Susume Tactics – Review

Title   Susume Tactics
Developer  Sugra Games
Publisher  Sugra Games
Platform  Android (reviewed), iOS, PSP
Genre  Real-time Strategy
Release Date  April 30th, 2015
Official Site

Sometimes, a general requires a great strategic mind to win a battle. Knowing where to place the right troops, what’s more effective in certain areas, and what time to attack are all key things to remember. And the satisfaction of making all these components work together is like nothing you’ve ever felt. But for some generals, all they need is an endless number of men willing to run straight to the action and fight until they die. Games have been able to service both types of general in many ways in the RTS genre, but it’s pretty clear from the offset that Susume Tactics is geared for those who follow the latter general’s tactics.

Susume Tactics sees you taking charge of a small army of tanks, which you send off to fight giant alien shape-things in randomly generated arenas. Your goal is to kill everything on the screen, pick up what they leave behind, and use those resources to make more tanks. It’s a simple premise, but it’s perfectly serviceable, especially if you’re only planning on jumping in for a short session on your phone.

The main meat of the game is found in War Mode, except you can’t play War Mode until you’ve beaten Arcade Mode on Evil difficulty. So first you must play Tutorial difficulty, which doesn’t actually provide you with any kind of tutorial. It’s fairly simple to work out what you need to do, however, simply by mashing at the screen. Touching the mothership unit lets you choose which unit to spawn in, and touching a unit lets you draw a straight line to where you want it to go. Your units can’t be set to target enemies, as they all auto-target the nearest enemy based on their own traits. So your normal tanks will shoot the nearest enemy, missile tanks will fire at enemies with the lowest HP in their range, and so on.

It works in practice, right up until the point you realise that all of your units are idiots who couldn’t wipe their own arse unless you were stood there holding the toilet roll. At the start of a battle, your units will simply begin travelling in any direction, or stay right where they are, rather than advancing towards the enemy. You can argue that this is because they don’t know where the enemy may be, but the enemy is always on the opposite side of the map to you, so why they can’t all just travel straight forwards is beyond me. Because of this, you have to manually tell almost all of your units to start moving forwards, which is a boring, pointless exercise that could’ve been avoided if they just travelled in the right direction first time.

Once they find their way to an enemy, they’ll either continue moving past it to the point you’ve designated for them, or sit still and fire. If a wall is in their way when they decide to start shooting, they’ll sit still and keep shooting the wall until it’s destroyed. This can then lead to your whole army sitting in front of a wall, slowly chipping away at it, and requiring you to show them where there’s already a gap, which, again, requires manually directing your whole army individually. There’s no option to select more than one unit, which would bypass this annoyance really quite effectively and save you a lot of time. And units on low health will attempt to retreat, but won’t refuse you if you send them back into the battle, making you wonder why they bother to attempt retreating at all.

What you can do, after pointing your units in the right direction, is put your phone down and go do something else for five minutes until you win. The only “tactic” I found useful in Susume Tactics is to spawn as many of the biggest tanks you can, send them all towards the enemy, and keep building more. Overwhelming the enemy is really all you need to do, rather than creating a mix of units or flanking or any of that nonsense. You can win every battle by building an army of forty tanks and then wandering off to make a sandwich. If you really can’t be bothered, you don’t even have to redirect any tanks that may have chosen to drive off in the wrong direction, since the enemy continually advances towards you and will be on top of those units before too long.

This tactic served me spectacularly well through Tutorial, Easy, Medium and Evil difficulty of Arcade Mode, and I’d unlocked War Mode in about half an hour of play. War Mode mixes things up in a few ways. Whereas in Arcade Mode units are available depending on what difficulty you’re playing, War Mode requires you to collect resources dropped by dead enemies in order to unlock new units. This makes the first few encounters a little trickier than normal, as most of the enemy units can kill your basic tank units in one hit, so you’ll have to make sure you keep spawning new units in at all times. There’s also an overworld to manoeuvre around, which has cities and bases that need to be protected from enemy units. Moving to a city lets you repair all your units at the start of the next turn, which also costs you a turn, and losing all your cities means game over.

But keeping your cities isn’t much of a task once you’ve got your army built up, which only takes a battle or two. I managed to survive an entire game of War Mode with an endless onslaught of the weakest tanks, as I wasn’t unlocking the better tanks for some reason, and a handful of missile units. I lost a few cities, sure, but in the end I didn’t do too badly. At the end of a game you’re given points based on how many kills you got and how many cities you have left, your score is put on a leaderboard, and you’re booted back to the title screen. It’s a twenty minute experience that feels like it should be longer.

Still, I’m not sure Susume Tactics can be faulted for being short. As a quick mobile game to fire up on your lunch break, it’s certainly deeper than most of the games out there, and you can pretty easily put it down and come back to it later. But the battles themselves are so underwhelming and dull that it never really feels like you’re doing much, other than watch a bunch of tanks you have very little control over move about on a screen, and often in the wrong direction.

The old-school aesthetic is charming, however, and the variety of units and enemies does help to draw you in. Your own units look a little basic, but the enemies are, in general, well-designed and colourful. The rest of the world is quite drab in comparison, with just a simple black background and the occasional bits of grey wall, but it does help you focus on the action. Sound-wise there’s not a whole lot to talk about, beyond one simple electronic beat serving as background music, and the retro bleeps and bloops of sound effects keeping the aesthetic nailed down in the 16-bit era. It’s all fairly standard across the board – nothing amazing, but nothing too aggravating either.

Overall, I find it quite hard to be particularly enthused by Susume Tactics. It’s a relatively solid strategy game, marred by idiotic AI and an abject lack of tactical thinking required. It looks and sounds right for the retro theme, but it’s not enough to warrant a purchase. Still, if you’re looking for something throwaway on your phone that has a bit more depth to it than your standard endless runner or 2048 rip-off, then this might be worth a punt. Just don’t expect to really need to use your brain all that much.

  • Nails the look and feel of a 16-bit era game
  • Obliterating enemies is always good fun
  • A pleasant enough time-waster for your phone
  • Incredibly stupid AI that rarely heads towards the action
  • No tactics to speak of other than "make lots of tanks"
  • An ultimately shallow experience

Susume Tactics is a game that, on first glance, looks like it might be worth a punt. It's got the look and feel of a game that could go places, and any kind of RTS on a mobile is usually worth checking out, if only for a change. But it's too simplistic and too shallow to warrant anything more than a few minutes of play. And that's fine if that's all you're looking for, but even then most of your time will be spent dealing with your idiotic units. It might be worth a look if you've got nothing else to play, but go in with low expectations.

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