While we’ve commonly seen great PC & Console titles translate well to mobile, the reverse is not always true.
Alto’s Adventure, for instance, while a really well made port, loses some of its intimacy on the big screen and just plays much better when tapping away on mobile.
One game that works a treat, however, is The Battle of Polytopia. Now available on Steam, I’ve had this sat in my library for a while and been meaning to give it a shot. Turns out, I’ve spent most of the weekend playing through each of the game’s tribes, hoping to earn the highest score possible.
As a Civ fan, Polytopia is right up my street. It’s not as deep and detailed as the Firaxis sim, but it maintains the same kind of hooks which have made that franchise such a global phenomenon.
In Polytopia, you choose your tribe at the start – determining whether you want to play classic Perfection mode, which sees each tribe try to get the highest score in 30 turns, or domination setting where you have to wipe out everyone. From there, you can select your difficulty and the amount of rivals you want to go up against.
There’s fifteen tribes to choose from and each one has a different starting ability and environmental aesthetic. For instance, you could start with the ability to create windmills, or have learned the skill of ‘Shields’ so can easily build defensive troops. Depending on your standing in your blocky world, by the time you encounter rival tribes they may even share some of their secrets with you.
The big difference between this and Civ is that you can’t form alliances to take down rival tribes. So none of those obnoxious meetings with Queen Victoria pitying you for your meagre attack force or Gandhi being less of a pacifist than first appears.
Domination mode, for instance, means you have to be the last tribe standing – whatever the cost – no matter how many turns it takes. And similar to Civ, it can get really sad for that lone troop who’s desperately trying to fend off your epic attack force on their lonesome, staying loyal to their city to the end.
You can dance around each other for a while without sending your troops to attack – and this could be an effective strategy for the ’30 turn mode’ – but eventually Polytopia’s emphasis on war plays into each game, one way or another. I mean, it’s even in the name of the game.
Most troops can only move a single poly square at a time – some can scale mountains and even move after an attack as well – but for the most part, it’s slow progress moving around the board. Fortunately, the boards are quite a bit smaller than the Civ landscapes, which can seem to go on for miles at times.
The structure of the maps, however, can seem quite cluttered at first, with random pieces of fruit laying about, gold encased in mountains, flowers and forests pottered around, and some forest animals thrown in for good measure.
The idea is that these resources will increase the rating of your individual cities. With the right skills earned through your tech tree, fruit can be gathered, animals can be hunted, you can build goldmines to increase your stars, and even layer roads to create networks between your cities.
Similar to Civ, cities can usually be built by taking over remote villages you see on the map and taking rival tribe’s cities by force. Of course, both will be both fiercely contested and protected by others so you’ll need to be ready to build up an army of defenders pretty sharpish.
Also similar to Civ, of course, is that the further along the tech tree you are, the better units you can get access to. You’ll start out with basic clubsman to begin with, but can eventually build knights and catapaults. There’s even Super Units which can be earned once a city reaches max rank.
As much as I love Civ, that game can be a very deep time sink for a solo run and can easily absorb an entire day of play. Polytopia is a lot quicker, more dynamic, and games could end within a half hour if you want them to. It’s better suited for quick blasts, but still has some of the substance you know and love from Sid Meier’s poster franchise.
I’ve really given you a whistlestop tour of the game as there’s other things to consider – building ports to travel across water, earning the right to build certain monuments, the use of forges to increase star production, levelling up units – but that’s the other thing I love about Polytopia, each run can help you understand what works and what doesn’t moving forward.
Not to mention the game has a full-on multiplayer feature which lets you go head to head with other people around the world in random matchmaking. The AI makes for a decent opponent, of course, but there’s nothing quite like the difficulty of another player who knows all the tricks to get the edge in battle.
The Battle of Polytopia is both a great alternative to Civ fans looking for something a little faster and newcomers to strategy games who might be a bit intimidated by the scale and depth of some of these games. If you fit into either of those categories – and even if you don’t – you’ll find plenty to love here.
Just, maybe be prepared to leave more time aside to play than you were planning. This one really sinks its teeth in. And quickly. I’m scared to think what will happen to my time when this inevitably comes to Switch…
+ It’s Civilisation but on a diet
+ Feels very simple, yet satisfying to play
+ Each tribe has unique aesthetic and playstyle which can affect strategy
+ A surprising amount of detail and content to digest
+ Multiplayer is strong
– Once you’ve cleared your tech tree, you may find your need for stars lessen
– Games end up playing out in mostly the same way
The Battle of Polytopia is now available on PC, iOS and Android
Code kindly provided by PR
Tested on PC