Released: December 2017
Platforms: PS4 (tested), PC and Switch
Deep turn-based tactics are often quite difficult to get into if you’re a newbie to the genre, but when a game goes out of its way to give you each layer of tactics step by step, then you can enjoy a deep and rewarding experience that can welcome in newcomers and veterans alike.
Tiny Metal’s clean and play box like graphics mask some really deep mechanics that the initial story mode cover, but don’t really push you with initially. Each chapter introduces you to a new unit that has its own strength, weakness and unique ability and slowly over the course of the story mode you’ll amass a wide array of army units to buy and send into battle to defeat your opponent with. The end goal of each mission is always the same – win by domination. The tactics and tools you use to do though can often be vastly different.
Each map is divided into grids and each unit will be able to move a certain number spaces depending on what it is and the terrain it’s trying to cover. Each map, whilst they all look the same graphically, will come with varying numbers of cities, factories, helipads and unique event spaces to capture. You’ll need to capture cities to generate income and heal wounded units. That income will then let you buy new units from factories or helipads and unique events often give you the full map layout (which helps since you’ll need to uncover the map as your travel) or let you issue a beefed up special version of a unit you own. However, doing these things all cost turns, and that could mean your opponent is either doing the same thing or trying to attack you before you can generate some income and finish you off early. Whilst the scramble for cities (and taking over your enemy cities) is always central to the overall battle, the units you then buy from them is really where you can develop your own style.
Each unit is well balanced, and that balance has improved over game updates. You might be able to do mass damage against infantry with a tank, but if behind that infantry, long-range missiles can hit you, then your tanks will be toast. So you can send in some planes or choppers to finish them off if you time it right, but the ranger infantry can take them down easily. Decision after decision can mean battles later on becoming ones of strategic attrition as you build army forts around cities to protect your income – because as soon as someone gets the upper hand, your fighting with fewer resources and that makes things very difficult, very quickly.
The positioning of units can really help though. Move your unit to the side of behind the enemy and you’ll deal more damage. Manage to get two or more units to fire together and you’ll get a bonus chain of damage. You can also forfeit going first for a stronger attack if you’re feeling brave but I rarely went that route as I found meticulously building units and marching en mass was usually the long, but more successful way to wage war. The terrain helps you by raising the defence of your units if they forest-based or higher up for example.
The AI does a decent job and each patch makes them more of a challenge but currently, they seem to forget to heal – although this has been raised in the developer’s blogs as something they’ll improve. Multiplayer is planned for the middle of the year but for single player fans, the skirmish mode is where plenty of the long-lasting fun will take place. Here maps let you battle against 1-3 other factions and what can be a simple looking map can actually devolve into several hours of back and forth warfare.
Lastly, a lot has been made of Tiny Metal being a spiritual successor to Advance Wars. Whilst Tiny Metal absolutely wears its adoration for the series on its sleeves, there are a few nuances that make the game step out and have its own identity. There’s room for both in your life.
- Easy to learn, hard to master gameplay
- Battles in skirmish mode can last hours now the AI has really gained intelligence
- So many ways to use tactics to win
- Whilst I love the design itself, the maps all look identical and lack theming
- Lack of multiplayer at present, both online and local would make this essential
For the single player experience alone, now the AI is much-improved post-launch, Tiny Metal is a recommendation for those who love to strategise and plot their way to victory. When multiplayer lands later this year, the game will be an essential purchase for gamers.
Enjoy an extended story mode battle below (pre patch 1.10 – this written review is for 1.11):