• Bombardiers Guild Review - iOS

    The loading screen in Bombardiers Guild [sic] is the first clue to the rich and detailed world that developers Quantum Toast have crafted. Steampunk style is enjoying a resurgence in modern culture, which lends the Guild a unique look for a mobile game.

    Before discussing the game, a brief mention must be made of the price you pay for access to the Guild: £1.19. You canít buy much for £1.19 these days. A croissant in Pret a Manger, for example, costs £1.25. Croissants are made from basically flour, butter and milk. Yet because of the increasing popularity of downloadable software you can access a piece of interactive entertainment with hours of content for the cost of a morning pastry. How times have changed.

    When you are granted access to the Guild, you are given a brief tutorial explaining the mechanics behind the game. The moniker of 'puzzle game' doesnít properly explain what you are required to do in the Guild, though, because really itís all about physics.

    That should not be allowed to put anybody off, however, because these physics are fun. Bombardiers Guild is a real-time combat-arena game. You are placed in charge of a cannon at the bottom of the screen and given the ability to direct shots left and right and control the power with which you deploy each missile. At the other side of the arena is a cannon with exactly the same power and ability as yours. One direct hit will destroy a cannon and the idea is simply to be the first to obliterate your enemy. To that extent, Bombardiers Guild follows the first rule of video games: if youíve got a weapon you use it to kill things.

    To make things more complicated (and more interesting) the playing field between the two cannons is littered with a selection of planets of varying sizes. Each planet has a gravitational pull surrounding it. The missiles you fire are heavily influenced by these gravitational fields. Firstly, their trajectory is altered by each planet, anyone familiar with the Ďshooting the mooní scene in Apollo 13 will know what to expect.

    If you fire a rocket with low power close to the side of a planet and it gets caught up and slung round the back and away at the other side of the planet. If you fire a high-powered rocket, the field doesnít affect its trajectory as much, the overall arc will curve in the opposite direction, but the extra thrust will prevent it from becoming pulled back around the planet.

    The way the missiles interact with the planets is the key to success in the Guild. It is here that the physics engine really has a chance to shine. Your missiles leave a blue vapour trail behind them which shows their path, and how they build in power. The more curves, loops and turns you can fit into your shot, the more powerful the missile becomes. The formula is built on majesty and grace; you can play the game by attempting to fire simple shots that head straight for the target, but that isnít the point and there is a further twist to force your mind to work a little.

    Each cannon has two recharging shields. The first is a low-powered one that can be destroyed fairly easily. The second requires a stronger blast to destroy it. You can wage a war of attrition on shields by finding a simple shot to slowly destroy them, but success lies in your ability to use gravity to your advantage.

    Itís here that the beauty of the steampunk atmosphere comes into its own. Set against the dark recesses of space, each cannon is surrounded by a (non-interactive) city, grey and damaged. The vapour trails left by your missiles, and those of your opponents, curve and weave in a balletic manner. Itís not only beautiful but useful: you can fine tune your shots by following the trails and making tiny adjustments to your trajectory and power.

    It is compelling stuff. The real-time nature of the gameplay adds to the urgency and, as shields detonate or missiles collide, the planets of each arena can be knocked from their original position, meaning you canít always rely on your initial strategy to win.

    The single-player campaign is fast, you make your way through a campaign fighting more skilled opponents as you go along. Your progress is marked not just by your ability to win but also your nine most powerful shots. Once you have achieved the rank of Master Bombardier in the Guild, there are 500+ opponents with varying skill levels and planet set-ups to fight your way through. Thatís a lot of content.

    If the above sounds a little bewildering, you're not alone. The Guild seems confusing at first and you will often feel like you have misunderstood the fundamental play mechanic but, once it all clicks into place you will be pulling of arching and flowing shots before you know it. Bombardiers Guild serves as an excellent travel game. The rounds are short enough to squeeze a few games in on a commute and will often leave you wanting to defeat just one more opponent.

    There is also a two-player mode where you share the device to play against a friend. The screen can feel a little cramped when there are two pairs of hands trying frantically to guide a curving missile through space, but it is a welcome addition to those with a competitive streak. Online play is missing from the current version but is being contemplated for future updates.

    While there is much to recommend in Bombardiers Guild there are some flaws that need to be drawn out. Fighting some of the later opponents is incredibly frustrating when you just canít get the missile to loop where you want it to. It feels like there are some shots that just wonít work no matter how delicately you fine tune them. You can spend minutes attempting to get a missile to go that final extra mile to hit its target before realising that it's futile. You give up and try and find a new path through the playfield and by this time, youíre dead.

    More often than not the best way to succeed is to take a simple, direct shot at your opponent and gradually wear down their defences. It's probably not what the developers intended, but it works.

    There is a back story to the Guild, but it isnít exciting enough to be a draw and, as with any good strategy game, it is best treated as filler between the action. There is a subtext to the opponents you will face, but it only really influences how quickly opponents fire shots. Some are methodical in their approach to play, others are quick-fire and less majestic, but the need to split them into races and factions, while a nice idea, seems superfluous.

    Overall, though, Bombardiers Guild is an interesting and challenging hand-held experience. The play mechanic is deep enough to lend itself to repeated play, and only upon discovering its subtleties does it show itself at its best. For the price of entry, everyone can afford a pass to the Guild.

    Score: 7/10
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