Scratching the Itch.io: Into the Unknown03 Nov 2017 1
Two weeks ago today we turned our gaze to the figurative strategy gold mine that is Itch.io. Turning away from the labyrinths of Steam to find gems without having to dig through mountains of rock beforehand, we swapped excavation for an expedition and picked out a trio of light strategy titles that you could download for free and get a kick out of for anywhere between 10 minutes to an hour or more.
And as promised, we're at it again! We've picked another trio of strategy games ranging from modern combat to medieval fantasy and a dream-like world that, if anything, may inspire others to do better. Let's take a look.
Tanks of Freedom
Built to look like one of those early generation strategy classics, Tanks of Freedom is an isometric turn-based military simulator. There's little more than foot soldiers, tanks and choppers here, but a 14-part campaign, accessible level editor and online multiplayer gives a lot of good for a non-existent price.
Things start off simple, but quickly ramp up as the campaign, centred around a civil war, gets under way. Cash is your primary resource used to spawn units and to keep them moving forward, but each individual unit is limited to maximum amount of orders per-turn. If in-game cash is of no concern, you can move and attack with your entire army while spawning more at any controlled HQ, factory, airport or barracks.
Stealing a production building from your opponent will cost whichever foot soldier made the trip, but it's far cheaper to spawn units from their dedicated building than from back at HQ, making this a wise strategic move when you're looking to overwhelm your opponent over time. As an added bonus, the more structures under your control, the money cash you'll earn per turn. The more cash you accumulate, the more moves you can make, meaning keeping the pressure on is key to starve your foes of vital resources. Maps get far larger over the course of the 14 missions, too, so just because one might seem easy, there's every chance the next will require a completely different strategy to the last.
Once you've wrapped that up, you can use the pros and cons of your experience to devise and play your own map. Using a simple tile-based editor, it's easy to build battlefields big and small to satisfy your craving to conquer. If you're looking to avoid any scripted missions, there's plenty of pre-made maps available to play in the Skirmish mode. It's an impressive little strategy title that would feel right at home on something like a Gameboy Advance or older mobile phone, and Controller support is available, too.
There is Only Power
Despite its basic DOS looks, this one still packs a launcher that asks you to choose between 5 different quality presets. We didn't test them all in the name of science, but we'd love to hear of the differences should anyone feel the need to give it a go.
There is Only Power is a multi-choice strategy game similar to the dark and dreary Pangea we featured in last-week's Itch.io round-up. Rather than single screens of dialogue, however, this one plays more like an RPG. Using 'seeds', each attempt at claiming the Capital City is completely randomized. You only have access to a single class on your first attempt, but by building up Notoriety or Gold over the course of a session, you'll be able to start your next attempt as something else – like the badass Psychomancer.
Each class brings their own spells are stats into the equation, but the overall goal remains the same; venture into ruins, mines, bars, markets and mage towers and either bargain your way into a profit or fight whatever attempts to shoo you away. Brawls turn the game into a turn-based affair where managing mana and souls becomes key to your survival. If you've managed to accumulate sufficient goods before making the decision to stop and fight, you'll be able to spend those on recovering HP, summoning new party members or buying new spells and artifacts to help you live a little longer.
Each action, including movement, in the overworld contributes to your various currencies, but means 'easier' content will scale to ward off any attempts at tricking the system. Pick your battles, make wise choices and learn the skills necessary to take on battles of varying difficulty to grow into a being capable of overthrowing the kingdom. Like any rogue-like, it isn't easy. But if you've spent years honing your resource-management craft in other strategy titles, you'll stand strong here.
Revery: Duel of Dreamers
Going into this one with high expectations, given the relatively impressive music and art-style featured in the debut trailer, will only result in disappointment for most. Revery: Duel of Dreamers is a 'proof of concept' by Cheese Burgames. With documentation suggesting the team originally planned to take this further, their more recent company updates seem to suggest this one hasn't been touched in a long while.
Still, it's a functioning demo that, at the very least, could serve as inspiration to those looking to handle a game of similar style. It's a turn-based tactics game that plays out on a hex-based playing field. With far too many mechanics in play early on, this pre-alpha demo is a mixed bag.
The story, tucked away inside the game's tutorial segment, isn't much to write home about, either. Feeling the need for more cash, you learn the basics of movement as you head over to the town's office to accept a mercenary job. Sent out to help two others on their own mission, you learn about party management and the unique skills each character brings to the table. It isn't all about spending your limited actions per turn on movement and attacking. Instead, you'll learn to utilize those abilities to dispatch tougher enemies and to remove obstacles from the playing field. Toward the end you'll begin to make sense of its less than satisfactory UI elements before arriving at its underwhelming conclusion.
If you have someone on hand to play with, however, you can get a little more out of the experience by actually facing off in a real duel to put the system through its paces. Both the roster and map size is, thankfully, larger than the tutorial, so you and a friend can duke it out on equal footing with little effort. It may not be the captivating dream-like experience it attempts to sell through screenshots and music, but it's not bad if you're an amateur developer looking for some new ideas or inspiration.
And that about wraps things up. If you're willing to forgive the order and we all happen to agree on this one, we've highlighted the good, the bad and the ugly this time around. Tanks of Freedom is a throw-back title that stands on its own just fine, There is Only Power can provide hours of entertainment to those who can look passed its bare-bones visuals, whereas Revery: Duel of Dreamers is a proof of concept idea that should be used as little more than a reference tool to those who've played enough strategy titles to know they'd like to make their own.
So long as there's strategy to be had over there, we'll be unearthing more every two weeks. Check back on November 17th for our latest adventure into the (relatively) unknown.