I'm going to be upfront about Ancient Empires: Thorin Battle. I didn't think much of it when I first started playing. Not much at all, really.

Then I found out it's a port of a much older cell phone game from back when the name Nokia actually meant something and - yeah, no, it's still not very good.

Outmoded and outdated

Ancient Empires is a pretty bare-bones strategy game. You'll begin a given scenario with a set group of soldiers and a leader to protect, then take turns against the AI moving everyone around.

Each unit has a maximum of ten health (or maybe it's power?), and once that falls to zero they're toast. The weaker they get, the less damage they do.

It's similar to games like Advance Wars, only there's not a fancy fight screen.

Despite being a product of a bygone era, it's still not particularly interesting. Certain events will only trigger when a specific character moves past an invisible line, which makes gaming the system all too easy.

The story segments at the beginning of each scenario won't start progressing until you tap the screen, which leads to a few headaches when trying to move someone right at the beginning. And the list goes on.

Turn-based turmoil

Another, perhaps more significant issue, is that Ancient Empires feels terribly unbalanced to the point of being unfair.

I'm all for a challenge, but so much of this game is either trial-and-error or a painfully slow game of "attack, retreat, waste multiple turns to heal up at a village, attack, retreat, etc." It's a total slog, and it simply isn't any fun.

In all honesty I'm not sure I'd have anything nice to say about Ancient Empires: Thorin Battle even if there weren't already years of far better strategy games to play instead.

We can do better, and indeed already have.