels.
The missions in the game follow a timeline of events in the alternative steampunk reality which begun with the invention of the fusion aircraft in 1835. However, due to the lack of references throughout the mission briefings, you might have no idea that there’s a steampunk element to the game at all.
Thanks to the awesome game play I personally didn’t mind this one bit, but if you were planning on buying this for its steampunk element then I’d recommend trying the demo first.
Head on collision? Probably a bad idea
Despite the lack of steampunk elements I found the story fitting enough for the game; the short sentence of information before each level was plenty to set the scene and to give you an idea of what you’ll be up against. This game isn’t about the story, anyway.
While the game is great fun, its shortage of missions is a let down. The poor usage of the steampunk twist isn’t a big deal, though it does seem like a pointless addition as it wasn’t used much.
Steambirds is fast paced, requiring quick decisions; its focus on strategy is brilliant and it is one of the best strategy games on Android. If we’re lucky, we’ll see the developer add more missions to the game in the future.
[Editor's note: Looks like Darren's in luck, as Steambirds: Survival is on its way to Android with 64 new missions!]