Robot-on-robot violence with a fairly significant caveat.

Most people like gladiatorial combat. It’s been a significant part of human society for centuries. Roman gladiators, arm wrestling, boxers, “professional” wrestlers, MMA fighters, about 50% of Jean Claude Van Damme movies, there’s just something about it that pleases a great deal of folks. Naturally the next step is to use robots to cut back on medical expenses, however this particular robot brawler has a very significant drawback.

Epic Mech Wars is all about one-on-one robot violence. Players begin with a fairly basic fighter, earn some cash through destroying an opponent or two, then start upgrading. The robot’s body, head, gun, shield, jump pack, and armor plates can all be exchanged for more expensive (and by extension more effective) models until players have crafted their ideal “killing” machine. The actual combat is much more straightforward. Enemies offering up various rewards upon defeat are picked from a list, then players attempt to tap their screen at the right time to initiate a critical blow for extra damage while their opponent fights back automatically. Victory means more money which means better parts, leading to tougher fights with larger payouts.

Despite looking an awful lot like Space Marines right out of Warhammer 40K, the bots themselves sport some decent designs. A few pieces here and there might not match up quite right but overall it’s fairly easy to create an effective warrior who actually looks the part. As with many combat-themed freemium titles there’s also the ever present draw of incremental upgrades; both to the bot itself and the combat roster. One could argue that the fighting itself is too simple to really be enjoyable, but it feels like Epic Mech Wars is more about the “mech” than the “wars,” and as such I don’t really find such unobtrusive combat mechanics to be a problem. It means I can fight really quick, then get back to customizing.

However there are two rather significant problems with Epic Mech Wars. Both involve it being free-to-play, and only one of them can be remedied by shelling out some cash. First and possibly most immediately noticeable are the ads. These things pop up all the time in the most irritating places, and sometimes don’t even go away after repeated tapping of the “close” button. There’s also a bit of lag in their appearance at times, which has resulted in me tapping a menu button only to have the ad pop up a fraction of a second later and register as being tapped. Then I’m whisked away to Safari and an obnoxious game of App Roulette that I’d rather not have to play. Either paying to remove the ads or playing in Airplane mode takes care of the problem, but neither option will help the game’s biggest transgression.

Epic Mech Wars

Most iOS gamers are familiar with the basic freemium model: Energy and health are finite resources that run out after so many actions and take time or special items to recharge. Epic Mech Wars is no different in this regard. The problem is that, while it uses the same model, neither resource recharges when the game isn’t running. In other words, unless players want to spend all their hard-earned money on health items rather than upgrading their mech, they’ll have to turn the game on and just sort of set it off to the side and let it do its thing – possibly tapping the screen every so often to keep their device from going to sleep. At the risk of sounding like a know-it-all, I have to say that’s a terrible way to utilize free-to-play mechanics.

Considering the lack of cost and overall accessibility, as well as the boatload of part configurations, there’s a lot to enjoy when playing Epic Mech Wars. It’s just a shame (to a rather significant degree) that so much of what’s meant to keep players playing is implemented so poorly. I suppose if someone’s willing to keep their iOS device on at all times in order to move up the ranks and save up for better parts they’re bound to have fun, but I still feel like that’s a rather ridiculous request to make of one’s user base.