Sid Meier’s Ace Patrol
- Release Date: May 9, 2013
- Publisher: 2K Games
- Developer: 2K Games
- Genre: Strategy
Master game designer Sid Meier, along with his studio Firaxis and publisher 2K, has completed his first game built specifically for mobile. Sid Meier’s Ace Patrol is a charming turn-based strategy game pitting WWI air forces against each other. The game features 32 historical aircrafts that take to the sky in small squadrons to eliminate enemy planes and perform objectives.
Sid Meier’s Ace Patrol allows you to fly as the British, German, American, or French. Each nation has its own four-battle campaign to complete and each battle consists of six missions. Throw in the fact that there are often multiple missions for you to choose from and you wind up with over 120 single-player missions. Possible mission objectives include destroying the enemy squadron, destroying an enemy bomber before it reaches its target, and destroying an enemy’s supply convoy.
Sid Meier has talked about the evolution of the iOS game market and said that it is ready for strategy games to be successful. I couldn’t agree with him more. While existing strategy games like Carcassonne and 2K’s own Civilization Revolution are awesome ports that work perfectly on mobile devices, it is refreshing to see strategy games coming out for iOS that are designed specifically for the platform instead of being ported board or PC games.
When you start your campaign, you’ll be asked to choose from one of four randomly generated pilots – two male and two female. Each pilot has one unique ability that will give him or her a small edge in combat. After you complete your first mission, three more pilots will join your squadron. When pilots complete missions successfully, they can be promoted and you can pick a set of advanced maneuvers for them to learn. Completing a mission particularly well will cause your scientists to develop an upgrade that one of your pilots can equip their plane with.
Actual gameplay consists of strategically moving your aircraft around the board. The board consists of hexagonal tiles. When it is your turn, one of your planes will have a bunch of arrow icons around it to indicate its available maneuvers. A single press on an icon will show you a preview of the maneuver and a second press will execute it. If a maneuver will put you in firing range of an enemy, you will automatically open fire on them as you complete the maneuver. Such maneuvers will be indicated with a green icon and when you preview them, a pop-up in the top right corner will show you how much damage your attack will do and a breakdown of how that damage is calculated (attacking from behind generally improves damage significantly). The game also marks the attack maneuver that will do the most damage with an X-shaped symbol – this was very useful in speeding up decision-making, though keep in mind that the strongest attack can put you in a much worse position defensively.
The basic maneuvers are things like climb, dive, go forward one or two spaces, bank left, and bank right. As your proceed through the campaign, you’ll earn much fancier maneuvers like slides, rolls, loops, and turning climbs and dives. The game has a lot of depth but the interface makes it really easy to use. The basic rules are simple but all the ways that planes can interact with each other add a lot of depth. Sid Meier’s hefty experience with strategy game design really shows in the elegance of Ace Patrol.
The game is free and without ads. You’ll gain access to the first battle of the British campaign and you’ll be able to experience both multiplayer modes but only as the British air force. A 99-cent in-app purchase will snag you the remaining three-quarters of the British campaign. The German, American, and French campaigns can be purchased for $1.99 each or in a package deal for $3.99. When you purchase a campaign, you also unlock that nation for use in multiplayer. Each nation has eight unique planes, unique uniforms for the pilots, and voice acting for male and female pilots in that nation’s accent. There are also in-app purchases for special “ace” pilots that each have one unique ability and provide a unique skin for each plane of the ace’s nationality. There are eight aces selling for $0.99 a pop or in a bundle for $4.99.
The multiplayer is broken down into “Hot Pad” for two players to play against each other locally on the same device and “Networked” for playing up to 10 asynchronous games through Game Center. “Hot Pad” simply has each player pick an army and then generates a match with various objectives much like the campaign missions. “Networked” has you build up a squadron of three planes and then enter a dogfight-to-the-death with your opponent. You get 20 points to spread throughout your three planes. The points let you use better planes, upgrade your planes, or start your pilot with advanced maneuvers or unique abilities. Both multiplayer modes are a lot of fun and add replayability to the game, though playing through Game Center is very slow when most people will wait for hours between turns.
This is really an excellent game. The love that went into it is apparent in small details like the menu background cycling through the seasons as you progress through the campaign. Everybody who is a fan of strategy games at all should at least try the free battle in the British campaign. The game rules and interface are well-thought out and it’s delightful to play a game that’s built for mobile game. The touchscreen controls work great and the game is very easy to play in short spurts. You can save and exit the game very quickly. When you reopen the app, the top menu item will be “Continue Last Game” and it will load quickly to right where you left off.
The game has multiple difficulty levels and the higher levels will take some time to master. The game is definitely worth the 99 cents to complete the British campaign. If you’re still itching for more (I definitely was), $3.99 is a very reasonable price for three more full campaigns and 24 more planes for multiplayer. Firaxis is setting itself up to be a champion of strategic iOS games. Between its recently released and surprisingly good Haunted Hollow and now Sid Meier’s Ace Patrol, we can all rest assured that the highly anticipated XCOM: Enemy Unknown for iOS will make fantastic use of the iOS platform.
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