Great Big War Game launched this week, riding on the coattails of its highly successful predecessor Great Little War Game. The same turn-based hex grid warfare is there, along with classic strategic elements such as elevation, fog of war, resource management, and a wide variety of land, sea, and air units to command.
Great Big War Game's biggest asset is its ridiculous spin on war. The campaign mode puts you in the shoes of an inept general who weathers a barrage of sarcasm from his subordinate all while trying to impress the sexy new lieutenant. Don't let the silliness fool you, though. Great Big War Game has a ton of tactical depth.
The controls in Great Big War Game are very straightforward. Tap a soldier, tap where you want him to go, and off he goes. There's an undo button for moves made by mistakes, but not for combat encounters. More advanced maneuvers like embarking and disembarking from transports take some getting used to, while others like building troops at your base are easy as pie. My biggest complaint on the control front is that it can be tricky designating a hex to move to when zoomed out all the way, since they're very tiny when playing on a phone. After you've moved and attacked with all of your forces, the opponent does the same. Each turn starts off with cash collection based on the number of controlled resource points; that cash is then spent training a variety of troops and building vehicles.
For all of its goofiness, Great Big War Game has a ton of tactical depth. Troops have limited ammunition, and a set number of squares to move which varies based on the kind of terrain that's being crossed. As a player progresses through the campaign, they earn Battle Points, which can be used to ugprade different unit types. This is a great way of tailoring an army to particular play styles. The effects of elevation on range and the threat of building capture by engineers provides a ton of additional nuances that you normally only see in full-blown real-time strategy games for PC.
There's both online and local multiplayer available in addition to the ongoing single-player campaign mode and one-off skirmish games. In-app purchases are kept to a minimum, and are mostly for additional maps. On its own, Great Big War Game includes 15 maps for skirmishes and multiplayer rounds.
I had some definite problems with stability in Great Big War Game when having the developer option of "show touches" on. Having to do two battery pulls on the same level using a Galaxy Nexus with stock Android 4.0.1 does not a happy camper make. Your mileage may vary, of course.
Graphics and audio
If there's one thing going against Great Big War Game, it's the 3D models. Nothing has changed visually since the game launched on Android in January, and the simplistic characters make me cringe with memories of early 90s PC games. We've seen Android handle some pretty intense graphics, so it's a bit disappointing to see things dialed back this far.
Of course, the cartooniness makes sense given the ridiculous dialog between missions in the campaign mode and overall silly attitude of the game. The humor of those cutscenes is mostly of the knee-slapping variety, but still manages to consistently get a smirk out of me. Besides, with so many units active on screen at the same time, it's no surprise that the models needed to be kept simple. The graphics aren't all bad either; there are a few fancier visual effects, including explosions, smoke, transition animations, and weather effects.
In order to keep the battlefield lighthearted, Great Big War Game turns off blood by default, and even when it's enabled in options, you'll see little more than little messy splotches on squares where troops have died. It's hard turning war into something to joke about without a bit of tact, but Great Big War game does as good of a job of that as one could expect.
The in-game music is altogether maddening and repetitive - it won't take long for you to turn it off in the options. The sound effects are explosive, and voice acting appropriately goofy and exaggerated.
- Deep tactical gameplay
- Several multiplayer options
- Tons of maps available through IAPs
- Simplistic 3D models
- Annoying music
If you've already poured a lot of time into Great Little War Game, you probably aren't going to find a lot that's new here outside of multiplayer; of course, if you loved the original and are hankering for more, you'll be happy to see that the spirit of the game hasn't been changed.
The lighthearted spin on war works particularly well in the few bits of dialog and narration throughout Great Big War Game, but the graphics seem altogether simplistic when compared to some higher-end gaming experience on Android, especially when the camera angle zooms in for close-ups of battles. The comedy is high-quality at least, and even if it's only being put on so players can excuse the graphics, that's fine by me. Not everybody will appreciate war being taken so lightly, mind you.
$2.99 is a reasonable enough asking price. One gets the sense that the developer is double-dipping by asking for in-app purchases for the extra maps, though it doesn't bother me that much; those that get heavily involved in Great Big War Game will happily throw in a few extra bucks for more maps, while the basic 15 maps is plenty for more casual players, especially with online multiplayer available.
For deep, tactical gameplay with a few chuckles, Great Big War Game is going to be hard to beat.
Download: Great Big War Game ($2.99)