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Posted on Mar 31, 2014 in Electronic Games, Front Page Features

Battle Supremacy – iOS Game Review

Battle Supremacy – iOS Game Review

By Jim Cobb

1A-battle-supremacy-logoBattle Supremacy. iOS 7 game review. Publisher, Atypical Games. Developer, Revo Games. $4.99

Passed Inspection: Superb graphics, fine AI, great interface for tanks, relatively good historical accuracy, nice multi-play opportunities

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Failed Basic: Scant documentation, interface not good for wheeled vehicles, locked missions and tanks, some gamey aspects

The differences between arcade simulations and serious simulations used to be clear: arcade relied primarily on reflexes while serious games relied on thought and keyboard shortcuts. The former was just for fun while the latter emphasized accuracy and authenticity. Lately, some developers have started to meld the two types. Their games keep some of the simplicity of arcade but also contain a strong element of accuracy. This blend is very important on tablets, as serious simulations seem to require a tilt, turn and tap interface that would challenge a double-jointed gymnast. Atypical Games and Revo Games appear to have developed a system that uses the blend of fun and accuracy along with a user-friendly interface. Battle Supremacy is their tank sim entry in this field.

When They’re Crushed, They Stay Crushed
This game’s graphics are incredible. Terrain in the Pacific, Europe and Russia is shown down to individual blades of grass, leaves, twigs and nails. The 3D view is panoramic and breathtaking. Views from the edge of ridges overlook valleys where units and buildings appear as ants. Rolling along dirt paths creates dust and, when the valleys are reached, the buildings become life-sized (within the game scale) with very accurate detail. The element that puts these graphics in a class by themselves is that they are dynamic. A tree crushed by a tank splinters and stays down; a building hit by a shell shows the damage and that damage can be expanded to allow a line of fire to enemies trying to take cover. Rubble created by players can create obstacles for movement as can tank traps. Sturdy fences may cause a vehicle to tilt and tip. These graphics are not confined to land. Ocean waves lap against beaches and can break over the bow of patrol boats. Mines bob dangerously just below the surface. Coral reefs can be glimpsed, and gulls and clouds pass overhead. A free roam mode provides a tour of all the scenery with no enemies.

Vehicles are depicted with the same care. Sprockets, bogie wheels, antennae, extra treads lashed to the back, louvers and cupola eye slits can be spied. Camera views include 360-degree shots, two third-person views of players’ vehicles, and a first-person close-up of the player’s line of sight. Pinching the screen rotates the view. Trains and trucks zoom by and the canvas on jeeps flaps. Details become more apparent as distance decreases. A birds-eye “mini-tank” in the upper left corner shows damaged spots. The usual health bar stretches across the top of the screen showing accumulated damage. All of this detail is splendidly animated. Turrets swivel as targets are found. Tracks grind up slopes. Shells shriek past and explosions hurl vehicle parts about. The only slight disappointment is that the hulls of destroyed tanks sink into the ground instead of remaining as wrecks.

Sound includes very realistic clanking of treads as engines roar. Shells ring off armor or explode with a nice bang. Trees, fences and buildings crunch delightfully as tanks roll over them. The music is actually enjoyable and the crew voices say pertinent and important things: “Bounce,” “We’re reloading,” “Taking fire!” Taken together, the game’s graphics, animation and sound provide an experience unsurpassed by even the best PC games.

Documentation is sparse, consisting only of five screens: one about a privacy function with no mention of how to use it and four showing the points needed to gain the twenty-one ranks. The four control options are not explained and only “auto-aim” is obvious. The first mission in the first campaign phase does have a good walk-through. The “dual output” allows players to play the game on their TV while the advanced setting enables gyroscopic controls, and also turns on gestures such as swiping the screen up/down and many others, to perform an array of tricks and maneuvers.

It’s All in the Push
The main characters in this drama are eight main battle tanks: the American M4 Sherman and M18 Hellcat, the German Pzkw III and Tiger II, the Soviet T-34 and KV-1, the Japanese Type 1 Ho-Ni I and Type 4 Chi-To. The inclusion of Japanese tanks is interesting, but one would like to have seen some British tanks. Secondary characters include fighter planes, PT boats and jeeps.

The interface for handling tanks stands out and surpasses all other tablet simulations. A large circle on the left of the screen controls direction simply by pushing in the direction required with speed controlled by pushing toward the rim. A reticule in the middle of the screen shows where the gun is aimed and, in the first-person view and advanced setting, controls the direction of the turret. When the reticule is white, the gun is empty or no targets are available. The reticule fills as the gun is loaded and becomes red when a target is acquired. The most gamey part of the interface is a “radar” screen in the upper right showing friendly units as white dots, enemies as red and objectives as green. Buttons allow firing and provide three different viewing perspectives.

Solo play is performed in the three-phase campaign of four missions per phase. The first phase sees the Sherman and Hellcat in the Pacific. These tanks are superior to their Japanese counterparts but large numbers of enemy tanks and gun emplacements make for some challenges, especially with multiple objectives per mission. Fortunately, players are a part of a squad so beginners don’t have to take all the bad guys out. Enemy targets are marked with red percentages indicating damage. As these show through terrain, an option is needed to turn the percentages off.

Combat is largely a matter of keeping frontal armor toward the enemy, using cover, zig-zagging when the gun is reloading and, with “auto-aim” on, trusting the gunner. Winning missions will unlock the next ones, unlock different tanks and gain bonus points. These points are used to upgrade armor, gun, engine, tracks and “radar.” Each phase is harder than the last, so when the Sherman takes on the Germans in the campaign’s second phase, these points are needed to overcome the panzers’ superiority. Points can be padded in the D-Day mission by using the PT boat to sink German boats and navigating an LCT through mines. An irritating problem surfaces in the European phase when players have to drive a jeep across a bridge; the driving controls don’t work as well with wheeled vehicles as they do with tanks.

This problem is even more maddening in the first objective of the third phase of the campaign set in Russia. Players must drive a ridiculously small Russian armored car through the ruins of a city, chased by Germans, to tell HQ the Germans are coming. Such twitchery detracts from the fact that tank models are fairly accurate in a relative sense. The Sherman frontal armor can take a couple of hits from a Pzkw III but not many. Even Tigers fall to side shots. Other damage, such as engine and gun hits, is temporary. Historically, repairs couldn’t be made so fast on the battlefield, but the game is partly arcade.

As with most tablet games, online play is the truly important part of a game. The game provides one free-for-all game and three team games. Players can use any unlocked tanks. Having unlocked tanks is frustrating, as missions must be played over and over again to build up enough points to get new tanks. The bright side is that mission performance can always be improved. When a good tank is obtained, the Game Center becomes very busy.

Battle Supremacy is a hybrid between arcade and simulation. All hybrids have upsides and downsides. This game has many more ups than downs. Buyers will be well-pleased with most of the game and can hope for patches and expansions. iOS 7 is required.

Armchair General Rating: 84%

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

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