The mobile games industry is currently enjoying a boom period. The rising popularity of tablets and smart devices has made a landscape where almost everyone is a gamer whether they consider themselves one or not. Still, even with such a vast, varying audience, many companies struggle to find that special sauce to bring over beloved genres to touch devices. One such genre is real time strategy (or RTS). To many, this style of game, which emphasizes building, strategy and long term thinking, only really works with a mouse and keyboard. Yet, some believe smart devices could be another hotspot for RTS fans everywhere. One such company is KIXEYE, a company currently working on a sequel to its insanely popular 2010 MMORTS War Commander, with War Commander: Rogue Assault, which is now available for iOS and Android. With industry veteran Louis Castle, known for creating the Command & Conquer series, at the helm, War Commander: Rogue Assault looks to make a game that can appease long time RTSers and new fans can enjoy.
Originally brought on as a contractor in 2014 to help change the art direction for War Commander: Rogue Assault, Castle eventually filled the position of creative director of the game. But even earlier in the development cycle, Castle believes the product was ready for launch.
“It was… a fully functional product it could have been launched and many companies would have launched it back in early 2015,” says Castle. “But if they did that, it wasn’t likely to have the long term, many year success they had with other titles.”
So, Castle along with his team worked to improve the experience, tailoring an RTS game for mobile devices. Using the Unity engine, the first six months to a year of development were extremely rapid according to Castle. After that point, the team spent a lot of time customizing Unity.
“Building a game on Unity is really exciting when it comes to rapid prototyping which is what got War Commander: Rogue Assault to be a 3D game…” says Castle. “The two biggest strengths of Unity are rapidly getting something up and running… and also that it can get up on so many platforms so easily.”
One of the biggest contrasts RTSs have compared to smart devices is the amount of time required to play a match. In War Commander: Rogue Assault, matches are shorter—with other matches lasting longer if the player chooses— but there are more pop in options for players looking for something to kill time with in a line or on the go.
Resource recovery is a big feature for War Commander: Rogue Assault. During skirmishes players collect metal that is used to build structures and units. This is where War Commander: Rogue Assault really appeals to on the go players. Inspired by what Castle calls mobile games 3.0, War Commander: Rogue Assault doesn’t halt progress. Building is not a process, creating units isn’t either. As long as players have enough resources, they can pop in, build a unit or structure, or upgrade one as they see fit instantly, bucking a longstanding trend in the genre. Progress actually takes longer in many cases in War Commander: Rogue Assault, as the expanding your base is meant to take months over the course of a user’s time instead of the hour or two in a single play session that you normally have on a PC title. Progress is determined by actually playing. There is a bit of a grind, but unlike many free to play idle games found on the App Store or Google Play, War Commander: Rogue Assault’s purchase system is not needed, but is available if players choose.
“If they decide to pay, they pay because it makes their experiences more exciting and more entertaining,” “The two things we don’t want to do is force you to pay, or have you pay not to play,” says Castle commenting on pay to win models. “If they decide to pay, they pay because it makes their experiences more exciting and more entertaining.”
Aside from its genre-defying take on building and progress, and its platform-defying take on the free to play model War Commander: Rogue Assault also boasts a heavy focus on online action. There’s a bit of asynchronous play that blends a tower defense with building offense. After a while, players gain access to a world map, which highlights Western Europe and North Africa. This is where players place bases and the like on a large map in real time collaborating with other users in alliance play. There’s a very deliberate progression to online mode, which culminates into large-scale alliance versus alliance battles, if players choose to join an alliance.
That online functionality could be what makes believers out of long time RTS fans when it comes to mobile platforms, but what might make them stick is the direct control method featured in War Commander: Rogue Assault. Players can literally point to where they want their units to move to and attack. It’s a level of control that benefits the genre more than any command scheme aside from the traditional mouse and keyboard. While it’s encouraged to keep units together to ensure strength, they can separate and cause mayhem separately. But if that happens, with a quick tap of a button, all units can be controlled at once again, making gameplay easy to pick up and play for new beginners, but nuanced enough for veterans to enjoy too.
With one of the most recognizable names in gaming at the helm War Commander: Rogue Assault might be the next step forward for the RTS genre, and it couldn’t come at a more opportune time. With mobile devices doubling as game machines to many, it only makes sense to bring a genre that hasn’t worked outside of PC to this more interactive platform. With an interesting control scheme, and a robust online experience, War Commander: Rogue Assault has the makings of a memorable experience.