Review: TurtleStrike25 Jul 2013 0
eeGon's TurtleStrike indeed has quite a lot of strikes -- although some of them are against it. It's multiplayer-only, freemium, and its central innovation (which Eegon seems to think so original they dub it "live turn-based") is really just wego with a short turn timer. But TurtleStrike does have a fantastic pitch to a broad audience: approachable rules, focused battles with few units, rapid pacing, and an artistic style which is both pleasing to my eyes and appropriate for all ages.
The game consists of battles between some decidedly unlikely armed turtles organized into three formations a side. Formations are given orders as a unit and you only have three units to consider, so the game maintains a fast pace. Floating barrels of explosives and toxic waste join more prosaic terrain like islands and fishing nets in complicating your approach to your opponent. Between battles, TurtleStrike offers some light customization options.
You can customize the shape and size of your formations before you ever get into a fight. Each of your turtles gets the same kit: you choose a missile weapon, a torpedo, and armor, plus a superweapon directly deployed by the commander. Since you start off with very few options, it's easy to jump in and play your first game. You field your turtles on a small naval battlefield which provides enough room for maneuver to matter but not so much that it's easy to forget about anything. Each turn consists of a 30-second planning phase in which you can order each of your three formations to use a shield, fire a missile or torpedo, or move, and can deploy your super weapon. The shields and super have cooldowns, with the stronger supers generally taking longer. After the planning time is up, both players' moves occur simultaneously (thus, WeGo).
New weapons and armor are unlocked using two different currencies, AP and eeGons. AP are not expended, and you earn them for every battle you fight and for accomplishing various in-game tasks like blocking a certain number of attacks or killing multiple turtles in a single round. Since you can't purchase AP, they effectively gate off a large number of options based on amount of time played. eeGons are expended to purchase whatever options your AP have unlocked, and can be purchased with real money or earned in battle, but only by the winner. As it turned out, I didn't find this a problem at all. I was always able to buy anything I had enough AP to get and which was desirable. However, prior to the release of the game, there were very few players, so the matchmaking wasn't able to do a very good job of matching players with similar records. As a result, I lost far less often than I would expect to if the game gathers a large number of players, which contributed to my impression of eegons as relatively plentiful. It's hard to say how irksome this attempt at monetization will seem in normal use and at the higher tech levels.
The overall flow of the game reflects its attempt at accessibility. Because 30 seconds is a pretty short time to do three or four things, you never get a chance to reflect on your moves or explore alternatives. Most of the time, you just try to take more shots than your opponent. The superweapons are the primary wrinkle. Early on, the most dangerous options are uncontrollable beasts which you drop behind enemy lines and hope they don't come back to haunt you. There are also stationary platforms which can help control movement, which require more subtle strategy to deploy effectively, and direct attacks available only for those with high AP levels.
Once you have a lot of APs, enough options open up that it will be possible to construct a very specific strategy, and there is substantial hope for a moderately intricate metagame, with continuing tweaks made as various strategies become more popular. It's very difficult to evaluate how balanced and fertile strategies will be at a high level before there are many players, but I have some doubts. The pursuit of complicated strategies didn't seem effective in my time with the game, and there's no track record of eeGon succeeding at this sort of balance. The moment which made me most skeptical that it will be fulfilling was when I was down by a large margin, but succeeded in winning a game by running away and dropping my superweapon behind my enemies. It felt cheesier than any win I've had in a long time.
TurtleStrike may prove to be superb at luring in casual players and slowly ramping up their strategic thinking. eeGon have done a tremendous job of reducing the little frustrations which tend to make people quit on free games before they see their virtues. The WeGo structure lends itself to enjoyable moments of yomi. Unfortunately, the early game strategy is relatively limited and I'm not confident that it will get more interesting as more items are unlocked and more players take part. Add to that the short planning phases and multiplayer-only nature of the game, and it doesn't suit any circumstance in which interruptions are at all likely, which severely limits its utility in the sorts of situations in which people often use their mobile devices.
TurtleStrike's metagame might turn out far more interesting than I fear, but at the moment, it seems like lighthearted game with some interesting characteristics, but too little depth to sustain long-term interest without freemium tricks luring players back.