Tactical Space Command is a deep, rich, and complex 4X strategy game with realtime tactical battles. It eschews traditional graphics and instead attempts to reproduce the tactical vector display of a command ship.
Waaaay back in 1989, a game called Harpoon was released that turned computer strategy gaming on its ear. It was a tactical naval simulation that was based on a tabletop game by Larry Bond, and used real-world military vessel and weapon data. Instead of 3D and photorealistic units, all assets were represented abstractly using vector graphics in an attempt to simulate the command screen of a carrier fleet. It was punishingly complex. Fast-forward 24 years, and we are finally given what can only be described as its spiritual successor: Tactical Space Command. Thankfully, TSC doesn't try to reproduce the Harpoon experience completely.
First of all, the game, while still complex, is not brutally so; and second, TSC is set in the far reaches of outer space. When you first launch TSC, you are going to want to load the tutorial because the interface will appear overwhelming to all but the most seasoned of grognards. While not truly interactive or as long as it should be, it will get you through your first moments of hyperventilating. At its heart, TSC is a 4X (eXplore, eXpand, eXploit, eXterminate) space game. You start with a single planet, explore your neighborhood, gather resources, colonize new planets, meet new and interesting civilizations, and destroy them. Once you meet an opponent, though, the game starts to resonate like the aforementioned Harpoon. You will need to form task forces and deploy your fleet in an effort to outsmart and outmaneuver your enemies. Time passes in the game continuously rather than in turns, but TSC is smart enough to auto-pause itself when something important happens. Additionally, you can pause the game yourself at any time to give orders, and are even given control of the speed at which time passes in case you feel the need to micromanage your ships.
The graphics of Tactical Space Command are purely a matter of taste. They're razor-sharp and easy on the eyes but they're not for everybody. If you're like me, you will see the bright vectors and shout giddyup! If, however, you aren't a fan of abstract graphics, and instead prefer realistic or 3D modeled assets, you're going to be disappointed.
The sound effects are subdued and functional; which fits neatly into the concept of massive space battles being played out on a cold, glowing command screen. There are no sounds of weapons firing and explosions, er, exploding. It's not that kind of game. Also, there is no in-game music.
Tactical Space Command is clearly a labor of love by somebody who remembers what old-school strategy gaming was like. It's not for casual gamers, however; primarily due to the complexity of the interface. For those patient enough to wrap their brains around it, TSC will reward them with a deep strategy game so cowboy-up; it will be worth the effort.
Ratings (scale of 1 to 5):
Graphics: - 4 - I love the razor sharp vector graphics, but they're not for everyone. Sound: - 2 - Simple sound effects and no music. Controls: - 3 - This interface needs to be simplified, if possible. Steep learning curve. Gameplay: - 5 - There is nothing like it on the App Store. Take the time to learn the game and you will be hooked.
Playing Hints and Tips:
Be prepared to be confused. Embrace the confusion. In time, you will learn your way around the game. The tutorial is of limited usefulness. Instead, use the HELP button as you play through the game. The first scenario titled: A Trivial Matter is designed to ease you into the game. Play it through until you can beat it before moving on to the others.