The titan bestrode the battlefield like a colossus, towering head and shoulders above its enemies; master of all it surveyed. No-one could challenge its devastating supremacy. Then the unthinkable happened. Facebook gaming declined and mobile became the land of milk and honey; the mighty Zynga stumbled and other behemoths arose to conquer the virgin terrain.
In an effort to adapt to the new landscape, Zynga purchased Natural Motion, a UK-based studio that pushed the limits of mobile gaming. Natural Motion were riding high on the release of CSR Racing and Clumsy Ninja, making games a visual cut above the competition. Apple, keen to showcase their technical capabilities, duly promoted the titles on the app store and they sold like interactive hotcakes.
Despite the initial success, there were problems. The games had an end point and lacked the longevity of blockbusters like Supercell’s Clash of Clans. With the vast financial clout of Tencent behind them, Supercell seems to have an unassailable lead at the top of the mobile tree. Zynga and Natural Motion are seeking to topple these goliaths with the launch of Dawn of Titans.
Dawn of Titans – The Game
Dawn of Titans is an ambitious strategy game that combines free-to-play mechanics with action-strategy gameplay. Set in a fantasy land of swords and sorcery, you build your base, recruit vast armies and deal destruction upon your enemies. The resurgence of magic has caused huge titans to reappear in the land and control of these powerful beings is crucial to plans for domination.
There are two main parts to the game – base-building and real-time control of battles. Rewards earned from battles help build the base so you can recruit better troops for the battles. As you might expect from a Natural Motion game, it is visually very impressive. The graphics are amongst the best you’ll see on mobile and are highly reminiscent of Creative Assembly’s Total War franchise. The world is highly immersive and battles have a great sense of scale with large armies confronting each other on the field. The sight of Titans wielding huge weapons and sending vast swathes of enemy troops flying is a joy to behold.
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Dawn of Titans Review – The Battles
Sensibly, Natural Motion drops you straight into combat with action right from the start. You begin the game with three companies and a Titan to help fend off an attack from an ambitious neighbor.
Controls are very simple – touch units to select and either drag out paths to move along or touch an enemy to order direct attack. The AI auto-attacks enemies within range, but there is enough feeling of control to seem like you are affecting the outcome of the battle.
A variety of units (including different titans) and a number of spells makes a fair amount of gameplay depth for a mobile title. The battles feel polished and are, of course, bite-sized so you can get your fix between the chores of daily life.
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Dawn of Titans – Ace of Base
Once initial action subsides, you reach the base building section. Build things such as barracks to train troops and farms to make food. Though dressed up very nicely, it is classic free-to-play fodder here. Different resources such as food and gold go to construct new buildings and recruit troops which both take time to complete. This is where gems come in. Gems are another resource that you either earn through playing the game or by spending hard cash. With gems you can instantly recruit units or upgrade buildings.
Base building is where Natural Motion hopes to earn money and longevity for the game. I think this is where they may struggle. The prettiness of the base is a bit of a double-edged sword. It is set in the same environment as the battles, which I’m sure saves loading times and memory, but it means it is spread out and can be confusing to navigate. The tutorial goes someway to help, but it is nowhere near as clear as the bases in Clash of Clans.
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Money, Money, Money
The free-to-play aspect of the game is reasonably well done. You can pay cash to speed reach the later levels a lot quicker or, if you have the patience, wait it out and progress naturally. At the start of the game, this is well-balanced, things don’t take too long so you are not forced to spend cash straight away. However, there is sure to be a steep curve later on where advanced buildings and troops take a long time, encouraging you to splash the gems. My only gripe is that the initial tutorial about spending gems was a bit hard-sell. It inferred you needed to spend gems or you would not get troops in time to deal with an attack, which is simply not true.
Overall I think that Dawn of Titans is an exciting mid-core strategy title. Battles are well-paced and fun and the base-building appeals to a lot of people. But do I think it’s a Supercell crusher? I’m not so sure. I don’t know who this game is aimed at. I suspect its strategy-lite nature has limited appeal for hard-core strategy fans and it seems overly complicated for casual gamers. I doubt they will convert enough strategy newcomers to challenge the might of Clash of Clans.
Andy Trowers is a game design consultant, freelance ne’er do well and staff writer for www.for-sale.co.uk/!