Review: Assault Wave

By Dave Neumann 17 Sep 2013 0
This is pretty much every screenshot, all the time. This is pretty much every screenshot, all the time.

After playing Assault Wave, I’ve pretty sure that the developer’s research of WW2 started, and ended, with a viewing of Michael Bay’s Pearl Harbor. Not that they cover the same period of the war, but both are chiefly concerned loud noises and big explosions, and both are ultimately shallow and overstay their welcome. This is not a simulation of WW2, but an arcade game that uses WW2 as it’s backdrop. That would be fine if the game was interesting but, like Pearl Harbor, it mostly isn't.

Assault Wave is a top-down, real-time game. I’m going to refrain from calling it a real-time strategy game, because strategy has been surgically removed and replaced with watching timers tick. Players start at opposite sides of the screen and can deploy their units in a small deployment zone on their side of the screen. Once deployed, the units will march in a straight line up the screen, stopping only when in range of an enemy unit to attack. Timers on each unit type and power-up prevent you from spamming the field with units, so you wait until the timers are done and then drop another unit on the field. I saw no reason during play to not immediately drop a unit as soon as it became available, so instead of strategy you simply watch timers and drop units.

Along with your units you have several power-ups and special attacks, such as mortar attacks and artillery. The power-ups give a unit more firepower, a boost in speed, healing, etc. Power-ups are applied to units via a reticle that appears and floats around the battlefield based on your finger movements. I found this targeting to be problematic, especially when your units are in the thick of battle. Don’t wait to heal a unit until their health is too low, or your aim is bound to miss and you'll lose the unit. Instead I found myself healing units with half their health bar remaining, only because I knew I had time to get the targeting right.

And that’s the game. Drop units. Power them up. Wait for timers. Repeat.

More timers...I guess I'll just wait here, then. More timers...I guess I'll just wait here, then.

All units (Panzer tanks, Greyhound armored cars) have a rock-paper-scissors relationship with each other which, I think, is supposed to create a sense of strategy. But, even with the RPS mechanism, the only option is to keep dropping units on the field as soon as they become available and watch them do their thing. Likewise, you get new units and power-ups after missions, but I didn't find the new units to differentiate themselves from the old ones.

As for the point of the game, it is won by getting Battle Points, which are accrued by destroying enemy units or by holding certain locations on the map. Locations have a timer and give a Battle Point every 30 seconds or so. Whoever controls it, gets the battle point. When I say “control” don’t get the idea that you get to give troops orders to dig in and protect the location. No, it just means whoever's units touched it last in their inevitable death march toward the screen’s other side. In a wonderful example of “bigger isn't always better”, the devs increase the number of Battle Points needed to win each battle as you progress. This might be a good idea if the game changed as time went on, but all this manages to do is prolong the tedium of throwing more crap on the board because each battle, most certainly, doesn't change as time goes on. A 10 point game that takes a few minutes is tolerable, one where you have to battle to 35 points or more is like having dinner with your in-laws.

There is multiplayer, but I found that it didn't feel any different from the single-player campaign. Multiplayer can be done on the same device in real time, which sounds exciting, but the game is so shallow that even my oldest son, who I normally can’t get off my iPad, grew bored and wanted to stop after a couple games. To read, no less. From now on, if my kids aren't doing their homework I can threaten them with a game of Assault Wave to get their butts moving.

I can't quite figure out who the bad guys are and who the good guys are. It's all shades of gray... I can't quite figure out who the bad guys are and who the good guys are. It's all shades of gray...

The sad thing is, the game looks and sounds great. The unit detail is impressive and the terrain details are realistic. The game is loud. I mean that in a good way. Explosions shake the screen and tanks explode in bursts of satisfying flames. Flamethrowers erupt in streams of glowing fire as they fan their hot lava death over all who stand before them. On the other hand, in between missions you are presented with artwork that reminded me of those racist 1940s Looney Tunes cartoons that they don’t show on TV anymore. Seriously, all the German soldiers are missing are horns and a forked tail.

Is it terrible? Pretty much. It’s fun to watch things explode for a few missions, but when you realize that’s all there is to the game, it loses its luster pretty quick. The real-time multiplayer on the same iPad is an interesting concept, but it needs a much better game on which to hang its hat.

The game was played on an iPad 2 for this review.

Review: Assault Wave

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