In between offering casual titles for a mass audience and knock-offs of home console experiences (and poor ones at that), every now and then the App Store offers a game that rests comfortably in between both, providing a great experience for casual and hardcore audiences alike. The latest mobile game to do so is Rubicon Development’s Great Big War Game, the aptly-titled sequel to last year’s Great Little War Game. By simultaneously providing quick on-the-go gaming and a deep, strategic gameplay, Great Big War Game provides one of the most thoroughly enjoyable experiences on the iPhone.
This is because Great Big War Game largely follows the successful formula employed by the Advance Wars series for Gameboy Advance and DS. GBWG is a turn-based strategy game in which you (expectedly) wage war with teams of either AI-controlled or human opponents. Each side features a plethora of units: your basic infantry, deadly snipers, base-capturing engineers, as well as vehicle units such as jeeps, tanks, and artillery, as well as sea and air vehicles. The rules of the game are simple enough -- at the start of each round, you receive funds depending on how many buildings you own. You can then spawn units from your bases, sending them off to the battle ahead.. Units can both move and attack in the same turn, but enemies will return fire if they are in range.
Like many strategy games, GBWG has a “fog of war” effect that prevents you from seeing the space that isn’t immediately around your units. Of course, this can be easily remedied by deploying scouts and snipers into high terrain, giving them (and the player) greater field of view of the battlefield. Terrain also plays a heavy part in skirmishes. Units who have a height advantage over enemies also have a damage advantage. Every level’s map has something unique about the terrain that requires a different strategy to overcome the battle.
The single-player campaign is a lengthy one, spread out across 50 levels that can take anywhere from 10 minutes to an hour to beat. Once you’ve mastered the campaign, you can move on to skirmishes with the AI, but you’ll probably have more fun with the multiplayer components. Thankfully, GBWG offers both local multiplayer, where you pass your phone back and forth between you and your friend, and online multiplayer. Online games are perfect for gamers on the go, as each round is played asynchronously - play a few moves on the bus to work, and you have all the time in the world to continue the game later.
The only thing that really bugged me about GBWG, which they also carry over from Advance Wars, is that units with less health also output less damage. It made sense in Advance Wars because each unit was presented as a squad of soldiers - the smaller your squad, the less damage you dish out - but in GBWG, each unit is just a singular entity. I recognize it’s just a gameplay mechanic, but why would my soldier’s grenade damage be dependent on his health? It makes little sense and took me out of the experience somewhat.
Great Big War Game may borrow liberally from Advance Wars, but borrows the best aspects while optimizing its gameplay for mobile platforms. With its refined gameplay, quirky style, lengthy campaign and low price point ($2.99), Great Big War Game is a worthy addition to any smartphone gamer’s library.