Modern War is a sneaky one. It's more of a pseudo-MMO but does a few cool things that more MMORTS titles should. It also works nicely on my Nexus 7 tablet, for the most part, except for a few odd problems that I'll cover in a minute. After I'm done, you might understand how mixed up the game feels as it's pretty close to becoming a good game.
A lot of the animations in the title feel very cheap as well. To attack an NPC, you simply click on the figure or building and click again, then a short animted battle scene happens. The tiny army figures act more like marionettes, arms and movements looking as though they were controlled by someone with a handful of string. Like the text, the animations are not much of an issue because the gameplay is so simple and familiar. It would just be nice if the game looked better, something closer to Gameloft's much slicker World at Arms.
Once you get past the glaring art and font issues, you have to contend with how slow everything runs. Personally, I have no issues with the energy mechanic. As I have explained dozens of times before, the dreaded FarmVille staple has given a lot of gamers a bad time but in reality represents a brilliantly simple way to illustrate a hero or village becoming fatigued or worn-out. The mechanic is in no way the issue. The issues pop up when a developer does not know how to pace the energy depletion correctly or makes it more of a hindrance than it should be. While it's true that in even the most strict energy-based game, players will find alternative ways to refill energy without spending any money, it can still be very annoying trying to figure out. I'm all for a developer finding a clever way to make cash, but to drain energy as quickly as Modern War does, and to do it from the beginning, makes little sense to me.
I also get how the energy mechanic is perfect for casual play. It represents a pay barrier to those who want to grind the game to death for several hours a day but still allows casual players like myself to pick up the game for only a few minutes at a time and still come back to a full energy pool. Modern War generally plays out casually, so the mechanic still mostly fits. The issue is that the timing of an energy refill and other gameplay components must fit together. If you can come back in an hour to a full energy bar, you should also be able to add something to your base. The building time for new buildings in a player's base is pretty ridiculous. I've played hardcore MMORTS games that offer speedier builds. And you can build only one new building at a time, so I have a feeling that the base mechanic is really just another tacked-on attempt to keep players coming back.
"It's a great opportunity for the game to act much more persistent than it normally would and is especially intriguing to those who want to defend their real-life countries of origin."
If the Modern War team would check with different devices to make sure that the game looks and plays the same, add a little oopmph to the nearly cool graphics, tweak the energy mechanic to sync with the timing of other parts of the game and add more simple-yet-effective events like the World Domination mode, the game would get a thumbs up from me. As it stands now, it's a semi-fun, casual war game that does get better if you add in factional play. Hopefully the team over at Gree can pick up the pace a bit and fix the game's issues. If so, the game would be a perfect pocket-sized wargame.
Each week in MMObility, Beau Hindman dives into the murky waters of the most accessible and travel-friendly games around, including browser-based and smartphone MMOs. Join him as he investigates the best, worst, and most daring games to hit the smallest devices! Email him suggestions, or follow him on Twitter and Facebook.