PC gamers alive in the 1990's will remember the XCOM series of games as bastions of the strategy genre. In each, you took control of a global organization that was tasked with defending the Earth from aliens; you did so in turn-based missions, where you killed enemies, escorted VIPs, and defended objectives.

Now imagine that (with some tweaks, of course) on Android.

The premise of The Hunters: Episode One is relatively simple: you are the leader of a team of mercenaries, and you can take different contracts on a daily basis. Completing these contracts nets you money, which can be spent upgrading your mercs with equipment and armor.


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Porting The Gameplay With Polish

The Hunters is a successful iOS game that recently unveiled the second title in the series on that platform. After the decision was made to come to Android, the development team recreated the first game in the second's new engine.

Gameplay in The Hunters takes place from a top-down perspective, where your team and enemies move on a grid. You can zoom in and out fluidly, letting you get a better sense of the battlefield - the level of detail, combined with great character models, makes for a polished visual experience.

Each entity on the battlefield has a number of action points, which can be spent doing things. Simple things, like performing an attack or moving one square, consume one action point - there are other skills that take more.

It's easy to see how every skirmish can quickly become a matter of strategically using action points and cover effectively to block off potential routes of attack, and moving with purpose in order to avoid line-of-sight issues. Thankfully, the ability to do so  isn't hampered by any complications when it comes to controls; it's very much a one-click-to-do-everything affair, which players won't mind one bit.

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By allowing players to pick up The Hunters fairly easily, it does them a favour: one of the barriers that the strategy genre has is that there may be too much fine-tuning and not enough action. Thankfully, this game manages to speed things along enough without making the game too simple, as scenarios can get fairly complicated the further you progress.

Complication is good, as your mercenaries can level up and acquire different bonuses that make the game a little bit more diverse. For instance, my melee team member spent his first points in a talent that gives him health back on every kill. Since he can wipe out security forces in one hit with his massive future-hammer, he's a veritable juggernaut on the field.

This element of role-playing is nice, because you can tailor your team to the playstyle you want; you can go light-and-quick, with a whole mess of action points, or you can be a slow-moving squad that just creates pain in mass quantities. Depending on the mission (escort quests emphasize speed, obviously), it can feel very rewarding paying attention to builds.

-Gasp- Micropayments!

The Hunters: Episode One comes in at just under $5, and also includes in-app payments for more in-game credits. This was something that irked our readers a bit when we first announced the game on Android Police, but I can confirm that these payments neither hobble the gameplay experience nor are necessary to progress.

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It's very easy to jump on developers that may include in-app payments as grubbing for money, but it's important to realize that sometimes they just want to include the option. No one wants to be stuck, feeling like that game is unwinnable: in this case, in-app payments allows for an extra boost if the player really wants it. However, clearing missions provides the player with enough credits to play normally, and features aren't hidden behind a paywall.

In short, they're there if you want to use them, but if not, they're content to just stay out of the way. This is something that developers have to be mindful of, as well: no player wants to feel the money they've spent on a game doesn't entitle them to the full gameplay experience, nor do they want to have to spend money continuously to progress.

Wrapping It Up

The Hunters: Episode One brings a lot to the table in terms of polish. The graphics are slick, the gameplay is easy to pick up, and there's a lot of depth for people who like fine-tuning every single bit of their squad. It's a worthy addition to any Android game library, especially for fans of turn-based tactics.

You can pick it up for less than five bucks, and it offers a legion of replayability with different talent trees and skill layouts - that's a good formula if we've ever heard one.

Matt Demers
Matt Demers is a Toronto writer that deals primarily in the area of Android, comics and other nerdy pursuits. You can find his work on Twitter and sites across the Internet.

  • Thatguyfromvienna

    IAP = no money from me.
    I absolutely don't mind coughing up a few bucks for an entertaining game but when IAPs are involved, I stay clear.
    The review states the IAPs wouldn't be mandatory but I have seen too many cases of greed where indeed you better throw money at them to be able to progress further.

    • noob

      The FTP w/ IAP model is where things are trending right now. You can choose to blindly hate any game that even gives a whiff of this for now, but soon enough you're going to be depriving yourself of many different and probably enjoyable experiences because you don't like change. And that's just sad.

      • Abhijeet Mishra

        Very true. Plus, not every game needs those purchases to continue playing, they're just to make things easier.

    • carlisimo

      I've played the game on iOS and it's true, you can completely ignore the IAPs without a problem.

    • Cheeseball

      IAPs not mandatory in this game. They're just there to speed things up if needed.

  • Carsten

    Same for me. I can´t stand IAP and DLC you have to pay for AGAIN. For me it always feels like I´m playing an unfinished game or something. I don´t know how to explain it, but it feels kinda incomplete.

  • Matti

    I still think the right way to handle IAPs is the one used by the Dead Trigger devs the second time around. Make the game free, but make it such that you'll at least spend about 4 - 5 dollars to feel comfy and play at a normal rate. You can spend more than that and it makes the game easier (since the big weapons come faster) or you can choose not to spend a cent and put in some extra hours grinding away with the pistol.

    In short, make it like a difficulty.

    Free = Hard // $3-5 = Normal // More than $5 = Easy

    As for this game, it looks more like a shiny version of Advance Wars (Nintendo DS) than X-Com.

    • Netwomble

      You realise this is the exact thing people hate IAPs for right? Having to pay to avoid grinding is not going to get you many fans.

      Personally. if IAPs are basically expansion packs, then I'm cool with them. But using them for buying in game weapons you basically need to have fun with game is pretty annoying.

      • Benjamin Sicard

        Having to pay to avoid grinding prevents you from getting fans? No wonder League of Legends flopped.

      • Matti

        As far as I know, most people hate IAPs for locking out content. If you've played Dead Trigger you'll realize that even the grinding required (if you don't spend a cent) is within reasonable limits. Some games might make "free mode" annoyingly difficult, in which case they're just as bad, obviously.

        I'll stick to what I said. Make the game free and let the people decide how easy they want to progress, all within reasonable limits.... and by reasonable I mean that it should not be crazy hard in "free mode, and at the same time you shouldn't have some IAP that only a Arab oil tycoon can afford so that he gets toc cheat and blow everyone else away during a multiplayer battle.

    • floatingcloud

      i am not sure about this product, but i am thinking about buying, any body can give me some advice?

  • Sergii Pylypenko

    You mentioned XCOM, here's another XCOM-based game, it's pretty rough at edges though: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=net.sourceforge.ufoai

  • http://pandu.poluan.info pepoluan

    Sounds interesting... Gonna put it in MarketMarks and wait until there's a sales event, then :)

    • http://www.androidpolice.com/ Artem Russakovskii

      You're in luck: it's on sale for $0.99 as of today.

      • http://pandu.poluan.info pepoluan

        Thanks for the heads-up! Purchased!

  • Dipish

    Laggy on Sony Xperia S...