Two years ago, iOS players received a gem in Autumn Dynasty ($1.99), a beautiful real-time strategy game with a unique art style and excellently implemented gameplay. With the recently released Autumn Dynasty Warlords ($1.99), the stakes are raised significantly with a fully functioning turn-based strategy game incorporated on top of the core RTS gameplay. While this sounds like an awesome combination in theory, Warlords implementation leaves plenty to be desired.
If I were to describe Warlords at a glance, I’d call it a mix of Civilization-style turn-based strategy with an RTS combat element. Players start out with one region under their control with amidst a kingdom of lands ripe for the taking. Many are neutral areas ripe for conquest, but you’ll quickly discover AI warlords seeking to rule as well. Conquered provinces earn gold, which can be used to train more troops or build structures that provide benefits to the region. Meanwhile, building and invading regions are wrapped up in a turn-based system. There’s plenty of strategy in terms of what provinces to conquer, which buildings to place on the limited plots of land and whether to engage in diplomacy or sabotage. Simply put, there’s a lot to see in Warlords.
The second half of the game is the RTS portion, and it plays similarly to the original Autumn Dynasty with some changes (for better or worse). The control scheme, smooth battles, and rock-paper-scissors styled gameplay all make a return with the same unique visuals. Supplemental improvements such as the decree system (earned power-ups that modify unit stats) also spice up the basic gameplay. Superficially, fans of the original will feel right at home, but once you get into it, a few big changes become apparent.
For starters, Warlord’s RTS portions feel far more simplified than the original game. Units are more limited in terms of variety and number. The maps lack the variety in terms of setting and scope that I enjoyed in Autumn Dynasty. It feels like a conscious decision was made to simplify and streamline the battles due to the fact that they are now a smaller part of a larger game. I can understand the rationale behind it, but I feel as if they took the strongest aspect of the original and made it limited for the sake of throwing in the other strategy elements.
Those other elements, mainly the turn-based Civilization-esque gameplay, also suffer from a certain lack of depth. While there’s plenty of different buildings to construct, a lot of the advanced structures feel unnecessary. Meanwhile, the game’s spy/diplomacy system almost feels superfluous with a mission structure that takes too long to become useful. Even the game’s system for invading neighboring countries simply feels tacked on. That’s not to say the dedicated player can’t glean some usefulness (along with plenty of content) from mastering all these aspects, but it’s obvious that Warlord’s strongest aspect lies with its RTS portions.
Maybe it’s a classic case of mismanaged expectations, but I almost would have preferred just a direct sequel to Autumn Dynasty without the added layers of gameplay. As it stands, Warlords plays like a game that tries to be everything to everyone but falls a bit short. It’s still a fun game and players that put forth the effort can get enjoyment out of the additions. However, it just didn’t fully do it for me like the original did.