Most base builders use their combat phases to give you the whiff of an RTS. Look at Clash of Clans, or anything that fits into that same category, and you’ll see what I mean. Drop your units, watch as the war unfolds.
Raid HQ takes a decidedly different approach. The meta game still involves building up an island stronghold, levelling up your holdings, and sucking up resources from the ground, but when you get down to the nitty gritty, the game has more in common with an arcade shooter than a strategy title.
You control a squad of four grunts, swapping and changing them on the fly, weaving through a hail of bullet-hell-ish fire to take down enemies, buildings, and giant mechanical nightmares.
The battles take place over a series of short skirmishes. You poke a finger onto the screen and move it around to control whichever of the four soldiers you’ve got selected. Kill all the bad guys and you move to the next skirmish, and eventually you’ll get a chance to take on the level’s HQ – a towering mix of robot and building.
Your four characters are tied to a color. There’s a rock-paper-scissors style system in play, with colors strong against one hue and weak against another. Lifting your finger slows down time and lets you swap to a different character and unleash super attacks if your characters have any.
The base you build is essentially a level that others can take on in PvP. You spend coins building gun towers, buildings, and other contraptions, as well as troop camps to strengthen the uncontrollable minions that defend each section of your HQ.
The multiplayer aspect will be pretty familiar if you’ve ever picked up a strategy management game. You join a clan, pool your resources, and request extra support from other members to try and power yourself up.
Everything is presented beautifully, from the gorgeous island retreat you call home, to the different conditions on the levels you find yourself stomping through. Lightning flashes, nuclear bombs explode in massive mushroom clouds, tanks let out huge volleys of rockets that follow you around, intent on doing you terrible harm.
There’s a Clash Royale style card-collecting twist too. You earn new squad members as you fight, and duplicate cards can be used to toughen up your soldiers. There’s a rating system too, with loads of common cards floating around, but rare and epic ones much harder to come by.
And the whole thing is a lot of fun. The violence is crisp and delivered in short enough bursts that you can easily grab a few games on the bus, and watching your base grow from a collection of cannons and one building to an enormous, multi-levelled maze of death is wonderfully addictive.
Raid HQ stands as an interesting antidote to the clones we often see filling up the App Store. It does some things we’re all going to be familiar with, but then it sprints off in its own direction. And it’s all the more engaging because of that. There’s something here for shooter fans and more casual gamers to sink their teeth into, and that sparkling layer of polish everything is coated with means your eyes are constantly surprised and your mouth is constantly twisted into a smile.
Throw in a decent level of challenge, some interesting community features, and an ever expanding world to visit and shoot to pieces and you’re left with something pretty special.
Yes, it’s still beset by the repetitive curse of most of this type of game, but thanks to the more interactive combat elements, that malaise is going to take an awful lot longer to suck the fun out of proceedings.