There’s a misconception in video gaming that genres are uniform, when they are clearly nothing of the sort. For example, if you say “shooter title”, there’s first-person, third-person, there are even top-down shooters, and they all play differently. The same goes for strategy titles. Some strategy games go in real-time, while others are turn-based, and again, each play different. That is the case today with Tiny Metal, a turn-based strategy game that plays on the desires of a certain fanbase, yet does so with taste and unique style.
The game promotes itself as being inspired by Advance Wars, which was a very popular Nintendo franchise for some years before dying out (not that fans don’t want to see that franchise return, they do). The inspiration is clear here, as the style of gameplay, unit variation, and even the story to an extent resembles what Advance Wars did. Not that that’s a bad thing, it would’ve only been bad if they botched it, and they didn’t. Or at least, not in the ways that truly matter.
Tiny Metal features a story mode that is both very political, and very deep in terms of its characters and wars. You play as Nathan, a young commander who has to learn to command troops on the fly as his nation of Artemesia is attacked by a nation that seemingly killed his king, as well as his commanding officer. Nathan perfectly conveys both the loyalty to country and king, yet the innocence of youth that is in it, and it works very well. We won’t spoil the story, but we will say that as things advance, Nathan has to learn some very hard truths about the land he lives in, and who he should be loyal to. You’ve likely seen the story before in other games, however, our view through the eyes of Nathan makes it more compelling.
The true crux of Tiny Metal though is the gameplay, and this is where the game truly shines. It takes the formula of Advance Wars and adds its own special twists and ties to it. You begin on a map with only certain units under your command and certain buildings under your control. Using your units (specifically soldier units), you must go and capture buildings, bases, heliports, communications towers, and various other things to help bolster your army. The more you control, the more money you get each turn.
Using that money, you’ll create new units to fight with in battle. Each unit has a different cost, so you’ll need to be both wise and wary about what you have, what you need, and when you should build it. Once you have units, you’ll send them out into the field. They have a limited range, which can make placement a vital part of the gameplay. Especially since you don’t have a full view of the battlefield. Fog of War is a major part of each map. You’ll get indicators and clues as to where your enemies are when their turn begins. But, you won’t see them until they enter your field of vision.
Combat plays out in mathematical format. Every units has a certain amount of damage that they can do to other units. Furthermore, each unit starts out at 100% health, you need to ensure that you take that health bar to 0% in order to kill them. But, the trick here is that the more damage you do to them, the less damage they can return to you. Every battle and every turn is a strategy game, and one you must be willing to play.
Another thing Tiny Metal does great is give you options on how to attack and take terrain. There’s a “Lock-On/Focus Fire” combo attack where two units can gang up on one unit to do massive damage. Or, if you need to take a spot no matter what, you use “Assault” and take it from them…at the cost of them attacking you before you do so that is.
The units themselves are very varied, and perfectly represent the militar aspect of the title. It’s very realistic, so no major sci-fi elements here. You’ll command riflemen, snipers, scout jeeps, tanks, mega tanks, helicopters, jet fighters, missile launchers, and more. You’ll slowly find yourself tailoring your strategy via the new units that come into your army, and by the end of things, you’ll know how you want to fight the enemy.
Outside of Story Mode is the Skirmish Mode. This mode brings you various scenarios to either test your skills, or just let you have fun in cool maps. They’re all ranked on how big the area is, the strength of the enemy, and the intent of the map. There are literally maps labeled as “Fun”. This is a nice shakeup to things, and will definitely get the attention of those who play it sooner or later.
Now, there are some key issues in Tiny Metal that I have to note. One is the inconsistency in the audio and dialogue. For example, in the Story Mode, Nathan and all the characters he meets talk in Japanese (while the player reads the text in English or whatever language you view it in). This would be fine…except, the battles in the game have the units talking in English. So, why don’t the characters in the cutscenes do it? What’s more, hearing the lines of the units over and over again can be very tiring, especially when they don’t make sense in the context of what they’re doing. In example, the Heavy Metal unit has a line when you move them that they “don’t have enough juice”, and yet, they do, over and over again.
I also had some issues with some of the buttons. In one case, I was just trying to advance the story via the text, which somehow the Fast Forward button got pressed, and whizzed everything by me before I could stop it. Then when I did, the game crashed. Thankfully, the game saves at the beginning of every turn.
Finally, the game has a multiplayer mode, but it’s not active yet. Hopefully it’ll come on soon.
In the end, Tiny Metal is a very solid strategy title that will have you thinking with each new battle. The game is available on Steam, PC, and Nintendo Switch.