Generally speaking, when you buy an iPhone game you really don’t know what you are going to get. You can read the description, look at screen shots and get your hopes up; only to be smashed with a game that is fun for about an hour or so. With Hunters: Episode One, a $0.99 app on the iPhone/iPod Touch/iPad, you’re getting far more than an hour’s worth of play time.
Set in the future, this game isn’t about story. Instead, it is about putting you in the role of a squad of mercenaries who take contracts for money. What little story you get in the beginning of the game, you will quickly forget as soon as the tutorial is over and you begin outfitting your crew with weapons, armor, and set out on your first mission.
Hunters is a turn-based strategy-RPG game, with your standard loudouts. You have a melee style of weapon (hammers), short range guns (shotguns), mid-range guns (SMGs), long range guns (assault rifles), and special guns that you have to level up before you can use; like rocket launchers, flamethrowers and sniper rifles. The armor you wear defines your movement. Light armor gets five moves, medium armor gets four moves, and heavy armor gets a mere three moves.
After the brief, but full, tutorial, you are given your first selection of missions. This is the games shining star, the thing that makes it stand out from other games in the genre I have played on iOS. Rodeo Games, the developer, sends out five new contracts every 24 hours. Each contract has a primary objective, and a secondary objective, and passing each will net you twice as much money in the end. Much like the freemium game Gun Bros. and it’s “Bro Ops” challenges that change daily, this has been what keeps me coming back each day. Instead of a set story and path, I’m given a brief introduction to the world and what’s going on, and then I can pick and choose which contracts I want to take up and which ones I will ignore.
Finishing a contract gives you money, of course, and experience is gained by doing attacks. So that hunter on your team that doesn’t get many attacks in or kills is going to progress slower than the one who is rampaging through the map. Killing enemies will also sometimes drop spoils, which could be a weapon, armor, or money.
As you level up, you are offered to upgrade your weapon and armor, and at certain level points you are given a point to progress through a skill tree. These happen slowly, but are exciting none-the-less. Each skill you get can drastically change how a character plays. For example, with my melee hunter, his first skill is “attack again if the first hit misses”. So if I miss the first swing, he swings again and usually gets a one-hit kill, saving me an action point. Two of my other hunters are “scouts”, and get two extra AP for the first two turns.
The controls in the game are generally great, with a few complaints. Sometimes the camera pans out during the computer attack, and when you pinch-to-zoom, if you don’t keep your fingers still, it will rotate the camera. Most people this probably won’t bother but I prefer my camera to be exactly straight and not cock-eyed. Besides that the controls work just great. Double-tap a square to move, double-tap an enemy to attack, etc.
For the price, it’s hard to find another strategy-RPG that can deliver what Hunters: Episode 1 packs into it for a whopping dollar. The app also contains Gamecenter leaderboards and achievements, for all my fellow achievement hunters. Any fan of the genre should pick this up without hesitation. The pictures don’t do it justice, and is one of the reasons I held off so long on buying this game.