Developer: Gaijin Entertainment
Release Date: 10/3/2012
Price: $1.99 (Standard), $2.99 (HD)
Full disclosure: I never made it past the fourth level of Fantasy Conflict. The tower defense/RTS hybrid is so absurdly difficult that despite dozens of attempts, I couldn’t overcome the gnome hordes overrunning my bases. (Yes, there are gnome hordes.)
At first I thought it was lack of skill, smarts or simple dexterity on my part. I’ve been known to suck at twitch games, and Fantasy Conflict’s rapid-fire tug-of-war certainly falls into that category. But eventually I realized it wasn’t me. The game suffers from severe balance issues that skew it much more toward frustration than fun.
The mechanics are fairly simple. You start with one castle and are tasked with capturing neutral castles along the way to wiping out your enemy, who is trying to do the same. Your warrior count at each castle is represented by a slowly increasing number; tap once to select half those warriors and order them to a new location, or twice to select all of them. In the game’s one unique mechanic, your soldiers also count as currency, enabling you to upgrade your castles with defensive structures and enable faster warrior generation. That’s important, since combat largely amounts to math: your forces minus the enemy’s, plus whatever bonuses he’s gained by entrenching in his castle.
Capturing a special type of castle might net you a long-range cannon or aerial balloon army, while magic powers such as fire and lightning allow you to whittle down your enemy forces whenever their timers recharge. Buying and equipping a pendant before battle confers additional bonuses. Still, your castles will be captured: The game’s give-and-take rhythm forces you to constantly adapt. Because all the action takes place in real time, both your fingers and your mind have to react quickly.
But the problem is that neither dexterity nor strategy can compete with the AI when the playing field is so lopsided. Forget pendants; they’re unfeasibly expensive without hours of grinding through survival mode or making in-app purchases of gold. Some powers, like the “guerrillas” ability that generates reinforcements, are so blatantly overpowered that they amount to instant win buttons. Since you can’t pick your magic powers, you’re forced to make do with whatever the level assigns you—a bizarre design decision that contributes mightily to the already oppressive feeling of lack of control. The trade-off for using troops as upgrade currency doesn’t scan when an enemy force could just come barreling at you as soon as it sees the castle expand, particularly since the upgrades are so incremental.
The way combat works in Fantasy Conflict just isn’t fun. I’d be fine with it not requiring skill if it rewarded tactical thinking, but there were too many times one mistaken swipe (which you inexplicably can’t cancel, by the way) doomed my entire campaign, as my border guards marched obliviously off to their deaths. The degree of micromanagement the game requires is directly at odds with the mathematical core of combat.
It’s a shame Fantasy Conflict is so unbalanced, because the cartoony art style is really quite lovely. It seems like the kind of game that could easily be popular among younger players, were it more accommodating. As it stands, though, this Conflict isn’t worth the trouble.