Over the past few years, the market for smartphone games has seen a drastic increase in free-to-play titles. Rather than get customers to invest up front, developers have taken to a strategy based around building a large user base through free downloads and encouraging players to invest in items, expansions, or in-game currencies down the road. Much to the dismay of many “traditional” gamers, this strategy is working and it’s effects are being felt throughout the App Store. At the time of this writing, 99 of the top 100 grossing games on the App Store are free-to-play.
With the mobile market so heavily dominated by the free-to-play model, many often wonder about the viability of traditional, pay-once games on the platform. For those of us who like to play a game without being hit up for money every few minutes, Warbits is a fantastic alternative to the status quo…
Warbits is billed as “a war simulator for a better tomorrow” by its developers, Risky Lab. While it’s a great byline to describe the game’s overall structure, it doesn’t quite reflect the charm that Warbits is oozing with. For starters, the game’s art style is beautiful. Although designs for elements like trees, roads, etc are reused throughout an individual map, the complete package has an almost hand-drawn finish…as if the game is a colored pencil drawing come to life.
It also has a great sense of humor. I tend to like games that don’t take themselves too seriously. Warbits being a digital simulation between two factions plays perfectly into that mold. The game starts off in a training simulation being run by the Red Bear Republic (your faction) that’s promptly invaded by the Blue Whale Empire (your rival faction). Being a computer simulation, the two factions act like petulant children in the middle of an argument. The setup makes for some silly and light-hearted jokes over the course of the game’s campaign.
While great art and a sense of humor are an excellent start for any game, they don’t get you very far without great gameplay. Luckily, Warbits delivers on that front as well.
Drawing many comparisons to Advance Wars (GBA), Warbits is a turn-based strategy game where your goal is the annihilation of your enemies or the overthrow of their base. In the game’s campaign missions, you play as the Red Bear Republic fighting off the Blue Whale Empire over the course of 20 increasingly difficult missions. Warbits eases you in pretty slowly over the first five or so missions as it teaches you the various unit functions and strategies before ultimately unleashing the wolves on you. I’m slowly working my way through the campaign and I’m starting to find that the missions around the halfway point are posing quite the challenge, which only gets me excited to make it through to the end of the campaign.
Oh, and if the campaign isn’t enough to entice you, there’s also multiplayer. Warbits offers online and local multiplayer for 1-4 players. I hadn’t really thought of how great a fit this is, but asymmetrical multiplayer is perfect for a turn-based strategy game like this. In the same way millions have been playing Words With Friends for years, Warbits lets you and up to three friends battle it out at your convenience over the course of a work day. Hopefully this feature will work across mobile operating systems when the game eventually launches for Android later this year.
So for right now, Warbits is exclusive to iOS as a universal iPhone/iPad app. At $3.99, that means one purchase gets you both versions of the game and you’re able to sync your progress between the two, letting you play on an iPad at home and your iPhone while you’re out of the house if you have both devices. Frankly, at that price, I can’t recommend it enough. If you’re the type of mobile gamer who has no issues dropping $5, $10, or even $20 on in-app purchases for a free-to-play title, why not take a $4 flyer on a game as well crafted as Warbits? Sure, it doesn’t let you level up endlessly, but you may be surprised at how well a more traditional campaign works in the mobile space. After that, you can always turn your sights towards annihilating your friends with the asynchronous multiplayer.