My experience with Tiny Metal was one of frustration. For every positive aspect that the game has – and there are many – there were other frustrating features that drag the title’s potential down.
As a spiritual successor to the Advance Wars series, Tiny Metal plays out as a turn-based tactical wargame, in which you command multiple units in an attempt to outwit and outmanoeuvre your enemy. The game wears the influence of Nintendo’s cult classic very obviously on its sleeve, and those looking for another entry into the genre should find a lot to like.
Tiny Metal’s campaign has you playing Nathan Gries, an army leader for the nation of Artemisia which has come out of a long and arduous war and is now living in a state of peace. This all changes however when Artemisia’s president is killed after his plane is shot of the sky, potentially bringing about another age of conflict. The game’s plot has a few interesting things to say about nationalism and war but it suffers from onerous stretches of exposition which convolute the story.
Thankfully the combat is better. Playing out in a traditional rock-paper-scissors fashion, matches turn into tactical arenas in which units must be thoughtfully placed to best defend against or attack the enemy. For instance, scout units are great at attacking ground troops but suffer heavy losses against stronger vehicle units such as tanks. Sniper units are a great addition for fending off squads of troops, but can’t attack vehicles and there are a host of airborne units which round out your arsenal. The game features enough unit types so that it remains interesting but the lack of naval units is evident.
The addition of seafaring combat could spice up the map design in the game which is acceptable, though slightly underwhelming. It’s helped by how different units can traverse various terrains, making positioning vitally important. Still, there isn’t a great deal of variation in the game's maps, removing any sense of excitement for the areas of land on which you fight.
Added depth comes from a ranking system which upgrades units for their actions and gives them perks, such as boosted defence and attack. Lastly, Tiny Metal has unlockable hero units which must be deployed from radar buildings, making them key points for capture. Capturing buildings is one of the game's stronger features as doing so can change the tide of battle. Maps aren't huge, so it's important not to let the enemy claim buildings quickly, as you might face an influx of enemy combatants.
The game's depth doesn't extend to its AI, which is simplistic at the best of times. The campaign was only challenging during the last two missions, and even then this was due to an overabundance of enemies and one overpowered weapon. I never witnessed any tactical thinking by the AI and therefore didn't have to apply much thought to battles.
It must be said that the game has swathes of charm, despite its simplistic graphical style. Each unit is lovingly crafted and the bright colour palette adds to the title's appeal. Unfortunately, the variation in unit design doesn't extend past your own army. Opposing factions' units look identical to your own, only with a swapped colour palette. It's unfortunate, as even in the most intense encounters, Tiny Metal lets itself down with a lack of variation in design.
As is stands the game has no multiplayer, though the developers state they are working on this feature. It’s a shame as the game’s tactical foundations could be put to better use than they are within the campaign and is a feature what I suspect many players would like. There is a skirmish mode which takes away all of the campaign's unwanted baggage and ramps up the difficulty on some of later maps. This, alongside a New Game+ mode, gives players enough content to go through should they wish to until multiplayer comes – something which developers Area 35 state is on its way.
Right now, Tiny Metal feels slightly undercooked. It has the strong foundations of a game that could be great, but is let down at almost every turn. The weak campaign wouldn't be too much of an issue if there was a multiplayer mode, but as it stands, players might find the lacking feature a bit of a game-breaker. Skirmishes might keep you around for a bit longer and Tiny Metal does feature a lot of replayability. As it stands though players will be wanting that added bit extra which Tiny Metal is currently missing.
Game is enjoyable, outweighing the issues there may be.
Right now, Tiny Metal feels slightly undercooked. It has the strong foundations of a game that could be great, but is let down at almost every turn.