By Henry Badilla / December 22nd, 2017
|Publisher||Sony Music Entertainment (Japan) Inc. / UNTIES|
|Release Date||December 21st. 2017|
|Platform||PC, Nintendo Switch|
|Age Rating||Everyone 10+|
War. War never changes. Except in videogames where it can come in any form. And while there’s a huge percentage of war games that try to depict it realistically, a gruesome hell that shouldn’t exist, there were games like Advance Wars that put a lighter tone on it by showing cute soldiers and tanks in a silly story about defeating an evil invader. Years later Nintendo pretty much abandoned the IP to focus on the waifu simulator also known as Fire Emblem (which I have heard also has nice combat mechanics). Now Area 35 have decided to take the concept of a turn-based strategy game and add their own flavor to create Tiny Metal. Let’s see how much war has changed this time around.
The world of Tiny Metal has some similarities to the one we inhabit. After the Great World War the world succumbed to a great depression. The weapons used during the war damaged the earth greatly, causing fumes of miasma to cover the land in darkness. The nation of Artemisia, which wasn’t much affected by it, became a main target for other nations out of envy, so they have to be constantly vigilant of invaders on their borders. Recently on a diplomatic mission the King of Artemisia was shot down by a foreign airship from the Zipang nation. Nathan Gries, an officer from the Artemisian Army, discovered a group of Zipang soldiers tying to invade them during the confusion caused by the attack, so Nathan decides to track them down to the Zipang nation and find the reason for the attack.
If there is something I really appreciate in a game it’s credible world building, and this is one of the strongest points of Tiny Metal. From the start we get a clear explanation of what has caused the world to be as it is, what our motivations are and it gives us a reason to fight. The story is interesting, the characters likable and the character portraits are very nice. My only complaints in regards to the plot is that the dialogue can be a bit long, but if you’re not into it you can always skip them.
The combat works pretty similar to Advance Wars, but for those not familiar here’s an explanation. Combat is turn based. During your turn you can move your units which vary from Infantry, tanks, helicopters, and so on. There are no naval units in this one. Once you move your unit, if there is a target in range you can attack, otherwise just end the turn. Then, for each building you own on the map the amount of gold you get every turn will increase and you can use it to buy new units at the factories. Infantry units can capture neutral or enemy buildings to increase your income. You win if you defeat all your enemy units or capture their HQ.
As you may expect certain units are stronger against others, so you have to build your army based on what your enemy has and adapt on the fly. However from the start you don’t know what your enemy may have since you can only see the map as far as your units can. Veterans will remember this as Fog of War, which means that the map is surrounded in darkness so you have to move your infantry units to higher ground to get a better view of your surroundings. While in Advance Wars this was optional, on Tiny Metal all missions are like this, which creates a nice tension of not knowing where your enemy may come from, forcing you to investigate the map before you can launch your attack.
Unlike other strategy games, in Advance Wars and Tiny Metal a unit represents a group of that particular unit. For example an infantry, called Rifleman here, is actually a group of 10 soldiers. A tank, called Metal, is 3 Tanks. And as it takes damage the amount of units will diminish. A Rifle unit at 70% life will only have 7 actual soldiers for example, meaning that if your group of 7 soldiers attacks a group of 10 soldiers, the enemy will have the numeric advantage and deal more damage to you, even though you started combat. Tiny Metal introduces a way to overcome such a scenario by having several units attack at once. You can have a unit Lock on a target, and then have a second unit initiate fire, causing the first one to attack at the same time. This way their damage is combined and only the initiating unit takes damage. While this may seem simple, and maybe obvious, it adds a whole new layer on how to approach combat against stronger units and makes positioning all more important.
Another new feature found in Tiny Metal is the use of Hero Units. Through the maps you will find radio antennas that only infantry can activate that will call for backup. This backup will come in the form of a Hero Unit which is a stronger version of an existing unit. For example, one of the first ones you can summon is a Rifleman with increased defense against infantry. As you may imagine these are unique to each mission and once it dies you cannot summon the same one again. The radio antennas are a one-time use as well.
Compared to Advance Wars there are less types of units in Tiny Metal, but I feel that it actually helps the game be more straightforward and consistent. The game is well balanced between units and there is a bigger focus on having infantry around. The main campaign introduces each unit on different missions which teaches you what their strengths and weakness are and how to counter them on the enemy’s side. Those that never played Advance Wars can jump right into it with no problems at all.
The main campaign consists of 16 missions with a couple of side missions that need to be unlocked which took me 12 hours. Once beaten there’s New Game+ which is the hard difficulty, and also a Skirmish Mode in which you can fight against the CPU on different maps and different difficulties. The Multiplayer option was not available at the time of the review unfortunately.
The graphics of the game are 3D with a plastic feel to them. It really feels like a successor of the concept of Advance Wars to me. The soldiers, tanks and other units all look like toys and along with the bright colors on the maps make this a very pleasantly looking game. The music, while not particularly memorable, is fine and goes well with the game. The characters illustrations are really well made with small animations while they talk. Characters are voiced in Japanese and personally I liked the acting, even though I don’t know Japanese.
To conclude, I imagine there are two types of people reading this review at this point. Fans of Advance Wars looking for something to fill that void. To those I’ll say, go and buy it for $24.99, you will get the same experience with Tiny Metal and have fun. For those that never played it but are curious, I feel it’s worth your time. The campaign introduces all the mechanics in the game and teaches you all you need to know about it. Overall I don’t really have much to complain about, I have been looking to play Advance Wars again in the last couple of years but with Tiny Metal that itch has been satisfied for now.
Review copy provided by the publisher.
Advance WarsArea 35nintendo switchSteamTiny Metalturn-based strategyUnties