It’s been close to 10 years since we were treated to the glory that was Advance Wars, and the signs are definitely not good for fans of the franchise, with Nintendo tasting the sweet nectar of Fire Emblem and not stopping anytime soon.
The turn-based tactical genre is not new, so why no one has taken advantage of this gaping hole in the market is befuddling, but like most niche genres these days, we can turn to the indies to provide.Area 35 is the Japanese studio behind Tiny Metal on the Nintendo Switch and Steam, a modern take on what Advance Wars, if you would. Stylish anime characters waging a war with units that are counters and can be countered, much like Fire Emblem’s weapon triangle. You control units on a grid, clash against the opposing army, all while trying to gain control of cities that produce resources and factories that churn out units.
Pretty straightforward stuff, and Tiny Metal does well on this front, but on others, not so much.
Each unit has its clear pros and cons, and will greatly influence your strategy as you size up your foe. Tanks are great for destroying vehicles, but are susceptible to air units and anti-tank infantry, helicopter gunships make quick work of ground units, but are vulnerable to fighters. The list goes on, making for a diverse and tactics-heavy time with Tiny Metal, and that is awesome.What is not awesome is the cumbersome AI, which, sometimes, comes across as anything but intelligent. Throughout the 14 main missions and a couple of secret unlockable side missions, the lack of challenge is a downer. In scenarios where you are facing overwhelming power, the turning of the tide is more a formality than your strategy paying off.
The tactics I used to weed out the more powerful units were almost always successful, and the AI was incapable of matching or even neutralising a tried and tested bait and switch no matter the mission or map.This creates a lack of urgency or even worry, unless you are making deliberate mistakes, there is little that could cost you a victory. The objectives are also a big part of this underwhelming package, when you know you either have to eliminate all enemies or capture their HQ, it’s in the bag every single time.
Even the New Game+ mode that is unlocked after the campaign’s completion does little to challenge players, and wading through the cliched and uninspiring story does not help.
You would think the problem of poor AI can be counteracted by playing against another player, and I would agree, if only that was possible. The online multiplayer mode is yet to be enabled, with Area 35 promising to update the game with more content in the future, including PVP.Tiny Metal is also a tale of tropes, the young hotshot, a mysterious ally, an assassinated king, and a mad foe, there is little to make you care about these characters nor their struggles. While there are certain interesting twists and turns, it is still bogged down by pointless and dragged out exposition and not enough fun to be had.
Beneath its anime stylings and drawing on the nostalgia of Advance Wars, Tiny Metal is a poor imitation of a beloved franchise. With no multiplayer, it ends up no more than just a series of foregone conclusions and wasted potential. I did have fun playing the game, but it’s definitely not good enough to overlook all the issues dogging it.