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.
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.
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.
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.
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.