These days, you can't shake an atomic chain sword on the App Store without hitting a turn-based strategy game featuring space marines. I've come to realize, however, that the reason so many are successful in spite of the crowded field is because one can never have to many games about space marines. As glib as that last sentence sounded, it's actually true because there are enough original things that developers can do with the premise that they all feel pretty fresh. Of course, the most successful titles have large teams working with even larger budgets on a well-known franchise. Unfortunately, most of them also have in-app purchases in addition to a premium purchase price to help cover their sizeable development/license costs. Here is where Templar Battleforce stands pretty much alone.
Featuring neither a well-known board game or movie tie-in, The Trese Brothers (literally two brothers; Corey and Andrew) have crafted what can only be described as a superb turn-based strategy game, seemingly out of thin air. Before I get into gameplay, I'm going to diverge from my usual pattern for a moment to discuss graphics. Templar Battleforce uses 2D graphics, both for the on-screen units and the background. If you're used to 3D graphics and complex lighting effects, you're going to have to shift gears a bit for Templar Battleforce. While razor sharp and meticulously hand-drawn, they definitely lack the eye-candy of other titles. In exchange, however, you get a game that is easy on the eyes (even when zoomed out), works well on literally anything that can run iOS 7, has a small install size, and won't bring your battery to its knees as you play. For me, this is an acceptable tradeoff, but I'm not so naive as to think that everybody will feel the same. If you are a bit put-off by the visuals, take a moment to watch a video or two of gameplay. Templar Battleforce really does look snappier than it appears in its screenshots.
Gameplay consists of moving your squad through each mission map, completing objectives, killing enemies, and not getting killed yourself. With a game like this, however, it's all about the implementation. Fortunately, there's plenty more to do than simply moving and shooting. Some units are great at wading-in and getting up close and personal. Others, however, can be placed in overwatch mode (automatically shoot anything that comes into range during the opponent's turn) and still others can place turrets or buff teammates. The maps and missions are quite varied, offer a lot of exploration, and even have a puzzley feel to they at times. You'll need to make use of cover, secure chokepoints, and capture resource nodes. After each mission, you will be given the chance to spend the points you've earned. In addition to the stats of individual team members, you will also have the opportunity to enhance your entire squad with an entirely different set of points. This allows for great customization, as there are a lot of options. Don't worry too much about making an allocation mistake though, Templar Battleforce allows you to respec as you play. With 45 different missions and a huge variety of skills and upgrades to try, it's safe to say that Templar Battleforce offers both a great deal of scripted content, and replayability. If you come across any bugs or balance issues as you play, the Trese Brothers have a reputation for being responsive to player feedback and input. In fact, since it's release in late October, they have already pushed out three massive updates offering many tweaks, fixes, and changes.
Templar Battleforce is a fantastic addition to any strategy gamer's library. If you feel the space marine genre is a bit tired, give it a try. You'll likely come away feeling differently.
Ratings (scale of 1 to 5):
Graphics: - 3 - Great performance and visibility at the expense of eye candy. Sound: - 4 - Sound effects are nicely sampled and varied, and a rousing soundtrack. Controls: - 5 - well organized interface and fantastically responsive touch controls. Gameplay: - 5 - Gameplay every bit as strategic and varied as the big budget titles without the IAPs.
Playing Hints and Tips:
Move into open space with care! Try to control chokepoints and positions of cover. When you feel exposed, leave someone on overwatch at the end of each turn. Learn how to maximize the skills of each marine type. Treating them all the same will inevitably lead to failure.