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Posted on Jun 4, 2013 in Electronic Games

Assault Wave – iOS Game Preview

By Jim Cobb

Assault Wave. iOS game preview. Publisher: Battlefront Games. Developer: Aniway

Sometimes advance advertising can mislead buyers. After viewing the Youtube video (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zAQPW6Y0u_0), gimlet-eyed serious gamers may snub Assault Wave for the iPad, dismissing it as a foot race with overtones of a rugby scum RTS game. That video doesn’t do the game justice. The product isn’t on the Combat Mission Touch level but it has more depth than meets the eye. Good things may come in unexpected packages. Early beta versions offer hope.

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What the Bird Sees
The cut scenes with German and American soldiers before and after battles are a cross between World War II propaganda posters and Joe Kubert’s Sgt. Rock artwork in old DC comics. Eye-catching though they may be, those graphics belie what follows. The static vertical game play map is in 2D look-down mode. The terrain from the Normandy beaches through the bocage clearly details roads, ridges, rivers, hills and foliage. Victory points are displayed with white circles that switch from white to black depending on which side controls them. Further map items include locations where additional aid such as health can be gained.

The lower ten percent of the map is taken up by the deployment area, the first line of which consists of unit icons with silhouettes of the thirteen different combat units and symbols for the seven abilities players can use. The icons identify the units with cryptic abbreviations such as “T” for tank, “LTD” for light tank destroyer, “FT” for flame thrower and so forth, but when a unit is moved up to the map, it takes on a clear, 2D model of its type. The real names of the unit types are given, along with defensive values and speed and offensive capabilities against armor and infantry.

The detail of the units is limited due to the scale of the map and the fact that the screen is not zoomable; truly detailed images are shown only when the two-player mode is selected. Nonetheless, vehicles on the game map can easily be recognized for what they are: Tiger tanks are large and bulky with their huge main gun, as opposed the stubby Sherman; the funky M3 Motor Gun Carriage is portrayed showing its howitzer’s barrel hanging over the driver’s cab. Each unit is further identified with a star or Maltese cross, along with the usual health bars that change colors when damage is inflicted.

A unique variable is the amount of time required for a unit type to be replaced after it is initially deployed. Vehicles, especially large ones, need more time than infantry. The same concept is true for abilities.

Animation is the hallmark of Assault Wave‘s graphics. Vehicles slow down and tilt on rough ground. Tank turrets revolve and turretless assault guns such as the StuG and M3 turn to target nearby enemies. Muzzles flash with smoke and flame when fired. Infantry fires tracer rounds, and flamethrowers flare with brilliant color. Wrecks smoke and become charred before they disappear. Bombing and strafing aircraft make fleeting appearances followed by the bursts of their bombs. Shells explode in orange bursts and create craters. Sound effects follow the action: guns boom and machine guns rattle; planes zoom and bombs burst loudly; shells whine through the air while flames crackle.

Crossing the Line
At first, Assault Wave‘s game mechanics seem absurdly simple: just push an icon into the deployment area and a gold lane of attack appears; putting the icon on top of a friendly or enemy unit turns the lane red. Players cannot change units’ direction after they cross the deployment line. However, this simplicity is misleading. Players can chose to send all available units straight forward in a wave, sneak one or two weak but fast units up one or both flanks, move units horizontally to mass a powerful force to go after a victory point or hold the bulk of their forces back until enemy intentions become clear. Key to any of these options is the refresh rate of committed units. A large armor thrust may meet with early success but combat attrition may whittle these units down to impotence and armor’s slower replacement rate may leave players without crucial reserves.

Once on the field, units will move in straight lines until they near enemies; then, they stop and trade shots until the enemy is destroyed and the path is clear. Players do not become mere spectators, though, and can use their ability icons to influence events on the field. Pushing an icon creates a target reticule that can be moved around the map, turning gold over an appropriate “target.” The “charge” icon speeds a unit up and increases its offense. The “first aid” icon heals one damaged unit. The mortar, artillery and air strike icons can damage enemy units within a blast area. The “rapid fire” icon enhances a unit’s combat power. The “drop back” icon is the only way players can affect movement. Other abilities are more arcane. The “sabotage” icon can prevent one enemy from firing while a similar icon can stop one enemy from moving. These icons take time to refresh and so must be used judiciously. For instance, targeting a strike on one unit is a waste of resources and time: players should wait for a cluster of units to use any strike abilities. The “first aid” ability may force players to make a “Sophie’s choice” in deciding which of two badly damaged units to heal.

Solo play comes in two choices. The campaign allows play as either German or American through sixteen battles in Normandy. A victory unlocks better units or abilities while defeat makes players fight the battle again. Victory is decided by gaining more battle points than the opponent. Battle points are earned by destroying enemy units, capturing victory areas, using abilities and crossing the enemy deployment line with as many units as possible. Players can also chose to play the battles singularly but will not receive the same variety of units and options available in the campaign.

Assault Wave provides a new iPad style of play. A dual-player on the same tablet provides two sets of icons. Furthermore, the players can select up to ten units or abilities one by one or with an auto-select option. Choosing a force mix adds another level of strategy. An online option will be in the final build.

This game may appear to be an arcade-type product. However, several layers of options give it much more depth than a first glance may reveal. All iPad gamers should watch for this game.

Assault Wave requires iOS 4+.

About the Author
Jim Cobb has been playing board wargames since 1961 and computer wargames since 1982. He has been writing incessantly since 1993 to keep his mind off the drivel he dealt with as a bureaucrat. He has published in Wargamers Monthly, Computer Gaming World, Computer Games Magazine, Computer Games Online, CombatSim, Armchair General, Subsim, Strategyzone Online and Gamesquad.

3 Comments

  1. I triad to dislike it; couldn’t do it.

  2. Most entertaining preview I’ve written,

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Armchair General wrote a preview | Assault Wave - [...] http://armchairgeneral.com/assault-wave-ios-game-preview.htm [...]
  2. Armchair General Magazine – We Put YOU in Command!Assault Wave – Free Download Codes for iPad Game | Armchair General - [...] June 4, Jim Cobb’s preview of the Assault Wave game for iPad ran on ArmchairGeneral.com. Now Battlefront.com is offering…

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