Cause and effect is the root of all global drama that occurs. Whether its war or fat hierarchies touting their superiority in caveman-like ways, there is always something that fuels the flames of intercontinental clashes. Such is the case in Tiny Metal. When the King of Artemisia is assassinated and his general seemingly missing, it is up to Lt. Nathan Gries to lead the forces of Artemisia to confront the nation of Zipang. A sprawling 15 mission campaign (with additional side missions to be uncovered) is yours to fight through, with fully voiced (albeit in Japanese) characters and a detailed narrative filled with betrayal, bonds, and revelation.
Tiny Metal, developed by Area 35, is the spiritual successor to Advanced Wars. Having never played that series, I did not pay much attention to Tiny Metal’s release. I was, at the time, wholly engaged in Mario + Rabbids: Kingdom Battle, a game that unearthed a hidden need for turn based strategy that I had not felt ever before. So when I recently received an email detailing Tiny Metal’s upcoming updates, I grew more interested. The busy holiday season was behind me, and so was the campaign of Mario + Rabbids. I still had an itch that only turn based strategy could scratch, so I reached out to see about reviewing Tiny Metal, and was excited to be given a copy to check out. After spending 15+ hours with it, I can say that for the most part, the game is fun and deserves your attention if you overlooked it like me.
Tiny Metal is a turn based, strategic war game with Japanese flair and inspiration. The game plays out across different maps that vary in size, layout, and difficulty. You get to use a fleet of different battalions to wage war against your opponents. In some levels you start with some pre-determined units, while others let you start from scratch. In each mission, you must either defeat every unit on the opposing team, or capture their command center and end their efforts. There are no time or turn limits that I am aware of, but the quicker you win the better your score. Battles are about strategy and execution. Each side gets to the chance to move every unit on their side, or create new ones, without being disrupted. When my attacks and movements are done, my turn is ended, and the opposition gets the chance to do the same. A unique part of the game is that if you attack an enemies unit, the enemies unit gets to strike back immediately if they still have some health. This plays a big part in the strategy, because if you do not play your moves right you can end up hurting yourself more than helping. You can also team up with other units, or assault enemies to move them out of their positions (which lets them attack first, and you second in this case.) You need to capture buildings to earn funds, and use those funds to summon new units. Placement of these units, making sacrifices, and knowing what you are up against all play into whether or not the outcomes will be weighed in your favor.
Among the various units are your standard infantry men (bearing either rocket launchers or rifles), weaponized Jeep type vehicle units, helicopters, jets, and more. The titular “Metals” are the games form of tanks, and these come in both a simple as well as heavier variant, as do some of the other unit styles. Later in the game you get access to snipers and spec-op soldiers, which each have their respective uses in the field, as well as more support type units like array vehicles that give you a better look at the playing field, or missile launchers that can hit opponents from several spaces away. Knowing what pairs up against the other is key to winning. Jets can take out other aircraft, but don’t have the ability to hit ground units like metals and infantry. Same goes for most units on the ground like metals and infantry, with Jets being out of their range, but not helicopters. Every unit has different movement’s patterns and ranges, so getting to learn their capabilities can put you on the top of every match. Doubling down and having units “lock on” to an enemy can make a big difference in the offensive, as it allows your units to attack together and do combined damage at once, as opposed to attacking separately for the same outcome (which would give the enemy two opportunities to retaliate should it survive.)
Moving across the maps gives you some more insight to what is hiding behind previously shrouded parts. Once within range, more sections of forest and streets can be revealed, which may give way to new buildings worth capturing. Capturing standard buildings gets you an income at the start of each new round, which you can use to buy new units at specific outposts. Some levels may grant you immediate access to helipad structures, allowing you to have aircraft on the spot, while others make you work a bit harder for it by capturing a helipad first. Capturing is done over the course of a few rounds. A healthy, standard infantry unit will net 10 capture points per round, meaning most buildings can be captured in two rounds if the unit goes undisturbed (captures require 20 points to go into effect). If the unit is attacked during, or begins a capture process while not at full health, the capture points gained are lessened depending on the health at the end of the round. In addition to the base buildings (that earn you money and allow you to heal infantry), and the vehicle/aircraft bases that allow you to build new units, there are some specialty locations worth visiting. One of these buildings are intel based, which not only reveal key information that can truly help with the mission, but occasionally unlock a side mission. These made exploration worth it, assuming you could spare a crew that could make it to these structures. Another building worth exploring were the satellite buildings, which allowed you to call in one hero unit. These hero units are supped up versions of their standards. For instance, while a jet can’t hit ground units, the hero version could, while still being able to avoid their attacks.
As far as the story goes, it was a bit hard to follow, but interesting none the less. It may be due to the fact that the entirety of the voice over work is in Japanese, but the pace in which it is told makes it hard to read. It’s not without its typical tropes, containing love, betrayal, and heart vs head themes, but it makes them work in its own ways. The well designed characters carry the interest from mission to mission, and a quirky villain makes it all the more entertaining. Outside of the base 15 missions and additional side missions, there are a bunch of additional “skirmish” missions to beat with their own unique scenarios in place. To top it off, much post game content is still in the works, with the most anticipated being multiplayer.
While not perfect, and often too easy, Tiny Metal does a great job at offering a fun experience that allows you to play with different strategies without ever becoming too stressed. It works well on the Switch, and I think many other similar games will, as it is a breeze to put your focus on an entire battlefield while nice and comfy in handheld mode. The game could use for some more music and true cut scenes, and cut back on some fully repetitive unit phrases (they each maybe have two lines of dialog that are repeated each time they are used), but again, fun nonetheless. Tiny Metal is a passion project, and that passion is proven by the planned continued support, and successful efforts made clear at launch. If you have that strategic itch, Tiny Metal may scratch it with its many mission and simple yet varied approach at the genre. Give it a SHOT if you think you can handle the tides of war.
Note: A copy of this game was provided for the purpose of this review.
Final Score: 7.5/10
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