Recon Report: Our Most Anticipated iOS Games of 2013

By Owen Faraday 08 Jan 2013 0
Back in August of last year, I compiled a list of my most anticipated iOS games for the rest of 2012 - a list that turned out to be rather fanciful in hindsight. Of the five titles I called out, only one actually showed up before the end of the year: Battle of the Bulge, a game that rewarded my confidence by turning out to be one of 2012's standouts.

For the other four, landing on PT's most anticipated list was something like a kiss of death. Slitherine's port of PC wargame gem Panzer Corps was pushed off into 2013, as was the long-delayed indie starship sim Star Command. Tank on Tank slotted in behind the popular Agricola on Playdek's release schedule and Galactic Keep may never come out at all, following an unsuccessful Kickstarter campaign.

Despite the apparent possibility that selection to this list is a Madden Curse-style hex, the staff and I have put together a list of the games we're most excited about in the coming months. Check it out after the jump.

Shadowrun Returns

Is that a teddy bear I see? Concept art from the new Shadowrun.

One of the big winners in the Kickstarter bonanza of early 2012, Shadowrun Returns is a reimagining of the classic noir cyberpunk pen-and-paper RPG from the 1980s that many readers will fondly recall from the 16-bit RPG of the same name. The devs are planning an "early summer" release.

Lou: Shadowrun developer Harebrained Schemes is a development team lead by serial entrepreneur Jordan Weisman, creator of the MechWarrior, Crimson Skies, and Shadowrun universes. You may be familiar with their previous strategy games Crimson: Steam Pirates and Strikefleet Omega. As if raising four-and-a-half times the funds they'd targeted wasn't exciting enough, they're also promising a cross-platform, DRM-free release for Windows, Mac, Linux, iOS and Android.

Kelsey: I was heavily invested in MechWarrior as a kid, dabbled in Renegade Legion, and realized by the time Shadowrun came out that no matter how totally rad it sounded, I never to get a chance to play. I never seemed to have the system required to run any of the videogames, either, so Shadowrun has a bizarre combination of nostalgia and mystique for me. Harebrained Schemes seems like a small enough outfit that I confess I'm a little concerned about the ambition associated with a multi-platform release, but Crimson: Steam Pirates was surprisingly well-executed. I'm cautious about this one, but definitely interested.

Phil: I used to play a lot of the tabletop Shadowrun 2nd edition, and I've got the scars to prove it. My right hand is but a mangled claw, the tragic but inevitable result of my trying to roll 849 d6's in one go. I've attempted no other athletic feats since that fateful day. Despite the trauma, I yearn for a Shadowrun game that can rival the spot-on brilliance of the old Sega Genesis version. Plus, are there a cooler sounding seven syllables than Renraku Arcology? Just say it aloud. You'll see.

More info at Harebrained Schemes.

Space Hulk

Burn the xeno. A Space Marine Terminator from the in-development Space Hulk.

Set in Games Workshop's dystopian Warhammer 40K universe, Space Hulk was a classic tactical strategy board game that lived many lives on the PC and console as well. Space Hulk casts you as a squad of Space Marines tasked with clearing a derelict ship infested by monstrous Tyrannids - a tense, challenging experience. Very little has been shown since the game's announcement last month, but release is planned for 2013.

Owen: If I re-purposed all of the hours I spent playing the early-90s PC version of Space Hulk, I could probably be fluent in another language or two. But I regret nothing: Space Hulk was one of the most gripping, nerve-wracking gaming experiences of my youth and I am probably a better man for having played it. Games Workshop have shown prudence with recent video game adaptations of 40K - I hope this choice will be just as good.

Sean: Lumbering into our sector with further proof that board gaming and mobile-iOS-Androidal gaming are tighter than two Blood Angels in a drop pod is this remake of the classic Games Workshop tabletop game. Set in the Warhammer 40K universe, you and your squad of clunky, armored-up Space Marines have to contend with waves of slinky, sneaky Genestealers while navigating the cramped ruins of a derelict starship. Do you see the asynchronicity? DO YOU SEE IT?

More info at the game's official website.


Mill baby, mill Let's farm.

The third-best board game of all time by the reckoning of BoardGameGeek's hive mind, Agricola is also likely to be the next game we see from Playdek - PT's 2012 Publisher of the Year. Playdek put out a call for beta testers last month, so the game must be nearing release.

Nowak: I'm a big fan of Agricola so a digital version of that instantly lands on my radar, but when it's developed by Playdek it easily becomes my most anticipated game of 2013. The recent (and wonderful) port of Stone Age has been popular in our household since it launched but that's an entry level worker management game, considerably simpler than Agricola. I yearn for something more complex and something by a developer with a budget for good user interface and design (unlike Le Havre.) I'm really hoping Playdek succeeds at it even if I still have reservations about the possible boredom of asynchronous worker placement.

Owen: Campfire Creations showed with Stone Age that worker placement board games can be sleek and sophisticated user experiences on iOS - they really set a high standard and even Playdek will have to bring their A-game to reach it.

Some sparse info on Playdek's product page - though you won't miss any news if you stick with us, I assure you.

Ascendancy 2

Hopefully. What is the Ascendancy II Multiverse? We'll find out one of these days.

The Logic Factory's Todd Templeman first hinted to me in an interview last May that a sequel to this classic sci-fi 4X game was in the works - and he essentially confirmed it with a Facebook post later in the year. The original Ascendancy has been a major App Store success since it was ported to iOS two years ago.

Phil: My most anticipated 2013 game is Ascendancy 2. Ascendancy is the most elegant, the most lovely 4X space strategy game ever made. Back in the summer of '96 I played it for 42 straight hours, a personal record that still stands and probably will for all my life. The 2011 iOS port showed The Logic Factory hasn't lost its knack for grace. (I'd like also preemptively to announce Ascendancy 2 as my most anticipated game of 2014 and 2015.)

Owen: Like Phil, I'm not 100% convinced that we'll see Ascendancy 2 this year (it hasn't even been officially announced yet), but if it does come out this year, I'll be the first guy in line to get it. We're in the middle of a 4X renaissance over on the PC game side of the house - it's only fair that some of that spills over to iOS.

Keep an eye on The Logic Factory's website for details.


Solid snake. The title screen from the original Chaos.

Julian Gollop, the legendary game designer behind X-Com and Laser Squad announced his departure from Ubisoft late last year, setting up on his own as Gollop Games. The first game on Gollop's agenda is Chaos, a remake of his 1985 fantasy strategy classic.

Owen: I can't think of any other single game designer who has occupied as much of my time as Julian Gollop. Nobody understands the power of randomness to add replayability to games the way he does, and I expect that Chaos will be a master class in that property.

Phil: If you asked me to name the twenty things I most want to see in an iOS game, the list would just be a description of Chaos Reborn. Intense, thoughtful tactical combat? Relevant, deformable 3D terrain? Shareable algorithmically generated campaigns? That's only three, but three's enough to set me aflutter.

Kelsey: With a proven sound idea, execution in adaptation is key. Gollop seems to be blogging about some details, but not the sorts of things which get players excited (pathfinding and network code, for example) and just the sorts of things I'd expect would be left to others if he had assembled a big team. While I applaud his involvement, I'm worried that a small team means relatively little capital raised and low sales expectations. It might also suggest that development for mobile is not a current focus. While I'm confident about none of those inferences, they're plausible enough that I'm trying to keep my enthusiasm in check.

Julian Gollop is keeping a development diary as he works on Chaos.

Panzer Corps

On the march. One of Panzer Corps' big-scale battles.

The lone holdout from our last most-anticipated games list, Slitherine's WWII operational wargame Panzer Corps still holds a place in our hearts. Originally intended as an Autumn 2012 release, the game was pushed back indefinitely in August. 

Owen: Although the PC edition of Panzer Corps lacks the graceful UI and modern design sensibilities of new kid on the block Battle of the Bulge, Slitherine's game is much, much bigger. There's a huge campaign that comes with the game that includes fantastically ahistorical what-if scenarios like an Axis invasion of the continental US, and Slitherine has been steadily releasing expansion packs on PC for years now. There should be a huge amount of content for the iPad edition at launch.
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