Game Review: Desert Stormfront
As of late, I’ve been a little disappointed with Android as a gaming platform. It’s not held back by much, in my opinion, except perception (not to mention a terrible marketplace). If things were a little better organized on the Android Market (particularly in the games department), great games wouldn’t get buried underneath shovelware. One game that’s gotten buried was Tropical Stormfront, an excellent RTS from Noble Master Games- give it a shot if you haven’t already. Right now, there’s a sequel to Tropical Stormfront and its name is Desert Stormfront- it improves on the original in a great many ways, though I fear that this, too, will be buried beneath the burning sands of shovelware. I suppose my complaints belong in an article of their own, don’t they? Let’s look at Desert Stormfront.
As mentioned before, DS is an RTS for Android and PC that pits you and your allies in a war against Iran and its allies. The campaign features thirty levels with a bit of a backstory that doesn’t get in the way of gameplay, though it’s not quite enough to stand on its own in my opinion. Still, it’s not that big a deal, and I’m happier that there’s a little bit of unobtrusive story than a ton of horribly written nonsense that gets in the way of the game. There’s a good (optional) tutorial that guides you through the basics and remains available at all times (always appreciated).
Gameplay takes place from the good old top-down perspective, and can be summed up like this: You have oil fields that produce money. That money can be used to buy tanks, jets, and other horrifyingly dangerous vehicles of destruction. You can capture oil fields from the enemy using humvees, and naturally the enemy can use the same technique on you. Having played the game on an Android tablet, I have to say that it handles very well, just like its predecessor- the controls are quite intuitive, and my only gripe is that you can’t select specific units- sure, you can pull up multiple units at a time, but want to pick out a few from a crowd? Sorry, not possible. I also found the lack of a zoom function annoying. Sometimes, I want to get closer to my units. Desert Stormfront doesn’t allow this.
Besides a couple minor issues, however, gameplay is both excellent and addictive. Each level in the campaign is well balanced, challenging, and can be solved a number of ways. You’ll find yourself replaying missions just to see how else you could’ve handled them- and to earn a higher score, which is based on your speed, efficiency, etc.
Visually, the game looks a lot like Tropical Stormfront (no big surprise here) and I really appreciate the aesthetic. The graphics are reminiscent of a DOS game, but prettier, with less jagged edges. As with its predecessor, everything has a clean, polished look, the animations are fluid and overall, it’s one of the best looking strategy games available on Android. The environments are desert-based (why am I not surprised) and they have a pretty decent amount of detail- nothing that quite blows the mind, but they all look quite good. I appreciate some of the other little details, like the caricatures representing the leaders of each country- they were clearly made with care.
The music is just as epic as before. I was just so pumped for every battle on account of the truly epic music in DS– I wanted to ride a flaming lion through a battlefield of orcs, smiting them with my ray-gun. The music was just that great, and while I don’t have a sample of it, it sounded something like this. It’s the epic music a man can only expect to hear once, maybe twice in a lifetime being played over and over again in DS, and it is glorious. It makes me want to rent an orchestra and a choir and have them wake me every morning for the rest of my life.
If there were one thing I could wish for, it would be multiplayer, even if only locally. While I’m satisfied with a strong single player campaign, I think that multiplayer is a logical next step- I understand that Noble Master Games has limited resources as an indie studio, but perhaps even simply Wi-Fi or Bluetooth based multiplayer could really be a big plus in helping the game sell. Just a thought, really. Besides the lack of multiplayer, though, this is a very strong strategy title- I can’t really find anything to complain seriously about.
Overall, I highly recommend it- the game is available for Android, Mac, PC and Linux.