Lately, EA Mobile has been revamping all of its classic boardgames so they’ll fit comfortably onto our phones, and overall it’s been doing a conscientious job. But scoring these games is difficult - Risk being a prime example.
For most of us, the original boardgame epitomises strategic gameplay and is the foundation upon which the wealth of mobile (and computer and console, for that matter) games in this genre are constructed. So separating the classic boardgame from its latest mobile interpretation is nigh on impossible.
It’s also hard to discuss the gameplay of Risk without it sounding shallow, certainly in comparison to the plunging depths of intrigue and historical accuracy many strategy games now boast.
Perhaps it’s fairer to pigeonhole Risk as a conquest game, instead of strategy game, considering the evolution this genre has gone through in recent years.
And in that respect, the gameplay fills its remit most suitably, as conquering boils down to sustaining your own army long enough to ensure it’s superior to your neighbour’s. Bulldoze in there, and the territory’s yours - so long as you’ve got the manpower to maintain it.
If you manage to conquer a territory by the end of your turn, a Risk card is awarded, and collecting up a complete set of three similar cards (infantry, cavalry, etc) you can trade them in for reinforcements. This is an essential aspect of the boardgame, and has been handled well in EA Mobile's interpretation.
Where it does differ slightly is in the initial deployment of your armies. Presumably for logistical purposes, the mobile version doesn't allow you to choose your starting place, which isn't a big deal other than a personal preference for beginning in specific countries.
Otherwise, your task pretty much boils down to moving into new territories each turn to conquer them, while planning ahead as much as possible to block your enemy's campaign. It's a simple mechanic, but mimics the original game accurately and concisely.
Looking at Risk in a more superficial capacity also allows us to try to quantify the quality of EA Mobile’s conversion, and in that respect it’s a success. It would have been very easy for the developer to reign in this adaptation of the boardgame and present it almost as a cel-shaded cardboard cut out - but it hasn’t.
Graphically a good amount of non-essential detail has been added that helps lift the game off the screen. The CPU intelligence has also clearly had some extra attention poured upon it, as it’s balanced enough to have you believe this could easily be a human opponent you’re up against. Of course, if you do have a human nearby, you can take advantage of the multiplayer mode by using the pass-to-play method.
So if ther i’s a problem, it’s that the inspirational boardgame of Risk perhaps hasn’t aged that well. What was once a detailed, intense and even complex boardgame now seems a little one dimensional next to the huge array of other strategy games we’ve can choose from.
But we don’t want to overlook the possibility that the accurate representation of an aging game has its own appeal for the retro gamers. If that’s you, add two points to the overall score.
But unless Risk holds a special place in your heart, try as you might it’s difficult to keep your attention for any length of time. Though a game of Risk doesn’t seem to last as long as it once did, which is perhaps no bad thing.