Real time strategy games first crossed my path when I was a freshman in college. Command and Conquer was the big new game and the PC savvy gentlemen in my dorm introduced me to the multiplayer battles via our school’s brand new ethernet. Let me tell you, we were the popular ones. The iOS version of Command and Conquer is still pretty faithful, so the latest RTS game from a competitor is facing an uphill battle with me.
Desert Stormfront is definitely like playing poor man’s Command and Conquer. It’s got the same basic RTS elements but it would have seemed like an inferior copy 15 years ago, let alone now when there have been like 50 awesome C&C games. You’ve got armies and vehicles and you can tell them where to go and fight, but that’s it. You won’t get any of the thrill of battle.
Just to get the gameplay out of the way, any of the 30 campaigns or random skirmishes in Desert Stormfront start you off with some vehicles, maybe a structure or two, and mission goals. The mission may be as simple as "kill everybody," but you may have to take over an enemy structure. You can explore the map, take over structures, and build bigger armies. The strategy part is sorely lacking, because there’s not much more to it than just traveling to the dark sections of the map and finding something to shoot. You may choose what units to build carefully, based on the amount of money you start off with, but it’s still just building a bunch of weapons and sending them off to the bad guys. You can increase the difficulty, but the game is still basic search and destroy. Helicopters and boats don’t change anything. You’re still just moving slowly around the map and waiting.
The real time aspect of Desert Stormfront is really slow too. Maybe I’ve grown impatient in my age, but it takes a tank way too long to go anywhere. Waiting to build tanks and Humvees is okay. That doesn’t take too long. There’s just no sense that you’re fortifying your base with ground units and stockpiling weapons for a tactical assault. You’re just tapping on whatever vehicles are available in this level, at this particular base, and tapping some more.
The iOS controls are really clunky too. I would say perhaps RTS games aren’t well suited for mobile devices, but I know Command and Conquer works fine. Desert Stormfront is part of the Operation Stormfront family with versions available for PC and Mac, and its counterpart Tropical Stormfront is also available. Maybe it worked better with a mouse, but I just find it really hard to select the unit you want on a small iPhone screen. The way they have it set up for you to group units together is way too complicated. You have to click on the + symbols at the bottom of the screen and add units together. There is a drag and drop, but that doesn’t work right either. So you either end up moving tanks one by one, or getting them all stuck together, or tapping on the one you want to stay put and moving the wrong vehicles.
The graphics are good. It really looks like the desert and it looks like real tanks and airplanes. The music is a generic sounding epic military theme, and the game features a female voice announcing your status just like Command and Conquer has. But nice graphics don’t make the game fun, and it would have been better to have simpler graphics with a more fun game. Good luck finding a multiplayer game online too.
I would say Desert Stormfront might be worthwhile as a free game to tide you over if you’ve beaten every Command and Conquer, but it’s actually five bucks so that’s way too much. I just had no fun playing Desert Stormfront, so I hope my experience can save you from wasting any time with it.