“Theirs not to make reply,
Theirs not to reason why,
Theirs but to do and die”
There’s something about the endless onslaught of Fieldrunners that prompts the remembrance of past warfare. As Lord Tennyson’s famous poem captures so well, the huge sacrifices of war are often courageous and tragic. Throughout history, men have gone into battle with sometimes ludicrous odds stacked against them, but with a steady determination to succeed nevertheless.
Fieldrunners pits two armies against each other in a relentless war of attrition. One side marches passively from one point on the battlefield to the other, holding their fire. The defending army that you control is content to hold their position and fire at the oncoming hordes. No matter how many casualties the aggressor sustains, the tactics remain the same; increase the number and armour of the troops until they break through.
This, then, is a tower defence game at its heart. Starting with an empty space and a meagre budget, your job is to build up a series of fortifications and stop the enemy from reaching their goal. Fieldrunners provides you with six towers to do this with, from simple machine guns and missiles to Tesla coils and flamethrowers. Destroying enemy units earns you money which can then be spent on additional defences and upgrades for your current ones.
Three maps are provided, each of which comes with three difficulty levels and three modes. There’s Classic, where you have to hold out for 100 rounds; Extended, which is the same but you have access to all six towers; and Endless, which continues until all of your 20 lives are gone.
Commanding your army is an intuitive and painless process, thanks to a user interface which is ideally suited to a touchscreen. You can pan around the map by dragging your finger across the screen and zoom using the standard pinch gesture. Building towers is a simple case of dragging them from the bottom of the screen and onto the map, while upgrading and selling units is accessed via a simple tap. Once you’ve built a sizeable defensive position, it’s tempting to just leave the game playing and accumulate money while you do something else. Fortunately, an unlockable fast-forward control is available soon after your first few games.
In terms of presentation, Fieldrunners is about the same as comparable iPhone games out there and this is perhaps the only negative thing that can be said about it. The artwork is great and the user interface is clear, but the actual visuals don’t push the boundaries of the hardware like others do. That said, because of this, it’s possible to play it for a few hours because it doesn’t place huge demands on the hardware.
It’s extremely easy to become immersed in Fieldrunners. Although you can pause games and save your progress to resume later, you’ll often find yourself playing for an hour or two, trying to find the perfect setup to stop the endless tide of troops flooding the battlefield.
Fieldrunners is a stellar example of handheld games development. The simple premise and slick controls make it easy to get into, yet to truly master it takes days. You can play it for 15 minutes while waiting in a queue or for a whole hour commute. Either way, wars of attrition have never been so much fun.
Version reviewed: 1.2.3