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News  7, Mar 2014

Critic’s Corner: Autumn Dynasty – Warlords

How does public critique fare for this Singaporean-made nod to the Romance Of The Three Kingdoms historical novel?

Image credit: Touch Dimensions

Autumn Dynasty: Warlords, a sequel to Singapore-based studio Touch Dimensions’ strategy game Autumn Dynasty, has been out for a few days and is placed pretty high on the local Apple App Store game charts. Judging from worldwide public opinion, it rightfully earned its place on merits of quality and is worth the US$6.99 price tag.

Critics agree that the game placates strategy fans who want a Romance of the Three Kingdoms backdrop in their Civilization 4X-style gameplay (that’s short for “eXplore, eXpand, eXploit, and eXterminate”), but tailor-made for the portability of touchscreen devices. They also are praising the game’s use of calligraphy brush art that seamlessly fits in with the real-time combat portions. Appspy said that the game’s layers of city building, expansion, and combat work brilliantly together, while Pocket Gamer said that there’s a lot to do from upping the morale of downhearted villagers to sneaking into a foe’s stronghold to steal some gold.

Speaking of which, the actual combat parts received mixed opinions. 148Apps said that it was straightforward and doesn’t necessarily follow the touch commands a player assigns to his or her units. MacLife criticised the combat as being nothing more than a “barefaced games of rock-paper-scissors” buried by its flashy aesthetics. Conversely, Appspy said that the action was surprisingly easy to follow, as feedback in the game allowed players to change tactics when needed.

All in all, most of the verdicts stress that Touch Dimension accomplished a huge hurdle in creating a Civilization and Age of Empire hybrid using Chinese historical novel trappings onto portable devices. Excerpts for the six reviews chosen are below for your glancing, or deciding whether or not the strategy game is up your alley.

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Appspy
“Once battles are initiated the game switches to real-time. A selection of swipes – represented by beautiful Chinese watercolour brush strokes – guide each of your squads. The action is surprisingly easy to follow, especially given the amount of units and interaction.

Victory is all about using the right troops for the right task, with a rock-paper-scissors mechanic dictating each unit’s effectiveness against others. If you are unfamiliar with this system then this can be confusing, but the feedback given quickly allows you to work out where tactical changes have to be made.

These layers of city building, expansion, and combat work brilliantly together, making Autumn Dynasty Warlords an excellent, uncompromising mobile strategy game. [It’s] a great example of how to distill complex strategy concepts into pure mobile fun.”

148Apps
“The battle mode is pretty straightforward as one has a only a few different classes. As usual, cavalry is good against weak infantry but vulnerable to spear-men, etc. Once a unit is selected, players can paint their trajectory across the battlefield to order it to move. The downside here is that although it looks great when the player paints a circle to direct their troops around the enemy and attack them from behind, once they release their finger units will just charge the enemy in a straight line.

The game has a few other defects as well. For instance, if units are close to an enemy they automatically attack, and there’s no way to order them to stand by. The autosave function has an issue of its own: it only saves after players have ended their turn, so any action taken before that time will not be saved if one was to exit.

Ultimately though, the game does have a lot to offer and the quest of conquering all of China makes for a lengthy and satisfying experience. Autumn Dynasty Warlords takes on a challenging concept and ultimately succeeds in delivering a noteworthy RTS-TBS hybrid that many fans of the genre are going to enjoy!”

Games In Asia
“If you’re going to buy Autumn Dynasty, though, there are a few things you should know. The first is that the game is long; this isn’t the kind of thing you’re going to wait to play in 3-minute increments while waiting for the bus. It’s better suited to longer periods of play.

The second is that it can be a little difficult to manipulate (and to see) on the small iPhone screen. Given that it’s a turn-based game, this doesn’t matter most of the time, as whenever you click the wrong thing you can simply tap again to select the right one. But it can be an issue during the real-time battles, where you’ve got multiple units moving around the screen all at once, sometimes in tight formations.

It’s still fun and very playable on an iPhone, but I think to get the full enjoyment out of Autumn Dynasty: Warlords, you may want an iPad.”

Pocket Gamer
“Autumn Dynasty Warlords answers a lot of the problems of the first game, expanding and contracting at the same time to create a massive RTS that doesn’t feel daunting unless you let it. This is a game that always gives you something to do, from upping the morale of downhearted villagers to sneaking into a foe’s stronghold to steal some gold.

Occasionally it can feel like the game’s taking care of some interesting stuff behind the scenes without much input from you, but all in all Autumn Dynasty Warlords is a worthy, wider sequel.”

MacLife
“It’s essentially Shogun: Total War Lite, delivering a compact take on that PC favorite. Warlords is designed for conquests on 10-minute subway rides, and thus it lacks the depth of, say, Sid Meier’s Civilization – though what’s here does the trick. Diplomatic missions exist, for instance, but they involve little more than clicking on an officer and sending him to chat or trade with rivals. City building, that old mobile strategy standby, also guest stars here to let you train new units and generate resources, but space limits keep it from detracting from Warlords’ focus on bite-sized schemes.

All of this is secondary to the dirty business of war and the multiple battles it takes to conquer a province. There’s beauty here that gives new meaning to the “art of war,” both in the attractive aesthetic inspired by early Chinese watercolors and in the sweeping brushstrokes that trail your fingers as you direct troop movements through terrain. Pity, then, that it sometimes fades in battle. Troops tend to work as intended, but strategy falls flat as soldiers automatically attack when they’re near enemies, and the limited troop selections for both sides sometimes turn warfare into barefaced games of rock-paper-scissors.

Master Autumn Dynasty Warlords’ quirks and start to expand your empire, however, and you’ll discover a rewarding mobile strategy experience that currently has few peers. Autumn Dynasty Warlords does a great job of translating 4X strategy for mobile play, although its simplicity threatens the appeal of its combat.”

Gamezebo
“The multiple mission types during an invasion are a good example of the reality not living up to the billing: Whether you choose to recon an area or launch a frontal assault, the objective is always the same – wipe out all enemy forces. You’ll sometimes have to defend against attacking enemies but the tactical limitations of the game make those battles dull affairs, and sneaking past enemy lines is a matter of simply using your fastest unit and hoping it registers properly when you cross the finish.

Unlike its predecessor, there’s no plot to the game to speak of, and the multiplayer component is gone too – it’s strictly a solo affair. Rather amazingly, there’s also no tutorial or help function; a tutorial option can be toggled at the start of the game but all it does is pop up a very basic description of each control or feature the first time you access it, with no way to bring it back if you happen to forget something.

With work, Autumn Dynasty Warlords could be a really good game – the watercolor-style graphics are fantastic and the control scheme would be very impressive with a few tweaks – but as it stands, it comes off as more like a beta release: Full of potential but still in need of work.”

Jonathan Toyad

Jonathan Toyad

If you want an elaborate answer on who would win in a fight between Ultraman and Godzilla, Jonathan Toyad is your man. A six-year veteran in the game journalism industry, he did words and videos for outlets such as GameSpot, GameAxis, IGN and Stuff.TV. Fears coyotes and scorched earths.

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