Pocket Tactics Presents: iOS Guide 2017 (Updated)12 Jul 2017 24
2016 was an awesome year for gaming and I sure hope that trend continues into 2017. What follows is a number of intriguing titles that make me very optimistic about the coming year in mobile gaming. There are a lot of games in development of course, but these are the ones I am most looking forward to. As the year rolls on it is our intent to add to this preview as games of particular interest are announced—so bookmark this page and check back often!
Note: This is our iOS guide. The Android guide removes the confirmed iOS-only games and can be found here.
Just last week Repos Productions announced that super popular board game 7 Wonders will be hitting iPads later this year. A closed beta for iPad started Saturday and 2000 users will put the game through its paces. Mobile gamers have been waiting for this one for so long that it is almost hard to believe the day is upon us. The iPad release should come before the end of the year with Android to follow.
Antihero is a forthcoming turn-based strategy game where you control a thieves' guild and vie for dominance of a seedy underworld. You'll recruit and equip thugs, saboteurs, assassins, and urchin and bribe, blackmail, and murder your way to success. It conjures thoughts of Scott Lynch's entertaining Gentlemen Bastards series of books for me. Antihero will feature both single-player and asynchronous multiplayer modes of play, and is currently testing a real-time multiplayer option as well.
The King of the animal kingdom is dead and the battle for his crown has begun in Armello, a digital boardgame that's been nominated for all kinds of awards since its 2015 release to PC , Mac, and consoles. You play as the hero of one of the great animal clans, each a claimant to the throne. The game combines elements of card and board games with the depth of an RPG.
You can explore the world, duel and scheme against other players, and eventually storm the palace to become the newest ruler of Armello. The world is 3D and fully animated and quite frankly looks like something Disney would make. Armello looks great and sounds amazing and I can't wait to get it on my iPad. Watch this video and see if you don't agree!
Battleheart by Mika Mobile is a great game and holds up surprisingly well for being over six years old. Battleheart Legacy is also good, but a much different game. Battleheart 2 is in the works and figures to be a true successor to the original. The developers provided a quick update on the development of the game a few months back and their goal is to launch with at least 12 but preferably 16 heroes, four of each major archetype (tank, support, melee, and ranged dps). It's too early to peg a release date, though Mika Mobile is aiming for 2017 and it’s likely to hit both iOS and Android. They've long been touting this one as a return to the magic of the original Battleheart—with the addition of cooperative multiplayer—and if so, it'll be well worth waiting for.
Card City Nights 2
Card City Nights cleverly blended a deck-building, collectible-card game within the context of a single-player adventure. Card City Nights 2, which will include online multiplayer, is currently in its second round of beta testing with a planned Steam release in early September. A 2017 mobile release is “not unlikely” according to Joel from Ludosity, the makers of the game. That’s about as concrete as I could get for now.
Card Thief (Released, Read our review)
From TiNYTOUCHTALES — the maker of Card Crawl and ENYO — Card Thief has you dragging your finger across a 3x3 grid of cards to chart the course of a master thief. Your thief must move stealthily, extinguish torches, and dodge guards all in a quest to steal as much loot as possible. Your ultimate goal is to steal the treasure chest card and return it safely to your lair.
Dresden Files Cooperative Card Game
Urban fantasy heavyweight series, the Dresden Files, has long been a tabletop card game and a digital version has been in the works for some time. The game will be based on the first five novels of the series and you can play as Harry, Murph, Susan, Michael and the Alphas in a cooperative card game meant for 1-5 players. There will also be randomly generated side jobs based on the short stories of the series. Release for iOS and Android versions is targeted for this year, possibly yet this summer. You can check out some extended gameplay in this video.
Duelyst is a grid-based CCG where you not only play cards to cast spells and summon creatures but also move those creatures around the gameboard to battle opposing combatants and defeat your opponent. Think Hearthstone meets Hero Academy. Managing both cards and miniatures makes for challenging tactics-heavy gameplay that rewards skill over luck. Duelyst is live on PC and Mac and already well known for its huge cast of 16-bit generals and minions. It has a definite shot at siphoning players from Heartstone and building a big player population when it hits mobile devices this year. Duelyst has been in iOS beta testing for a few months now and hopefully we’ll see it launch this year. An Android version is planned but there’s nothing definitive on timing.
Dungeon Warfare 2
If you like the tower defense genre and have not played Dungeon Warfare you should fix that, immediately. If you have played it you know it is a recent example of tower defending done right. The developer recently announced that Dungeon Warfare 2 has been in development for some time and will be released in the fourth quarter, hopefully to both Steam and mobile.
The Elder Scrolls: Legends (Released, Read our review)
The Elder Scrolls: Legends is a digital collectible-card game set in the universe that has served as the setting for many role-playing games, including Morrowind, Oblivion, and Skyrim. The game explores the characters, deities, and mythology of that universe. Legends is up and running on PC and plays a lot like Magic: The Gathering and Hearthstone, but with an interesting lane dynamic that really looks to differentiate it. You can read some early impressions here.
Epic Card Game
White Wizard Games, makers of Star Realms, has started alpha testing the digital version of Epic Card Game. Like their previous titles, Epic is a buy once and have all the cards you need for sealed, draft, and constructed for up to four players. There are even preconstructed decks to start with and modify. We will see both iOS and Android versions of the game and there’s a decent shot they will be out this year. At a minimum, we should be able to get our hands on an open beta version.
Eternal Card Game
The CCG wars wage on. Faeria and The Elder Scroll: Legends are out now and vying for market share. Duelyst is in the wings and joining it is Eternal. Made by Dire Wolf Digital, the same folks who made The Elder Scrolls: Legends, Eternal is a lot more like Magic: The Gathering than Hearthstone or any of its digital competitors. They’ve brought back declaring blockers and what now seem like giant booster packs, among other things. I’ve played the beta and Eternal is a very strong CCG, but lacks a unique hook or IP. It is unreleased but available on Google Play now and an iOS version has been soft-launched in Canada for a few months now.
Exiles of Embermark
Exiles of Embermark first caught my attention last year with their tagline, "fantasy RPG multiplayer in one minute." It is a tactical head-to-head combat game built specifically for mobile and meant to be played wherever, whenever, in action-packed bursts. Gameplay is turn based where each player picks an action—attack or cast a spell—and then rolls initiative to determine who goes first. The goal is to drop your opponent first and there will be a ton of different abilities and gear to customize your warrior with an optimal build.
Exiles of Embermark isn't just a fighting game, however. The goal of the developers is to bring the setting to life with vivid maps and an immersive narrative for a single-player campaign. To this end they secured the involvement of prominent writer John Scalzi to help develop the game world.
Exiles of Embermark will be free-to-play on both iOS and Android and will feature Hearthstone style IAPs to speed progress so what remains to be seen is how these freemium mechanics affect gameplay.
Faeria (Released, Read our review)
There's a third exciting CCG coming to mobile in 2017: Faeria. Like the others, Faeria offers a twist from the Hearthstone model and has incorporated a dynamic, "living", game board that players shape by playing their land cards. Each type of land—Forests, Mountains, Deserts, and Lakes—is a different color with unique spells associated with it. You play lands, harvest Faeria, and summon creatures to defeat your opponent. A primary goal is for the game to be fast paced and the developers have said the average game takes 11 minutes.
Fighting Fantasy Legends
Nomad Games, makers to the digital version of Talisman, are working on creating digital versions of three old-school gamebooks by Steve Jackson and Ian Livingstone: City of Thieves, The Warlock of Firetop Mountain, and Citadel of Chaos. Not to be confused by the Tin Man Games recent redo of The Warlock of Firetop Mountain, of course. Fighting Fantasy Legends will be a dungeon crawl based on the events in the books and will feature dice rolling and card collecting. The game is expected this summer and the Steam version unlocks on July 27.
Hades' Star is a game of galactic exploration and colonization with aspirations to become a great mobile MMO. I wrote about the alpha version in depth here and believe the game shows great promise for multiplayer fun—particularly in terms cooperative and competitive feature. The game has been rolling out in smaller markets the last several months and a worldwide launch is on track for July 24.
Hero Academy 2
Hero Academy, launched way back in 2012, was a ground-breaking game that really advanced the case for true tactical titles on mobile devices. A sequel is on the way and it is changing with the times, whether for the better remains to be seen. First, it is changing from turn-based to real-time, which is a bit of a bummer but not necessarily a deal breaker. Second, it will be a collectible-card game where you'll build a deck and drop creatures and spells onto the battlefield. Naturally this means free-to-play and either grinding for packs or paying for them outright. It’ll all depend on the implementation and Hero Academy was so good that its sequel deserves the benefit of the doubt, and a spot on this list.
KAMI 2 (Released, Read our little preview here)
I love puzzle games and KAMI, by State of Play Games, is one of the best out there. It's a simple, relaxing, and enjoyable game based on the folding of colored paper across intricate designs with the goal of reaching uniformity of color in as few moves as possible. KAMI 2 is coming in 2017 and will include over one-hundred new levels of paper-folding challenge. There will also be a daily-challenge mode and a feature that allows gamers to make and share their own levels.
TinyTouchTales is primed to bring us not one, but two excellent games this year. Card Thief is already out, is a lot of fun, and deserves a place on your phone today. The second game, Miracle Merchant, is currently in beta for iOS and is simple, fun, and attractive. I like it so much I’ve already written a preview article for it.
It’s a deck builder. It’s a roguelike. It’s heavily influenced by Dream Quest and just might be a better game (it certainly has better graphics). It’s one of the best games I’ve played all year on any platform and it’s coming to mobile. When isn’t exactly known, though the developer says it might make it out by late 2017. If it does, and assuming the port is a good one, it’ll immediately challenge for my mobile game-of-the-year in a year filled with great ones.
Rome: Total War – Alexander
A recent but unsurprising revelation is that the second expansion for Rome: Total War is on its way to iPad and should arrive this summer. In Alexander you play as legendary general and leader Alexander the Great and take on the all-powerful Persian Empire. If Rome: Total War and its first expansion Barbarian Invasion are any evidence, it should be another great port and a must have for iPad tactical gamers.
Wave Light Games, the indie developer who made Demon's Rise 2–our 2016 RPG of the year—is working on a new turn-based tactical RPG. Rather than fantasy, this one will have a sci-fi flavor and is inspired by games like XCOM. You'll still assemble a crew of fighters from a slew of class options. You'll run your team through super-realistic tactical combat encounters that make use of the morale system and terrain effects the Demon's Rise games are known for. Strike Team is nearing completion and on schedule to launch July 30! You’ll be hearing much more about it from us later this month.
The Room Old Sins
Puzzle adventures are a bit outside the usual Pocket Tactics fare but do get some coverage thanks to a favourable Venn diagram overlap with our core genres. The Room series are some prime examples of that overlap. The game’s teaser has an interesting premise:
“The sudden disappearance of an ambitious engineer and his high-society wife provokes the hunt for a precious artefact. The trail leads to the attic of their deserted home, and the discovery of an old, peculiar dollhouse…Experience The Room: Old Sins and explore unsettling locations, follow obscure clues and manipulate bizarre artefacts on a journey into the world behind the veil.”
The Room: Old Sins is coming to both iOS and Android in late 2017.
Through the Ages
I’m always a little wary of including Through the Ages on this type of list. The digital version of the super popular board game was announced way back in 2010, after all. On the upside, there is a beta ongoing and Czech Games—the makers of the digital version—are still saying 2017. Here’s a quick overview recorded by BoardGameGeek at last year’s Gen Con to hold you over.
To the Moon (Released, Read our review)
To the Moon is a heartwarming role-playing game about two doctors who travel through an old man's memories in order to make his deathbed wish come true. Released on PC in 2011 this indie game garnered critical acclaim and has an overwhelmingly positive reputation on Steam with over twenty-seven thousand reviews. A sequel named Finding Paradise is slated for release on Mac, PC, and Linux this summer.
Warbands: Bushido puts you in control of a squad of fighters from medieval Japan. It is the first of two games on this list with an artistic style meant to evoke a tabletop miniatures game. Your fighters come in miniature form and can even be painted and customized, though no magnifying glass is required. Warbands' combat features a deck of cards that represent special powers and bonuses and winning multiplayer fights earns you currency with which you can acquire more miniatures and/or more cards.
The game is currently available on Steam Early Access where only player-versus-player skirmish mode is operational, though the developer intends to add a single-player campaign mode with a dozen stories, each 20-60 missions long. Sounds like some serious content. ETA for Warbands on iOS is unknown at this point, but my fingers are crossed for a 2017 look at this one on my iPad Pro!
Warhammer Quest 2
Warhammer Quest was recently updated with 64-bit support, saving it from an end-of-life purge with iOS 11. This autumn we’ll also get our hands on a sequel for both iOS and Android: Warhammer Quest 2: The End Times. The new game is being developed by Perchang, home of much of the Rodeo Games group that brought us the original. We don’t have much on the sequel beyond some screenshots on Perchang's site, but it's a safe bet it'll be a turn-based dungeon crawler.
WARTILE is a real-time strategy game where you command a band of miniature figures in a medieval campaign brimming with mythology, or against another player in battle mode. The game takes place on intricately designed diorama battle boards. Each mini has special abilities that work well in concert with others. Combat makes use of tactical concepts like high ground, flanking, and reach and is quite challenging. The dioramas are very realistic and are meant to represent real-word locales, like mountains in Norway and the English coast. Each board features quests, achievements and secrets to unearth.
WARTILE is currently in alpha testing for PC in advance of a Q1 release with future releases planned for Mac, tablets, and consoles. I've played it on Windows and must say I'm looking forward to getting it on tablets as well. The developer is trying to make that happen in 2017 but there's no guarantee at this point.
Got a game you're looking forward to that wasn't mentioned here? Let us know about it in the comments!