iPad Game Review: Machines At War 3 for iOS (Universal) Review
Reviewed by Tom Slayton
Machines At War 3 is a fantastic Real Time Strategy (RTS) game for iOS. Its great interface, smooth gameplay, solid campaign, and random map generator make this the one to beat.
Back in the 70's, tough guy actor Robert Conrad starred in a series of EVEREADY Battery commercials where he dared the viewer, with a menacing twinkle in his eye, to "knock the battery off his shoulder." While clearly smirk-worthy today, back then it was their way of claiming to be the best battery on the market while at the same time hosing down American viewers with a liberal does of testosterone. Well, fast forward 35 years and if I could put Machines At War 3 on my shoulder I would. It's, simply put, the best RTS game available on iOS.
The most difficult part of making a real time strategy game for a touchscreen is figuring how to keep the interface from sucking. Thankfully, Isotope 244 has been working on theirs since the release of their previous title; Land, Air, And Sea Warfare and, barring a few small quibbles, they've come up with what I consider the first truly good RTS interface for touchscreens. There are a few compromises here and there, but that's primarily due to the limitations of the platform, not MAW 3. After you complete the tutorial (which I absolutely recommend, even for RTS veterans), you will begin the campaign, which I found to be nicely varied and to scale appropriately. There are over 130 unit types (including upgrades), which may seem intimidating but remember that you are building land, sea, and air units so you will rarely be overwhelmed by choices as you play. As good as the campaign is, however, the real stars of the show are the online multiplayer and the random map generator. The reasons for liking the former are obvious for those players who are inclined to online gaming. However, it's the second feature that I personally appreciate because I tend to be more of a solo gamer, and I get tired of playing the same maps repeatedly. There are other reasons to appreciate this also, however, that go far beyond a little variety. First of all, with a random map generator, MAW 3 isn't likely to reach into your pocket again in exchange for additional maps. Second, the fact that the AI can provide a challenging game while starting at essentially the same level as the player is a testament to some very solid programming.
Most importantly, though, MAW 3 is fun. It has that great "just a few more minutes" quality to it that will keep you playing into the wee hours of the morning. My only real complaint about the game is a lack of an auto-build option. This gives the computer a distinct advantage that feels a bit unfair, and it's darn tedious to boot. Let's hope that Isotope 244 adds this in a future version. Back in the old days, computer strategy games came with actual paper manuals that were often hundreds of pages long. While it was enjoyable to sit down with the manual and soak in every detail about gameplay, the best manuals contained indexes that shows actual unit stats in neatly organized columns. With this you could form your build and deployment strategies, and it made for a lot less stumbling through the game in the early hours of play. Although paper manuals have clearly gone the way of the Dodo, Machines At War 3 has thoughtfully included a comprehensive unit index. This index is not in the form of a link that will take you out of the game and into your browser so it can splash you with banner ads or worse while you peruse the information. This index is available in beautiful detail right from the main menu. Obviously, Isotope 244 loves their work because it shows. Lastly, Machines At War 3 supports Game Center Achievements (54 of them!)
Machines At War 3 is fantastic visually, as well. Animation is silky smooth, and everything looks sharp and crisp. This is important because a RTS game must show as much of the terrain as possible, which usually results in units being very tiny when zoomed out completely. Thankfully, even at the most distant perspective, units and buildings are easy to identify and look gorgeous.
The sound effects of MAW 3 are first-rate, as is the voice acting. The in-game music consists of a rousing soundtrack that I ended up disabling because it was a little too rousing for my tastes. However, Machines At War 3 supports the ability to play your own music so feel free to blast your enemies to bits while listening to the dulcet tones of Mister Wayne Newton, or whatever.
In-App Purchases (IAPs)
None. Zip. Buy it once, play it forever.
Machines At War 3 is the real-time strategy game to beat on iOS. Highly recommended to lovers of the genre and to those who are looking to cherry pick just the very best in the category.
Ratings (scale of 1 to 5):
Graphics: - 5 - As good as I've seen in a RTS game. Crisp and silky smooth Sound: - 5 - Sound effects and voice acting are great, and iPod support is always welcome. Controls: - 4 - It's not perfect, but its as close as I've ever seen in a RTS game. Gameplay: - 5 - A 21 level campaign, online multiplayer, and endless skirmish maps with the random map generator means there's something for everyone.
Playing Hints and Tips:
Play through the tutorial. It will not only teach you basic gameplay, but also the interface, which takes a bit of getting used to. Once you have a basic understanding of the game, spend a little time with the unit index. It has valuable info that will make winning easier.