One game that aims to find out is Starfront: Collision by Gameloft. Released only on the iPhone and iPod touch so far, Starfront: Collision boasts “intuitive touch screen controls”, “three different factions, each with unique tech trees” and “The first 4-player Local and Online Multiplayer mode” amongst other things.
There is no deviation from the usual RTS single player campaign format. You start as the human Consortium who find some precious Xenodium crystals on a planet called Sinistral and want to mine it all for themselves. They land on the planet and start blasting away at anything which doesn’t look like them.
After you have completed the human campaign you can play the next section which tells the story of the Myriad. These insect like creatures live on Sinistral and are addicted to Xenodium. As such they are a bit pissed off when some strange bipeds arrive and start stealing their drugs.
After the Myriad come the Wardens, a race of sentient robots who also want the Xenodium for some reason or other. Apart from the obligatory convoy missions, most of the single player plays the same way. You start with your HQ, build your resource gathering buildings, build your unit producing buildings, build your tech buildings, tech up, produce units and kill everything on the map.
Starfront: Collision features an impressive 4 player multiplayer mode. You can play locally via Wifi \ Bluetooth or online using Wifi. The online play is smooth with no noticeable lag and matches seem quick and easy to find. You are required to sign up for Gameloft’s 2.0 online service which is yet another username\password to remember but this gets you access to the player ranking system so you can take part in ranked online matches.
As far as balance goes, although Starfront boasts “unique tech trees” the units are generally like for like in each of the three races. This does help with multi player balance and Gameloft has also been releasing frequent balance updates to smooth out any other issues.
By far the most enjoyable thing about Starfront: Collision is the control system. The complex key bindings and frantic mouse moving of PC RTSs can sometimes detract from the experience of controlling your troops and executing your carefully thought out strategies. With the touch screen controls you get that one step closer to your units and feel more directly in control of the action.
The interface is very well laid out with sliding panels which give you the full range of options you would expect in an RTS while keeping the screen free of clutter. Units can be assigned to one of 3 numbered groups to be called upon at the touch of a button. There’s not much chance of touch screen taking over from keyboard and mouse in the hardcore RTS arena yet but it is a step in the right direction.
Starfront: Collision is an enjoyable RTS to play on the go. The single player campaign while nothing new is a good way to get to grips with the controls. The multiplayer in Starfront is fun and challenging though the games can be quite long which doesn’t fit well with gaming on the go. Where Starfront really shines is in the controls. It is refreshing to see an interface designed from the ground up to fit the touch screen. The iPhone screen can feel a little crowded though. Starfront is just screaming out for an iPad version.
7 crystal snorting space aliens out of 10