Quark Games’s latest iOS title, Champs: Battlegrounds is an ambitious strategy game looking to shake up the conventional squad-based formula with real-time mechanics. The result is a frenzied albeit tactical experience that is held up by a responsive interface and impressive presentational values.
If you have played any of the genre’s mainstays (Fire Emblem, Final Fantasy Tactics, or -more recently- XCOM: Enemy Unknown) Champs will feel instantly familiar. Players go head to head with opponents on a battlefield comprised of square tiles. After deploying their squads, two teams will navigate around the map, attempting to slay their foes and gain enough points to win the match.
Unlike its already-established counterparts, instead of following a strictly turn-based template, Champs: Battlegrounds accelerates the action with its real-time system. Each member of your squad comes tagged with their own health bar and energy meter, the latter of which rebuilds over time. Energy is needed in order to move or use abilities such as attacks, debuffs, and healing. It’s a simple mechanic and one that is galvanised by a fluid interface which suits touchscreen devices perfectly.
As you switch between the game’s 10-level campaign and quick-play skirmishes, you’ll realise that the trick to Champs is keeping an eye on each unit’s energy bar in order to form a plan of attack. However, with enemy’s constant moving and attacking in real-time, battles can often grow hectic and difficult to manage. It’s fair to say that Champs requires a certain level of dexterity and quick thinking. Those who prefer plodding, drawn-out turn-based battles may need to look elsewhere.
Squads are made up of six units which come in several different varieties. These include melee heroes such as squires and ghouls, healers, and long-range fighters, each with their own speciality. Players are free to experiment with different team compositions; if you want, you could march into battle with six ghouls or six apprentices. However, success usually depends on players having a variety of units in their squad.
Furthermore, individual heroes can be upgraded over time, unlocking new appearances and abilities. As with recruiting new units, this will cost players a sum of Battle Points or Quark Points, both of which can be earned in-game. Therefore, to get the most out of your squad, you’ll need to do plenty of grinding.
Other gameplay nuances include levels of elevation and special tiles. For ranged heroes, you’ll need to get to high ground in order to amplify the distance of your attacks. Also, there are pre-selected tiles on the field that will give units improved energy recharge times if they are stood on top. Though they sound fairly minor, these tweaks add a crucial layer of depth to the gameplay.
Champs: Battlegrounds is a strong strategy title and one that will no doubt draw a crowd thanks to its free-to-play model. The in-game visuals aren’t remarkable though menus are well-presented and canvassed with some brilliant artwork. Overall, Champs is a concise dose of tactical action that will provide a perfect solution for some, and an over-challenging experience for others.