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iPad App Video Review: RAVENMARK: Mercenaries

by Andrew Koziara

Ravenmark: Scourge of Estellion stands as one of the most deep and involving strategy games on iOS. With an extremely well developed world, a great story, and an awesome set of mechanics, it really made an impression on iOS strategy fans. Well now developer Witching Hour Studios has come back with a sequel of sorts, in the form of an asynchronous multiplayer version of the game called Ravenmark: Mercenaries.

Officially taking place long after the events of the first game, you play as a commander of your imagining in one of the three available factions. Factions mostly affect what you start with in terms of units and formations, but you can eventually unlock pretty much everything. A huge part of the game is managing your divisions, which can each hold up to four squads.

These mechanics are aimed at the really hardcore strategist within you. At the base of everything is a rock, paper, scissors model, in which Infantry beats Pike beats Cavalry beats Archers beats Infantry. But the rabbit hole goes so much deeper. With the ability to create formations of men, and give standing orders that will be enacted every round without you wasting your precious few command points, things get crazy. Especially when you hit snags, like not noticing the map you're on has a lot of shrubbery impeding formation movement. Different units also have special abilities to throw into the mix.

When both you and your opponent have input all your moves, the battle phase ensues. While you're waiting for that to happen, you can take squads and divisions into the offline contract missions. These include smaller missions carried out automatically for small rewards, and border skirmishes that act as AI opponent battles. If this game has any flaws, it's that, as with many asynchronous multiplayer games, you'll sometimes wait days for them to make their moves. Sadly, since you can't use a division for more than one task at a time, this means you're eventually forced to surrender if you want to do anything ever again. Not very well thought out. They definitely could use a timer for your moves, like in deck building card games such as Ascension: Chronicle of the Godslayer.

The visuals are nicely done. The story is told through visual novel style sequences with even sharper art, and the interface is the same easy to use variety found in the original. Everything, from the units to the world to the history, is exquisitely detailed and explained in the Codex. The original game still stands as one of the best turn based strategy games on mobile. Now, you can challenge your real life friends to matches using the amazing systems they've created, which is worth a recommendation on its own. All the extra management stuff that comes with it is just a bonus. The game is totally free. Give it a look.