The cliché that nothing good in life is free can be especially true when it comes to to iOS games. Sure, every once in a while you stumble across a truly great free title, but there almost always is a catch. In the case of Ponos' Ballistik Wars [Free], the catch is simple: it's ad-supported. For 99¢ you can get rid of the ads, and you'll want to, because they take up an annoyingly large amount of screen real estate.
So for all intents and purposes, consider your initial download of Ballistik Wars a trial period. If you like it, you can get rid of the ads for an affordable price. It's as simple as that.
As far as the actual game is concerned, Ballistik Wars is a stylized, cartoony castle defense game. As you play through you'll unlock new unit types and you can upgrade your castle and units as you go along. It's not just defense though, it's also attack -- so when you break through the enemy defense you still have their castle to think of.
The bulk of the game is going to be recognizable to anyone who has played a castle defense game, but the upgrade path means it's easy to get stuck unable to beat a level. Unlike most castle defense games, Ballistik Wars doesn't coordinate your energy consumption and unit type unlock together. This means that if you don't upgrade the proper components at the right times, you will be stuck unable to spawn a good counter-strategy. If you could grind, it wouldn't be a big deal, but losing means game over where you can only restart the level or start again from the beginning.
That said, once you get the hang of how everything works, Ballistik Wars is a surprisingly deep game with simple mechanics. Strategy is almost more important than most castle defense games because it's not just about surviving against an enemy onslaught, it's also about attacking their defenses. You need to strategize with multiple stages of attack and defense in mind.
The interface, unit selection and upgrade paths means you'll have a lot of information to store in your brain to get the most out of Ballistik Wars. Thankfully, the visuals are clean and the cartoon graphics keep things simple even in the chaos of battle. Most importantly, the unit types are diverse, so what you're selecting or what you're up against won't confuse you.
As you'd expect with a castle defense game, the units are each with their own strengths and weaknesses. There are also certain units that work better together than others, meaning you'll want to save up and launch two unit types at once to take advantage of the synergy. As you're attacking, you'll get bonus points for completing small meta-goals and the higher your score, the more points you'll get to distribute to upgrade your units.
Ballistik Wars is a good castle defense game with an interesting attack layer to it. If it wasn't so easy to get permanently stuck by upgrading the wrong units, it'd be an easy recommendation, but as long as you're willing to pay special attention to what you're doing, you'll get a lot out of the game. It might look like a casual title, but there is a lot more strategy to it than a glance can reveal.
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