Real-time strategy games require planning and patience with most of them wanting a couple of levels of management, finding a good home on personal computers. There are titles who simplify the managerial tasks and worked their way onto other devices, usually ending with mixed results. Chillingo’s Modern Conflict is an incredibly simple yet challenging take on the genre that suits the iPhone’s bite-sized gaming mentality and touch-screen controls. It does contain a story, one of invasion and political strife that tries to echo the current state of affairs around the globe but any form of narrative is presented between levels as plain text and one that did little to grab me. What did sink its claws in was the ‘just-one-more’ effect that Modern Conflict had over me. I couldn’t put it down which did make the experience quicker than if I approached it more casually but not one that left me feeling short changed once finished.
Like every good tutorial, the one in this game explained the mechanics as it should though there isn’t a great deal that needs clarifying. You control the army of one of three countries; America, Russia and China who all engage in war for the greater good. The playing field shows an almost top down view of the battlefield, peppered with both player and enemy bases. These are linked by dirt roads and in between are bases of a neutral faction. It’s your job to capture all the enemy bases and any neutral camp that sit in the way. Bases contain either tanks or helicopters and differ in shape depending on their filling, displaying the amount of units above. Tap the base once to select half the units or twice for all then tap the next base along the dirt road (for tanks and any base if helicopters are in hand) to initiate a fight or boost the numbers within . Seizing is done by either sending a greater number of units to a base or wearing it down with lots of little attacks. For example, if the enemy or neutral camp shows a number of 10 units, you can send 11 or more of your own to claim it or less if you’d rather chip away at its defences. But selecting the full arsenal of your base will leave it empty until it builds more units (which is done automatically) making it vulnerable. This balance is why Modern Conflict is so very addictive because levels can be over in under a minute or decidedly longer depending on how you play and distribute your units. The utterly simple tap mechanics makes the game so easy to get the hang of and whenever I failed, I always replayed instantly without becoming so frustrated that I needed a break. That’s not to say I didn’t get frustrated however as even trying the game on the easiest setting still resulted in my defeat more times than I’d care to admit. The sense of satisfaction when besting the low AI was no lesser than winning on the hardest setting though so preservation is rewarded even if you find the AI quite tasking.
After completing one of the campaigns, I delved into the Survival mode that randomly generates missions in what feels like an endless supply of levels, each harder than the last. I’ve lost track of how far I am into it but know that I’m yet to tire of this kind of gameplay. It’s great and adds 12 upgradable skills to perfect, creating one almighty army. An online mode is also included with its own achievements and challenges to master and one of six leaderboards to ascend. I found Modern Conflict a brilliant way to spend my time and its current 59p price point (soon to increase to £1.19) pittance to pay for such a fun game. Yes it is hard, hence narrowly missing out on a the top score but works so well in every other way that it’s hard not to highly recommend it for newbies and seasoned real-time strategists.
A highly commendable game with some truly exceptional moments.