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Celebrating 30 Years with Star Wars: Battle for Hoth on iPhone

In 1980, George Lucas released the sequel to end all sequels with Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back. 30 years later, FluffyLogic, THQ Wireless, and Lucasfilm are releasing the an iPhone app centered around one of the film’s most memorable scenes. No, not the father part, but the epic snow battle on the ice planet Hoth in the tower defense app Star Wars: Battle for Hoth. Though it may be a tower defense game, Battle for Hoth brings enough new tricks to the table to keep things interesting. Coupled with classic elements as well as newer micromanagement possibilities, and very basic social features, it’s a game that is well worth the $2.99 price tag. The bad part is that it comes with a handful of usability and intuitiveness issues. The good part is that its enough to give Star Wars lovers a complete and total geek-out.
The basics are easy enough. Imperial soldiers are trying to reach Echo Base, and it’s up to you to stop them. Any troops that get through will cause damage to the base, and when its health reaches zero, it’s game over. In order to defend, players place “towers” that consist of everything seen in the movie. This ranges from cheap foot soldiers to heavy ion cannons to x-wing and snow speeder air support.
TrenchesLike all tower defense games, players must manage income – Command Points – and placement. However, while both of these are similar to their predecessors in basic ways, they are also just as different. Command Points, for example, are not earned passively as enemy units are destroyed, but must be picked up (they are green wrenches), before they disappear, when they are dropped from random Imperial units; typically these are the ones at the end of a wave.
Placement is also prudent, as enemies do not simply funnel from Point A to Point B. On the contrary, many levels can have multiple entry points, and units can attack from either, or both, at any given time. In order to compensate for this, players must balance the quality (units can be upgraded) and quantity of their own forces.
To help in this, players can build trenches, like in the movie, to funnel enemies where they want them to go. Moreover, soldier units can be placed inside them to gain a defensive bonus. Unfortunately, as the game progresses, and enemy TIE fighters and AT-AT walkers get introduced, the trenches do considerably less, in that they simply get bypassed.
It goes without saying that fighting units are going to take more than soldiers, so players must begin adding various gun placements to take them out. Additionally, some can only hit ground and others can only hit air, so, again, variety is a necessity. Beyond this, Battle for Hoth also incorporates an energy mechanic. This means that any tower must have a power generator in relative proximity to work. Also, that power generator can only power a finite number of turrets (up to four when upgraded).
TIE FighterAnother cool aspect of the game is air support. It’s not anything extravagant, but players can also power x-wing and snow speeder control towers that will send out the various air units to support the ground forces as needed.
The strategy aspects of the game don’t stop here either. In a majority of tower defense games, towers are not attackable: Not the case in Battle for Hoth. Imperial troops can, and will, destroy player defenses.
Players can actually adjust the AI of their units to attack specific targets. These commands can apply to a single unit or all units of that type and consist of attacking targets with the most/least health or the closest to Echo Base or land/air targets (assuming it can target both). Also, since the Imperials appear to use similar AI, using all units at one’s disposal is a very wise venture.
Unit GuideIn the complaint department, the issues are minor at worst. Though the game is pretty easy to figure out, there isn’t much instruction as to what new units do when the player earns them each level. There is a separate page that explains each one, but having to stop the game and look it up really breaks the game flow. Additionally, the game’s difficulty curve is a bit awkward. Each level is not necessarily harder than the last once you figure out how to use the new, unlocked, defenses, but in a level of, say, 30 waves, it’s fairly easy until the last three to five. Beyond any of this, the upgrade and command buttons on each individual unit is a bit small for those with bigger fingers.
On the social side of things, the game comes with the OpenFeint basics, including a leaderboard for each level and a fairly sizable number of achievements. We’re still hoping for the mobile, social games to start thinking outside the box in the social department, but with the game itself already pretty solid, it’s not a big complaint.
All in all, Star Wars: Battle for Hoth is definitely a must-have for Star Wars fans. Whether or not it’s a strong recreation of one of the film’s most astounding moments is debatable, but it is fun, nonetheless. Hoth also tries its best to bring back that nostalgia by integrating clips from the movie as well, but that’s a trick seen in a majority of Star Wars titles already. Overall, with a strong amount of strategy and a depth-level  that is perfect for beginners and advanced strategists alike, it’s a game well worth the price tag.


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