Review: Mytran Wars

MytranWars.jpg It is a storyline that has been tapped many times before: a few hundred years in the future mankind has exhausted our resources and is depending on resources from another planet to provide humans with a future. From there you get the basis of the turn-based technology-centric battle system and a mission structure with loads of branching potential. You also find the myriad minor flaws that hold Mytran Wars back from greatness. But does it do enough things right to make it worth a purchase? Read on and find out!

As mentioned, mankind is running out of resources, and you are a potential new commander of the armed forces wing of the Kondor Corps, and as you join you learn that they have discovered a rich source of natural resources – but there is a problem as they have also discovered an alien race and, as is too often the case in reality, decided to wipe it out. It is a decent introduction laced with some well-defined (albeit stereotypical) characters and a comic-book visual style that works really well in presenting the basic setup.

Sadly, once you get into the game, you will find anything not directly related to conducting missions more irritating than anything else. Once presented with the introduction, the game doesn’t really seem very interested in more than dumping a pile of scenes based on snarky one-liners back and forth. That continues into the rather annoying voice acting that will have you quickly muting the sound so it doesn’t interfere with your enjoyment of the game. The soundtrack that accompanies the missions is relatively harmless but totally forgettable – in other words, if you hate the voice acting you won’t be bothered too much when you mute the sound and lose the soundtrack as well.

Fortunately the game looks pretty good: the mechs are detailed and the environments are well thought out, but the colorful visual style is at odds with what is actually going on in the game. But that is often a problem with games in this genre. There are plenty of animations and combat effects and they all look pretty good. The slick sliding-style cutscenes and character pop-ins continue throughout and look very good.

But fans of turn-based strategy games are often willing to toss aside some technical limitations in order to get at the reason they have shown up: the combat system. Strategy games are only as good as their battles and tech trees, so it is a good thing that after all of my criticisms I can say that after the cringe-worthy cutscenes you will gladly retreat into battle. In terms of missions, there are loads of them, and just about all of them offer a significant amount of variety and branching elements that allow you to make choices that will impact the way the game plays out. It is rewarding to see this done pretty effectively, since so many handheld strategy games ultimately end at ‘win or lose’ as your options.

Completing combat and missions gains you choices on the technology advancement trees to advance your mechs. You can create a very powerful and diverse team by putting some thought into your selections, and in turn that allows you to do better in subsequent battles. Combat itself utilizes skills and flanking mechanics in addition to strike and counterstrike, line of sight and other common strategy game techniques.

Of course, everything isn’t perfect. The game gives you an unlimited healing skill that only requires a cool down period rather than more typical disposable healing items. This causes some issues during combat as it shifts the typical ‘wear them down’ tactic, and while it impacts both sides equally it ends up feeling like a cheap tactic that works against the normal course of events. Also, while I love it when a game shifts objectives mid-mission, it is a very tricky and dynamic event and needs to be properly supported throughout the mission. A few times things changed but there were no indications of HOW they impacted everything else going on. Finally, there are no in-game saves. Since this is a handheld game I see no reason why this was omitted. I know it makes for a more ‘hardcore’ experience, but the missions can take quite a while, and not having the ability to leave and return to finish or mark a check-point in case you make a terrible error is just not fun.

I remember back in 2006 when the publishers of Field Commander went around arrogantly proclaiming their game as ‘Advance Wars for grown-ups’. My take was that it was a pretty mediocre attempt to clone Advance Wars and give it a ‘dark & gritty’ feel. Mytran Wars has no such delusions – it sets out to be a solid and fun strategy game that offers plenty of depth but doesn’t take itself too seriously, and largely it succeeds. There are enough little issues and minor systemic problems to hold me back from recommending this game as a ‘Buy It’, but if you are a fan of either the mech or strategy genres, own a PSP and are looking for a new game, you could do far worse than Mytran Wars.

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Pros:
+ Nice turn-based combat system
+ Solid tech tree
+ Effective graphic style

Cons:
– Mission bugs are occasionally annoying
– No in-mission saves means ‘finish it or lose it’
– Voice acting is annoying

Game Info:
Platform: PSP
Publisher: Deep Silver
Developer: Stormregion
Release Date: 10/26/09
Genre: Turn-Based Strategy
ESRB Rating: Teen
Players: 1-2
Source: Review copy provided by publisher

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About the Author

I have loved technology for as long as I can remember - and have been a computer gamer since the PDP-10! Mobile Technology has played a major role in my life - I have used an electronic companion since the HP95LX more than 20 years ago, and have been a 'Laptop First' person since my Compaq LTE Lite 3/20 and Powerbook 170 back in 1991! As an avid gamer and gadget-junkie I was constantly asked for my opinions on new technology, which led to writing small blurbs ... and eventually becoming a reviewer many years ago. My family is my biggest priority in life, and they alternate between loving and tolerating my gaming and gadget hobbies ... but ultimately benefits from the addition of technology to our lives!