Tropical Stormfront has just been released in the App Store and promises RTS fun for all! What did I think of it? Well ...
... I hated it.
No, really. I hated it. Maybe it's because I'm not the best tactician there is, maybe it's the interface, or maybe it's even because the graphics look like they're straight out of 1995. Whatever the case may be, I could not find any redeeming qualities in this game. But let's dive in and see why.
Strategy games are not my strong suit, but that doesn't mean I don't enjoy them. I'm a fan of the Command & Conquer and the Warcraft series, so I've seen the best of what the genre has to offer. Tropical Stormfront? Yeah, it definitely doesn't belong in the upper echelons with those games.
The most glaring issue is the interface. It takes entirely too much effort to control units in this RTS. Moving a vehicle from point A to point B isn't that bad, but when you're trying to activate units within a carrier vehicle, it takes several steps. For instance, let's say you have a few jets inside an aircraft carrier. You first have to bring that carrier close enough to enemy territory to lift the Fog of War (the darkened parts of a map, where no enemy structures/units are visible), then you have to select the carrier, select a jet, select what action you want the jet to perform, and then set the execution point. By the time you've done all of that, an enemy sub has blown up your carrier.
Then there are the graphics. I'm not sure whether or not this was supposed to be a love letter to the RTS games back in the mid-90s, but that's what they look like. It would be charming if there was any decent gameplay that accompanied the aesthetic, but it only serves to make units look tiny and nearly impossible to select when close together. This is a huge no-no in a real-time strategy game where every second counts. One misstep could mean game over for the player.
Tropical Stormfront is merciless when it comes to the campaign too. Not only does it give you objectives that are almost impossible to complete because of its flaws, but it also throws 25 missions your way! You can also try your hand at Skirmish mode which lets you set up your own scenarios, just in case you're in a self-loathing mood and feel like you need to be punished. For those who want to suffer with others, there's a Multiplayer option.
It's a good thing that there's a free Lite version floating around the App Store to let players try before they buy (this courtesy is the only reason the game gets a 1.5), because Tropical Stormfront asks you for $3.99 to suffer its wrath. Then again, that's not such a bad deal. For only $4, you get a lesson in how RTS games shouldn't be made and you get to find out if you have high blood pressure.