Thursday, November 22

Art of War 3 – Global Conflict

The third installment in the Art of War franchise established itself as the supreme RTS game for mobile platforms. For 13 years these games served as the paragon of great strategy games for mobile, and with every sequel the games were more and more polished and refined, resulting in the ultimate strategic experience on the mobile phones. The main reason for their amazing achievements in terms of gameplay and depth of the tactical aspect is the fact that inspiration for the development team wasn’t the current trends in games, but the timeless classics of the genre like Command and Conquer: Red Alert, Dune 2, and Starcraft. Two opposite sides, Confederate vs. Resistance, took the place of USSR and UN, Fremen and Harkonen, or Terran and Zergs.

However, despite the retro influences, the depicted conflict of Confederate vs Resistance is not something you’d call obsolete or quaint. The graphics are beautifully detailed, the soundtrack is mesmerizing, and the story keeps you glued to the screen. The other sustainable factors of immersion are a supreme tactical aspect, PvP and cooperative modes, and a plethora of minute details that really help a player get into the game. With all those details you’d think controls would suffer, but somehow that isn’t the case since the controls are supremely well adjusted for mobile players. All in all, Art of War 3 is technically polished to the highest level in all the crucial aspects. You’ll enjoy leading Confederate or Resistance troops into campaigns and skirmishes.

The central motif in strategic games is the conflict between two juxtapositioned fractions, as was the case with most classic strategies. Art of War 3 depicts the conflict of Confederate vs Resistance, and they represent two asymmetrical sides in the strategic and tactical contest. As you can guess by their names, Confederate is the authoritarian fraction, based on establishing and keeping up the order, and it represents the populistic global idea of the entire world united around one idea, while Resistance is a typical rebellious military organization that uses revolutionary and guerilla warfare and rhetoric to disrupt the world order. Confederates are trying to bring the authoritarian regime based on order to the entire world, while Resistance promotes individual freedom as the ultimate reward, and does everything to forestall Confederates at all costs. The typical “good vs evil” trope is here masterfully averted, since both sides believe they are doing everything for justice and the best interests of well being of all people. This turns out to be a really clever move, since there’s no black and white polarization and the game has some very welcome moral ambiguity, which makes relating with the characters a lot easier. While playing the game, you’ll feel that Confederate and Resistance feel like true armies with plausible ideologies, political affiliations, and ultimate goals.

More than your ideological affiliations, you’ll pick your side by the general preference of your strategic approach. If you like slower, tougher units, with an abundance of firepower and penchant for destruction, your pick would be Confederation. On the other hand, if you’re more into the quick, mobile warfare, with a lot of stealth and sabotage, then your choice would be Resistance. For the sake of the balance, every unit on one side has its equivalent on the other one, but they are still different enough to try both sides. Which you can actually do, you can switch sides from Confederate to Resistance (and the other way around) during the campaign without any penalties, so be sure to try every unit available.

Talking about units, both Confederate and Resistance sides have five classes with three units in each of them. The classes are Infantry, Assault Vehicles, Air Units, Special Vehicles and Marine units. While the four classes are pretty clear, the Special Vehicles are something like wildcard vehicles, which might give special bonuses to the nearby units or attack enemy forces from afar. Confederate Infantry has regular Assault forces, Heavy Assault, which can attack heavy armored objects like tanks or helicopters, and Fire Assault, which is specialized in purging the enemy infantry by fire. Another fire-wielding unit is the Fortress, and the Assault Vehicle, with its Machine Jet Flamethrower that eradicates infantry like ants under a magnifying glass. The fortress can also defuse landmines, so it’s very versatile and useful for burning a path for the infantry.  The philosophy of big, slow, durable, and powerful units that the Confederation likes to use is best seen in Zeus, the heavy unit to end all heavy units. The remaining Assault Vehicle, Hammer, is very effective on the move and against fast units with medium armor. Air Units of the Confederation are Thor, mighty and heavy bombarder, the scout unit Cyclone, and variable range unit Vortex. In Confederate Special Units we have anti-aircraft Typhoon, Energy Shield unit which creates, well, energy shields, and ups the defense of all nearby units, and Torrent, which is used for downloading movies and games (bad pun, I know), and long-distance artillery attacks. Finally, Naval units are consisted of heavily armored, long ranged Poseidon, damage dealing Viking, and amphibian vehicle Delta, which can also detect naval mines (not the landmines, though).

Resistance units emphasize mobility, stealth, diversion, and guerrilla warfare. Their infantry can hide in the jungle and use their stealth. Resistance Infantry units are Rifleman, Grenadier, and Sniper, which are pretty much self-explanatory. Assault vehicles are Coyote, which is a fast recon unit, Armadillo with multiple types of landmines, and heavy siege tanks Jaguars with double-barrelled heavy guns that it can use in both march and siege mode. Resistance Special Units consist of anti-aircraft Porcupine units, long-range howitzer Mammoth, and the camouflage vehicle Chameleon, which gives stealth to all nearby units. Infantry buster for Resistance is the Air Unit called Dragonfly, with guided missiles and machine guns, followed by air-to-air unit Hawk, and the bombing unit Albatross. Naval unit Cayman is another Resistance unit able to place naval mines and to deal with infantry with its heavy machine guns. Alligator is the versatile water unit able to fight ships and aircraft, while Barracuda is the only submarine in the game, visible only to Viking and Cyclone Confederate units. Generally speaking, Resistance units are cheaper, faster, and have a longer attack range.

All Confederate and Resistance units and buildings are upgradeable and customizable multiple times, and that makes the gameplay really rewarding, especially considering the use of the units in multiplayer matches. You can tweak anything, from infantry armor to the airplane weapons. The same thing works for the buildings, you can speed up the production or uncover new units.

There’s no clear answer to the question of who’s better, Confederate or Resistance. It all boils down to your own preference of play style, tactical affinities, and maybe a bit of ideological agenda you’re affiliated to. Every unit has its own strengths and weaknesses, and to make a perfect combination of units that will be able to topple down any opposition, you need to familiarize with every single one of them, and by the most reliable method- pitting them against each other. Resistance has the advantage of quick moving, scouting, sabotaging actions and stealth, and their units are significantly cheaper. Therefore, if you like guerilla warfare with quick trips into the enemy territory, making a mess then scramming, this is the recommended side. On the other hand, Confederate units are slower and more expensive, but they massively outgun and outarmor Resistance units, so if you like consistent and steady advancement over the enemy soil, this is the faction of your choice. Ultimately, the best choice of Confederate vs Resistance is to master both sides and to use their advantages and disadvantages effectively in any possible situation on the battlefield.