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Monday, May 10, 2010

Game Play: Warpgate (iPhone/iPad)

Elite is considered by some to be one of the greatest games ever made - but at the very least you have to give credit that it was a seminal piece of work. Creating a massive world (using some creative procedural methods), players could simply fly their ship around and ... well, do whatever they want for the most part. Fast forward a couple decades, and we have Grand Theft Auto IV.

Well, OK - similarities are there but we can save that for another post. We also have Warpgate for the iPhone and iPad. Longtime Mac game publisher Freeverse drops you into a galaxy, puts some touch controls on your free starship and lets you run around. There is a story, but you are welcome to ignore and wander around blowing stuff up, finding viable trade routes, and essentially just exploring.

The core of the gameplay is quite good. The touch controls work well, the graphics are great and the level of detail given to the different ships, planets and galactic factions provide plenty of depth. Combat is pretty simple button mashing affair, not exactly strategic - but at offers little in the way of frustration. The story missions often manage to offer twists to the gameplay so that not every one degenerates into "fly to X and then fly to Y" type affairs.

Actually, my only core complaint is the difficulty. Or the lack of it. At one point in the game I realized I could essentially hover around for some two factions to duke it out, and then pick the (occasionally very valuable) cargo that was left floating around. Wash, rinse, repeat ... and I had a shiny new starship. After that, some shiny new weapons and after that I don't think I lost many battles until much later in the game.

There's also the occasional bug - but in the latest release nothing too crazy. Worst one is when my ship would mysteriously freak out and the appear in a random spot in the map - but that generally just takes some patience to get back to civilization. I'm also suspicious of some of the battle math, occasionally it feels like all my big guns do no damage at all.

However the bottom line is that even after I have finished the story (which I wouldn't call a good story - but it was some fun twists and turns and a great dose of humor), I'm still playing it. You can easily listen to your own music while smacking down space pirates - and there is also the challenge of hunting down even better trade routes while trying to catch to everyone on the online leaderboard.

And Freeverse, this would be a great game to offer some DLC for - new ships, new missions, new weapons. I'm sure there are many Warpgate fans willing to shell out a couple bucks for an extension to the storyline.

Thumbs up, easy recommendation for the iPhone / iPad lot.

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