Even though I have been a huge fan of strategy games ever since I first discovered the Command and Conquer series as a kid I have somehow managed to avoid the card styled strategy games and I didn’t really feel like I was missing anything, until I watched the trailer for The Trouble With Robots and decided to give it a whirl. The Trouble With Robots is a quirky strategy game with a customizable card based element and the first game from indie studio Digital Chestnut, it is also a whole load of fun so check out the gameplay trailer below:The setting for The Trouble With Robots is a fantasy world which inexplicably starts to get invaded by robots from another planet, this invasion causes a call to arms for any able bodied peasant along with all manner of fantasy creatures as you attempt to curve the invasion and kick some serious robot butt. I don’t think you need me to tell you that this game is packed with humour and puns throughout as the dialog unfolds between the humans and robots making for a pleasant narrative. Although the story is very lively, likeable and full of wit it often feels like the story is actually quite weak overall in terms of its content only communicating a few basic ideas such as the robots wanting to build cities across the planet but for the most part it lacks depth and development, making the story much more of a vessel for humour then anything more meaningful.
The setting is very well thought out, the fantasy meets Sci-Fi is a novel twist and makes for some great dialog, great areas and very nice visuals overall. Just by looking at the game you get a sense that a lot of effort went into creating this great fictitious world spanning a whole variety of locations all elegantly created by the games very skilled artists. All the art is superbly drawn in a fantastic cartoon styling which really helps to emphasise a lot of the comedy encased within this game, nothing is taken too seriously and is always sure to put a smile on your face via the comments made by the two warring factions.
The Trouble With Robots is A card based strategy game at the heart of its gameplay and thus hinges on a good system that is fun yet diverse enough to carry itself throughout the entire game and from what I can tell the system works perfectly. The card system starts very basic only giving you access to five cards at the start of the game and gradually as you play through the game more cards are unlocked, some performance related others level based but either way there is a total of 40 cards to unlock. Although the total selection can be out of 40, each level has restrictions on deck size which is part of the strategy but also creates great customization being able to select from a whole host of different abilities from summoning peasants to hurling boulders which allows for quite diverse and individualized gameplay.
Each level consist of several rounds, something that I am familiar with from tower defense games and it works very well, each round you are able to draw three cards at random from your deck to be used to combat the hordes on that round or saved for subsequent ones. The way the cards get drawn at random does create unpredictable elements to the game but the strategy is in the saving certain cards for certain rounds within the levels, so using your cards in the most effective manner can prove tricky.
You can have up to seven cards in front of you available at anyone time, the major limiting factor for actually being able to use the card comes from how much power your magic wand currently has. The wand is shown just above your available cards and as the round progresses it will gradually fill up to a maximum of five charges of which a card will use one charge per use, the alternative possibility is that you are able to use one charge of your wand to inflict damage on one enemy giving a risk reward scenario for charges. The wand actually makes the game feel much more dynamic as you can not just wildly drop cards and have to occasionally hold on to charges for that emergency heal against a robot tank, which injects a great level of real time strategy.
By and large the gameplay is very well polished and fined tuned creating a system that is fun and works flawlessly, with the overall content being fairly good value for your money. The game consists of 18 story levels along with 4 special challenge levels which are very unforgiving and perhaps the true arena to test your skill against which for the most part I found drastically more difficult than the regular story levels. On the medium difficulty setting I didn’t find too difficult to get through all the story levels in four hours, though this felt long enough as towards the end the final few stages I felt that the game had gotten a little bit repetitive and some of the initial charm had begun to slowly wear off by this point making the 18 levels length an appropriate amount.
Once you finish all of the story levels you unlock a new mode called “limited mode” which seems a very nice way to make the game more challenging and slightly shake up the dynamic compelling you to go back over many of the levels. The limited modes dynamic works by locking half of your cards forcing you to pick from essentially 20 cards instead of the full 40 which really can change the game greatly, making that time tested winning combo oftentimes unavailable and forcing you to learn new sets and strategies.
The Trouble With Robots is a great addition to the card based strategy market, creating quite a unique and fun experience with enough happening within the rounds to make it feel like you are contributing and making informed decision to influence the battle. The game as a whole is very well designed and follows through on the initial idea very strongly, of course there are a couple of short coming but these are easy to overlook. The Trouble With Robots is available from Digital Chestnut’s site at the price of $18.99, there is also a demo available from Digital Chestnut as well in case you still need a little more persuading.[review pros="Lovingly created and varied cartoon environments, Great humour throughout, Strong gamplay mechanics, Limited mode offers surprising amounts of re-playability, Great AI on units." cons="Music very limited, Weak story, Can prove difficult to differentiate your units in big battles." score=77]