Hunters: Episode One in Review – Jagged Alliance has gone spacewalking on the iOS

For the longest time, I’ve waited for a good squad-based tactical game on the iDevice. We’ve seen an assortment of tactical strategy titles but all are centered more on strategy than true squad-based tactical gameplay. Until now that is. Out of the blue, Rode Games has released a freemium spin on the genre – Hunters: Episode One – probably the first game that truly takes all of us X-Com and Jagged Alliance fans for a spin.

Hunters: Episode One is currently the lone wolf in the squad-based tactics RPG corner on the iDevice. There isn’t any kind of a story, at least for the moment. You control a team of independent mercenaries, executing missions for cash and experience. Though don’t hold your breath yet, the app description promises story missions coming soon, so you may still learn what the fuss is all about.

Hunters’ gameplay can be roughly split into 2 areas – managing your team, including their skills and equipment, and going after missions. The latter are limited to 5 different ones, refreshed once every 24 hours, though no one can stop you from re-playing the mission for extra credits and exp. There are different types of missions, from the simple kill’em all to retrieving an artifact to defending a reactor. All this goodness is presented in variety of landscapes, from the confines of a spaceship to remote snow-covered outposts. All maps are flat though, with no hassle of climbing ladders or anything like that. And no destructible walls, shame.

Controlling your troops is where it’s all at. You can outfit them to have from 3 to 5 action points, with each activity, be it moving across a square, shooting a weapon or opening a door costing one point. Such a low amount of actions means you’ll have to carefully judge what to do, whether to put your team on guard or not to survive the mission. You can further customize your team by changing their loadout with different weapons, varying in firepower, range and upgrading their skills, split across 4 domains (agility, firepower, healing or team buffs).

Hunters does a decent job of scaling the opposition, counting up the relative strength points of your team’s loadout to define the relative levels of your opponents. Similarly it tries to balance the equipment in the shop according to the level of your teammates, though not all is as well here. The game seems to look at the highest level in the team when assembling the equipment list, and offers that and one level above pieces. So if your star member is, i.e. level 7, there will be only level 7 and above equipment in the shop, leaving the rest of your team of 4-6 level guys with garbage stuff, unless you had the cash and foresight to stockpile it. The mission loot items, on the other hand, are complete crap, usable only to sell them off for peanuts.

Visually Hunters looks quite nice, with full Retina support. The view is directly top-down and offers an easy perspective on the action. The controls are very intuitive, though a few of the weapon parameters could use pop-up hints or something like it. The basic version of Hunters is free, with only a single limitation – your teammates can only reach level 2. If you want more out of the game, you’ll have to dish out the $5.99 for an in-app purchase. And if you are lazy, you can buy credits for real-life cash as well.

Despite its flaws there really isn’t a title on the App Store to contend with Hunters. It offers superbly balanced squad-based tactics action and a surprisingly deep RPG component. If the developers uphold their promises and deliver a story-driven campaign along with the promised multiplayer and some shop balances, it may truly become one of the best games I’ve played on the iDevice. Hunters: Episode One gets a definite recommendation from me for both fans hungry for some JA or X-Com action and anyone valuing a good challenge.

With this I declare Hunters: Episode One officially touched!

Grab It Rating - 4/5

App Summary
Title: Hunters: Episode OneDeveloper: Rodeo Games
Reviewed Ver:1.03Min OS Req:4.1
Price:FreeApp Size:121.86MB
  • Superbly balanced gameplay
  • Diverse skill tree
  • Great range of equipment, allowing you to specialize and customize your loadout
  • Randomly generated missions with enemy level balancing
  • Poor shop equipment level balancing
  • No kind of campaign or backstory
  • No multiplayer

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