Mid-Year Recon Report: Our Five Most-Anticipated iOS Games of 2012

This was originally going to be an update to April’s Situation Report, our list of the best iOS strategy games. Once I got down to it, though, I realised that it actually hadn’t changed much in the past few months – with a few exceptions, the games at the top of the heap have been reluctant to give up their perches.

So instead of looking back, let’s look ahead. We’re halfway through 2012, and there’s some spine-tinglingly cool stuff on the road to release this year.

Panzer Corps

Panzer Corps is bigger and more realistic than any wargame on iOS right now.

Panzer Corps is bigger and more realistic than any wargame on iOS right now.

When Slitherine’s Panzer Corps was first released for PC last year, it settled neatly into a space somewhere between hardcore hex-and-counter wargames and more accessible offerings like Battle Academy. Panzer Corps puts you in the operation-level command of Germany’s Wehrmacht in World War II. The enormous campaign ranges from the invasions of Poland to the defence of Germany itself, and it’s dynamic based on how well you perform. If you achieve results beyond what your historical counterparts could do, “what-if” scenarios like Operation Sea Lion and a German invasion of the US open up. It’s a brilliant tactical game like little else on the PC and absolutely nothing else on iOS.

Since their initial announcement in April, Slitherine have kept details about Panzer Corps for iPad firmly under their hats, but if their original projection holds true then we should be seeing it in the next couple of months. Studio boss JD McNeil told me to expect “premium pricing” when I spoke to him a while back, so you can count on Panzer Corps going for $20.

Galactic Keep

Rob Lemon's art style is totally unique.

Rob Lemon’s art style is totally unique.

Originally announced in 2009, Galactic Keep is an pen-and-paper RPG-inspired oddity with a singular visual style that I find totally irresistible. After a long absence of news, developers Guilded Skull followed up the release of calaveric puzzler Skull Smasher with the announcement that work had resumed on Galactic Keep, with a release intended for late 2012.

The most recent interviews with lead dev Rob Lemon reveal that he plans for a game focused on multiplayer co-op, addressing an itch that Pocket Heroes didn’t scratch very well.

Star Command

Star Command has a lot of hype to live up to.

Star Command has a lot of hype to live up to.

A game that probably needs no introduction to readers of this blog, Star Command was one of the very first successful video game Kickstarters, luring in admirers with a premise that was brilliant yet jaw-clatteringly obvious in hindsight: a Jim Kirk simulator. Who doesn’t want that?

Taking pages from Kairosoft, The Sims, and X-Com, Warballoon Games’ big idea has enjoyed a fervent following over the last couple of years. The Colorado-based devs gave the public a peek at Star Command’s gameplay for the very first time just a few weeks ago, which caused some eyebrows to arch when the footage revealed that they’d ditched the turn-based X-Com-style shipboard combat in favor or a real-time mode. After a number of delays, Star Command is due out at the end of this summer.

Battle of the Bulge

Battle of the Bulge is no port - it's being developed from the ground up for iPad.

Battle of the Bulge is no port – it’s being developed from the ground up for iPad.

The brainchild of a group of games industry vets with decades of collective experience, Battle of the Bulge is in a horse race with Panzer Corps to be the first true wargame on the App Store. Compared to the known quantity represented by Slitherine’s port of their successful PC game, putting Battle of the Bulge into a most-anticipated list is a bit of a dice roll, but this is a game with one hell of a pedigree and a clean, modern UI philosophy I’ve never seen in a wargame before.

Devs Shenandoah Studio are so confident of Battle of the Bulge’s success when it launches this summer that they’ve already announced a sequel: El Alamein.

Unnamed Lock n’ Load/Playdek Title

What are these two cooking up together?

What are these two cooking up together?

The last item on the most-anticipated list is a bit of a leap of faith. Playdek, the superstar developers behind ultra-slick card game Ascension and cult favourite Summoner Wars have been working for the last year with Lock n’ Load, prolific makers of “traditional” dead-tree wargames with decidedly untraditional themes. Other wargame houses are content to make “what-if” scenarios to pit NATO against the Red Army in 1980’s Germany – Lock n’ Load would take that same scenario and add in zombie Nazis, or aliens.

What game Playdek and LnL are working on, neither party will say – but LnL’s products are so far outside the curve of normal wargames that the prospect of their creativity working with Playdek’s assured hands should be tantalizing to anybody who likes strategy games.

UPDATE: The first of the four Playdek/LnL games has been announced – a light wargame called Tank on Tank.