This is a rather special review, for not only is it my first iPad game and first iPad game review, I’m actually typing up this review in the Pages app, directly on my iPad.
For those who haven’t heard of Warpgate, it was actually announced back in 2009 and seemingly almost disappeared from the radar. Now with the release of the iPad, Freeverse has unleashed its epic spaceship sim exploration game onto the App Store. After multiple hours of playing this game, it is easy to see why it took so long to perfect and finally release this fantastic game.
Warpgate is an overhead space exploration game which allows you to conquer the galaxy or even be a intergalactic hero. The game is essentially divided into four sections; exploration, space combat, trade and missions. Exploration is just as simple as it sounds. With Warpgate’s 3D engine and tap-to-navigate controls, exploring around the many systems of planets is extremely easy and fluid. You’re able to jump systems by using what are called, “Warpgates” (duh!). These Warpgates dump you into other systems with new planets which are often controlled by other races or space factions known throughout the game’s universe.
As you will quickly learn, these other factions will often make or break you. You either earn or decrease your reputation with these factions as you complete missions given to you by each of the planets in their respective solar systems. Stumbling upon a faction that happens to not like you for completing missions set against them, will in turn make them attack you at will. Missions can be picked up at any of the planets within the game and can be dropped at any time should you pick up too many. They range in difficulty and complexity from dropping off equipment in another solar system to being hired as a merc to take out a fleet of opposing ships. So far the missions have all been quite varied and different, making them fun and challenging. It should be noted that while many of the missions will help to drive the game’s main storyline, there are also some simple side missions which can be completed to earn additional credits.
Finally, we have the trade system. Each of the varied planets within Warpgate offer their own “market” of goods which can differ in price, meaning that depending on the solar system, the same quantity of goods may sell for a higher (or lower) profit. It can be quite daunting remembering where to buy low and trade high, so we recommend taking a few notes as you go. Freeverse has created a well thought out and complex trading system. Once you learn to master this skill, you could get rich quite quickly in the game. And of course with great wealth comes the ability to buy better ships, weapons, shields and so on.
Speaking of weapons, combat in this game is extremely simple, maybe a tad too simple. When you see an enemy ship, you simply tap on the target and the option to “attack” lights up in red lettering. Once you hit attack, the screen swirls as if entering a Final Fantasy turn-based battle, pitting you and the enemy against each other. You personally have no direct control of where your ship steers, the ships simply auto-pilot around one another allowing you to focus on firing weapons. While this works quite well and allows the epic battle to look really neat, I would have liked to have a bit more control over my ship. This overall would be my only complaint with this game thus far, yeah…maybe just a tiny bit more control during battles. Oh wait, one more thing, how about the ability to have my game backed up via Plus+’s game save servers. This is one huge game and I can see myself investing MANY hours into it. I’d certainly be nervous having 30+ hours wasted due to a game save bug or something.
Warpgate is fantastic in just about every aspect. From its amazing 3D graphics to the fitting soundtrack and great sound effects. You’re sure to be able to pack TONS of hours into this game, even more so if Freeverse adds additional downloadable content which I’m sure to believe they will. (As of right now, you can buy credits and a couple ships via in-app purchasing). The iPhone/Touch version of Warpgate is just around the corner and will most surely deliver just as good of an experience, although due to the scale of the game, the larger screen of the iPad certainly helps and makes it that much more immersive!
Update 4/19/2009: Freeverse has released an UPDATE (v1.1) to Warpgate HD introducing a brand new Combat system. Per the update notes “Brand New Combat System Control your ship via the Accelerometer to make tactical decisions. Move in for the kill, or keep to out outside as you outrun enemy nukes. New ability to divert all weapon power to the shields. Use the “Shield Boost” button in combat to dump the power normally found in your weapons back into your shield.” Freeverse was listening. =) Fantastic job guys.