Zen Wars Hands-On Preview

Ever heard of subzero.eu software? If not, you’re liable to soon enough, because their upcoming collaboration with Liv Games and Panzer Flakes is about to punch into the App Store with all the force of a siege mortar! There’s no shortage of sidescrolling Castle Defense games on iOS, so Zen Wars‘ markedly different style will come as a real breath of fresh air to genre fans. iFanzine has spent some quality time with this lovingly produced and auspiciously Cocos2d-powered indie title, and now we’re ready to give our readers a detailed briefing.

A real-time strategy game set firmly in the Rampart tradition, Zen Wars has the player in command of a besieged clan’s cannon defense team. Directing the bombardment from an overhead perspective with touchscreen taps, the player has to pick off enemy sappers before they can lay bridges or break through defensive walls surrounding the player’s forts. Enemies are often moving and the cannonballs reach their targets after some delay, so the player needs to exercise much the same level of aiming care he or she would need in a First Person Shooter or combat flight sim.

That’s basic enough, but where the game really gets interesting – and where players will spend the meat of their time in Zen Wars – is the rebuilding phase that follows every shoot-out. Defensive walls invariably get broken down to some degree while cannon fire is being traded around the battlefield, so once the round is over the player has to patch them back up. Here’s the kicker: whoever’s in charge of cooking up new blocks isn’t taking custom orders, so the player has to make do with whatever Tetris-like pieces spit out of the mason’s production line! If the player’s Tetris skills are up to snuff, he or she can not only repair damaged walls but capture new territory by sealing it off, reaping rewards in terms of more gun emplacements to use during future rounds. Fail to close all the gaps around at least one player-held fort, however, and it’s Game Over.

The player’s goal in Zen Wars varies from battle to battle, which trace out the expected path on an overworld map. Sometimes the player simply needs to hold out for a number of rounds, and sometimes it’s a match to the death, the player trying to patch up defenses and generate more precious gun emplacements faster than enemies can multiply. A survival mode is on tap, and the developers have heeded the cries of iOS gamers looking for more multiplayer opportunities! Strategy fans can find one another on Game Center and initiate matches that pit up to three players against each other in a multi-front battle — better hope that friend of yours isn’t a swift fingered Tetris champion!

Zen Wars clearly benefits from the eclectic feel of the Rampart formula, and its touch interface is shaping up brilliantly; seriously, has there been a single Cocos2d game we haven’t swooned over yet? The build we played was an in-progress beta, so we’re still waiting to get a full sense of the surprises that will differentiate this from Rampart‘s many ports across the ages. What’s abundantly clear to us at this point is that you’re in for a real treat if Zen Wars should happen to be your first exposure to this style of strategy game!

Strategy fans would do well to keep Zen Wars on their radar, as it should be releasing in the near future. Follow Liv Games on Twitter and keep an eye on the game’s official site for the latest updates!