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Tiny Metal Review for Nintendo Switch, PS4, & PC

Nearly 20 years ago, Nintendo released a game called Advance Wars. It was a turn-based military strategy game that quickly drew a lot of attention and soon became a cult classic. Nintendo’s Wars series went from very high obscurity to mainstream success with the rise of the Advance Wars games on the GBA. The franchise was largely unknown for thirteen years and all it took was the first English-translated installment to bring it to prominence and result in Nintendo also greatly diversifying its portfolio outside of Japan. However, we haven’t seen a new game in the series since 2008. Much to the dismay of Advance Wars fans everywhere. However, one studio has been listening and has heard the cries for more Advance Wars. That team is AREA 35 and their new game, Tiny Metal draws heavily from Advance Wars. So if you’ve been waiting for Nintendo to crank out a new game in that series, then this may be the next best thing. The Advance Wars games gave you an option to control various types of commanders with their own strengths and weaknesses. Tiny Metal takes that concept and expands upon it with an array of unit types. Units can be built up by taking over buildings — which itself takes a fair amount of strategy to do well. Capturing will use up at least two turns, but that will be extended if you wind up taking damage. This means that you could wind up quickly taking over a single building, but also cause damage to your army because you’re too busy building to attack. Each unit type you build on a captured area has its own cost to assemble and advantages. Tiny Metal takes inspiration from the latter-day Wars games, but puts its own spin on the presentation.

Tiny Metal has a more serious story, focusing on assassination and being on the side of good as you battle the armies on the side of those who took your king’s life. The nation’s safety and survival essentially rests on your shoulders and it’s up to you as the commander to properly place your troops in the right places as many times as possible to ensure victory. You have a variety of troop types to make use of and each has their own pros and cons. You play as Artemisian Lieutenant Nathan Gries, a guy who has a lot going on. Not only must he command his military forces as they prepare to combat an invading country. But he is also distracted by the loss of several important members of his country. Oh, and he’s about to be thrust into war. Thankfully, he seems pretty versed in the ways of combat and knows how to navigate a battlefield. He’ll relay orders to this units and hopefully keep them (and you) alive. Of course, it’s up to you to either follow those orders or play by the seat of your pants.

A video game is more than just its graphics and while on the Nintendo Switch in portable mode it can look a little blurry at times I don't feel it's a major issue. On PC you can run the game at 4K settings and on PS4 it's 1080p ( same for the Switch docked) and its Pro variant offers upscaling to higher than 1080p so all in all very nice indeed, though a question lingers, how does it play? Phenomenally well, actually. There's Skirmish mode if you just want a map to play, but the campaign is solid as well, building on concepts over time and providing varied victory conditions. During any given map, there are plenty of tactical options to gain an advantage. Keeping fast-moving units at the borders to reveal enemy movement is helpful, as is taking to the high ground or flanking during combat. Your ground soldiers will also need to spend time conquering buildings so you can heal or recruit new units. One of the concepts you need to immediately master is the Lock-On function, which has multiple units lining up from different directions for a single attack that deals multiplied damaged. Positioning becomes critical, as different units have different movement speeds on the grid. Riflemen are your go tos— they’ll go in and throw as much at the enemy as they can, but they are weak and don’t deal out a ton of damage. They are great for polishing off enemy troops and for holding a position. If you have an area that needs to be built, use them and accept that they may turn into cannon fodder. Lancers are far more powerful, but aren’t the best options for building. They take longer to do so and this means that their giant rocket launchers aren’t being put to good use during a battle. If you have a riflemen/lancer combination, your best bet is to use the lancers to severely weaken foes and then hope that your riflemen can finish the job. You can rank up your troops as well, so having a riflemen troop stick around means that you can upgrade them to commandos. This will greatly increase their overall usefulness and make them more powerful on offense or defense while allowing them to traverse more types of terrain. You and your enemy will take turns, getting into position and attacking. With the attacking side getting an advantage and getting to go first. Outside of attacking and capturing locations, you also have what is called a Focus Fire.This lets you focus a specific enemy, by several of your units. Once you set this up, you can (hopefully) lay the smack down with a coordinated attack. However, this requires some thought as you lose out on an attacking on your turn. And if the enemy moves away, you’ve given up a precious moment to attack and time.

There's a mashup of styles on the units that makes Tiny Metal a pleasure to explore, pushing you onto the next campaign mission to see what will pop up next. The main characters are all Japanese, while Metal units are American, Lancers are British, and Heavy Metal units are Scottish. Tiny Metal also features three ways to play the game. The campaign mode which follows the story of Nathan and his attempt to end the ensuing war. A skirmish mode that lets you play the game in multiple scenarios without the story. This is actually pretty fun as it gives you access to most of the game and perfect for when you just want to get a few games in. There’s also a multiplayer mode, however, it was not available during the review. I have been told that this will feature 1v1 battles via local play and online play. I’m guessing the local play will be via LAN on PC, but since multiplayer mode isn’t available, that’s all speculation. I'll revisit this once this goes live.

All in all, Tiny Metal doesn’t copy the Advance Wars formula — it improves it. The third dimension brings with it a better way to do battle and tell where your enemies are. This change allows the tactical side of combat to flourish in a new way and one anyone who enjoys the Wars games will find it fun. It controls easily with a base controller on PS4, or Switch, and while PC users can get a bit of an edge using a mouse to traverse maps, it isn’t a game-breaking issue for those prefer a pad. It’s a gorgeous-looking game with a cartoony art style that adds a touch of slapstick to battles, which remain funny thanks to voice clips that entertain. Tiny Metal plays like a dream and looks fantastic. The simplistic art style may not be for everyone, but it works at not only conveying the environments, but also showing off a bit of broad comedy. The move to the third dimension makes the battlefields more alive than ever before and requires you to put in more strategy for longer battles. Tiny Metal is an excellent tactical RPG at the end of the day and one that longtime fans of the genre should check out, this game is KASANOVA APPROVED


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