Published by Bulkypix, the small, Russian-based development team at InsGames (Inspired Games) have unveiled their debut title, AntiSquad. Greatly inspired by the aesthetics of Team Fortress, InsGames follows the tried-and-true approach to real-time strategy combat. AntiSquad throws together a diverse ensemble of characters, with each person offering a variety of combat options for you to utilize on the battlefield against the drug cartels of South America. We have seen some amazing RTS titles appear on the iOS format over the past few years, so let’s see if AntiSquad is worthy of joining the ranks of Red Conquest, Starfront, Kingdom Rush and Autumn Dynasty.
You would think that a title called “AntiSquad” would attempt to bring something new to the RTS format, but InsGames’ debut doesn’t try to introduce anything new that we haven’t seen before. While a major difference is AntiSquad’s focus on the underground, criminal world of South American drug trade within its story, the way that these concepts are presented to us, along with their subsequent characters, are nothing short of cliche.
AntiSquad’s premise is rather straightforward. You must lead a three-man team throughout a fairly large map and strategically take down any baddies (usually drug dealers and cartel enforcers), you come across. There are five different characters for you to team up on the battlefield, with two extra characters unlockable via in-game currency (which is extremely difficult to accumulate). It’s a shame that AntiSquad already costs three dollars to buy, and still pushes players to buy freemium content (in the form of two out of the seven playable characters), on top of it in order to get the in-game currency to buy these two classes.
Each character corresponds to a different class type, and we have certainly seen all of these classes before. And the stereotyping that occurs with these characters put the “INS” in InsGames. The sniper is described as an “Afro-American from Jamaica” who goes onto the battlefield wearing oversized headphones, a wife-beater shirt and sags his huge jeans below his boxers. The cartel bad guys (with a distinct model for each corresponding class), each showcase different Latino stereotypes. The Japanese heavy gunner has huge dragon tattoos on his arms and the French legionnaire has a handlebar mustache. InsGames must have gotten their ideas on character design from watching really bad television. The level backgrounds are expansive and diverse, the models themselves look decent and the combat grabs your attention. Unfortunately, moving these pieces into position and getting them to effectively do their duty are as uninspired as AntiSquad’s characters.
The gameplay of AntiSquad is meant to encourage a sense of depth on the battlefield with its different character classes shooting it out across the alleyways and plains you encounter with each map. The action is turned-based, and you have to plot your actions very carefully. Each character has a set amount of “action points” which replenish with each turn, and these points dictate what you can do with each character for the round. For each spot you move on the map, a percentage of your action points will drop (characters such as the sniper take a lot more action points to move across the field as opposed to the redheaded scout). Once within range of an enemy, each character has a variety of different attacks to use. The Frenchman can shoot area-of-effect grenades for spread damage, the scout can use tear gas to reduce enemy action points, etc. Each class also has a direct attack based on their primary weapon, and stronger weapons cost more action points to use than their lighter counterparts.
While having to worry about the class, weapon range, distance and the action points of each character on screen, armor plays a vital role in your planning. Unfortunately, armor is only indicated by a small dash within the highlighted circle under each enemy. These notches are extremely hard to notice, resulting in numerous engagements where I was sure that I was going to easily kill an enemy, only to see that my weapons didn’t pierce the enemy’s defenses and my character ended up dying right off the bat. It’s quite easy for you to have one armored enemy (which seem to be randomly placed throughout the enemy ranks), quickly decimate your three-man squad. Being an avid fan of the RTS genre (and quite the capable player), I found myself frequently restarting my missions due to armored enemies. I was forced to having to use my sniper to dispatch armored enemies from afar, ending all my rounds early just to snipe over and over again.
AntiSquad is a culmination of a lot of concepts and character archetypes we have seen again and again. InsGames must have been huge Team Fortress fans, because its influences can be seen all over AntiSquad. From an RTS perspective, there are too many small details and nuances to keep track of for AntiSquad to be enjoyable for gamers. Armored enemies force you into a snail’s pace of fighting, which is an extremely bad concept for iOS devices where most strategists intend to play on the go.