Many game buffs know the name of Isotope244
, the developer of Acky’s XP Breakout
, the, in my opinion, (particularly music-wise) best
Breakout clone for Windows Mobile Pocket PC’s.
Their latest development is an Real-Time Strategy (RTS) game, Machines at War
, promised to be released in a week and already having a public beta HERE .
((Q)VGA Pocket PC / Smartphone)
I’ve thoroughly tested the game and found it, apart from some problems (of which I’ll later elaborate on), definitely better than the two other native (!) RTS games for the Pocket PC, Warfare Incorporated
(Here, I don’t count in the Age of Empires
port; neither do I take emulation into account. Just keep in mind that some early RTS games like Dune II
can be very well emulated under even free (!) MS-DOS emulators on the Pocket PC and Smartphone. See THIS for more information on all this. Note that there are a lot of other “ancient” home computer / console platforms with early RTS games too; of them, however, you’ll want to prefer mouse-based ones like the above-mentioned MS-DOS emulators, the Amiga and the Atari ST emulators. See my emulation-related articles for more information. You might also want to give a try to n0p
’s Stratagus & Wargus port to play, say, Warcraft II.)
As usual, instead of publishing a full tutorial to the game (just start playing the title and you’ll very quickly learn how to play it), I publish several tricks & tips, mostly in the extensive Comparison & Feature Chart
What makes this game good?
- First, great news for MS Smartphone (WM Standard) users: it runs on all kinds of Smartphones – even on low-end, 176*220 ones. Regardless of the lack of the touch screen, it’s pretty much playable even on these platforms – particularly, if you have a Smartphone with a built-in QWERTY keyboard. If you define keyboard shortcuts (in which this title is exceptionally good at) for, for example, group assignment / recall, you can really quickly operate even without a stylus.
- There are some welcome additions missing from even desktop-based strategy games (for example, deploying the same building multiple times with a simple stylus drag (or, on Smartphones, D-Pad + hold down left softkey) operation, parallel unit production in parallel factories with little stylus (D-pad + left softkey on Smartphones) usage, really good stats (see the “Stats” row in the Chart for some screenshots to see how freaking good they are) or the ability to select any number of units at the same time. For example, Starcraft, probably the best RTS of all times on desktop Windows, lacks all of these features.
- It allows for grouping units – only Argentum allows for this (and, of course, Starcraft) – Warfare doesn’t. What is more, you can even use hardware buttons / keys to quickly access these groups – which is particularly nice with devices having a built-in keyboard, which the game makes full use of (along with the traditional Pocket PC / Smartphone keys like red/green phone buttons, softkeys, volume buttons, home / back buttons on the Smartphone and app buttons on the Pocket PC).
- It has full keyboard / button redefinition support. In this respect, it’s FAR better than anything else.
- Graphically, the game is MUCH prettier than Warfare. Explosions are great, so are trails. Damage done to the terrain is visible throughout all the game – no other PPC RTS game offers this (and not even Starcraft, of course.)
- Last but not least, the developer is REALLY open to discussions and requests. This means the bullets listed in the “Bad” section below may soon be last year's snow.
The comparison / feature chart
Currently, there’s no multiplayer support; albeit, the developer promised he will look into implementing it if the game sells well
- If you only have a 176*220 Smartphone, some of the texts / explanations will be pretty hard to read (see for example the “Tech tree” screenshots in the Chart ).
- There is (still?) no multiplayer support, unlike with Warfare (and, of course, Starcraft)
- The lack of Attack-move is a real pain in the back (as is with the two other native RTS titles – see the “Attack-Move (instead of simple move)” row in the “Unit movement & selection” section). Hope the developer fixes this – I’ve been discussing this issue with him in several mails. Incidentally, there are no Patrol and waypoint functionalities (see the “Patrol?” row) either.
- Also, the game, currently (the developer also promised he will look into this) lacks automatic moving to position and answering to fire upon an attack to a very closely placed, friendly unit. In this respect, both Starcraft and Warfare Incorporated are far better – unless the units in the former are explicitly ordered to Hold, in which case they in no way will leave their position to answer fire out of their range.
It’s available HERE . As usual, it’s a MUST to check it out. Also make sure you check out the (several) screenshots linked from the chart – I’ve made a lot to show examples of what I speak of.
As I’ve already explained the meaning of most of the rows in the chart, I don’t elaborate on it any more. If you don’t understand something or need help with a specific issue, let me know, though.
Quick note for QVGA (as opposed to 176*220) Smartphone users
By default, as of the current beta (I’m pretty sure the problem will be fixed in the final, commercial version), the game runs in 176*220 mode. To switch this to QVGA (and to use the standard PPC GUI), you’ll need THIS file. (Right-click to download as it’s an XML file – don’t left-click it!) Just copy it into the home directory of your game, overwriting the old one.
Without doubt, this title is by far the best and most promising title. A must, particularly if you “only” have a MS Smartphone (that is, without any other real RTS titles). I really hope it does receive multiplayer support, attack-move functionality and a way to disable the default ‘hold’ setting for units.
Microsoft MVP - Mobile Devices
. You may want to check out my Smartphone & Pocket PC Magazine Expert Blog.