You’ve almost certainly played something like Mobile Strike before. Moulded in the style of Game of War: Fire Age — itself being remarkably similar to so many other free to play strategy games — Mobile Strike is a heck of a lot of busywork and not much else.

Starting out, you’re given a wealth of different tasks as you aim to establish the best military base of them all. Unlike Game of War: Fire Age, Mobile Strike is set in modern times, but similar rules apply. The game is a series of cluttered screens with your base frequently hidden behind a number of icons and notifications. That’s probably a good thing, as Mobile Strike isn’t exactly pretty to look at.

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Your base is essentially a grid-based layout, allowing for you to place new structures as and when the tutorial encourages you. That tutorial is long, too, with a seemingly endless stream of objectives to work toward, alongside explanations on why you’d want to do any of that. Early buildings simply require you to tap on them a few times to initiate the upgrade, before following that up with a ‘speed up’ button to conclude with building. That means that you can achieve a lot in your first hour with Mobile Strike, but it rarely feels very interesting. Instead of engaging you through a gripping storyline or unlocking new content in some way, it all feels quite banal. In each case, you’re told what such an upgrade will unlock for you and why you need it, but it’s still pretty soulless. Ultimately, you find yourself upgrading such things simply because the game told you to do so rather than because you want to see what could come next.

It’s a confusing concept, simply because achieving so much so quickly should give you some sense of satisfaction. There’s always something to do, whether it’s pursuing a core mission, alliance mission, or daily task, but it’s all so lifeless and samey. You’re repeatedly tapping on upgrading buildings before waiting it out for yet another timer to finish up. You frequently level up your commander during this time, unlocking new skills, but it’s a while till you realize just how useful this can be in the long run.

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That’s because Mobile Strike’s strengths lie in working as part of a team. Join an alliance and you can co-ordinate with other players, working toward fighting your enemies and ultimately becoming much stronger. That side of things is still a ton of busywork though, rather than getting you truly involved. You can chat and plan with your fellow members, but it’s all something you’ll have done before elsewhere. You don’t exactly feel part of any battle. Instead, you’re simply waiting to see what happens before retraining some troops to do it all over again.

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Mobile Strike is quite disturbingly keen to throw icons, notifications, and timers at you too. It sums up all the evils of free-to-play gaming in one fell swoop. Want to skip ahead of anything? You can buy boosts for your timers — for a price, of course. Want extra gold or any other kind of currency? Mobile Strike loves to give you an option for such purchases, all at a price that soon adds up. If it was hidden away a little, this wouldn’t be so bad, but Mobile Strike thrusts it to the fore, overly desperate for you to pay up for a gain that you won’t particularly appreciate.

Maybe Mobile Strike will hook some people in — presumably those less interested in hands-on gaming — but for most, it’ll simply be an ideal example of the more insidious side of free-to-play gaming. Expect plenty of tapping and not much strategy or deep thought here.