Set one year after a cyber-terror attack on the United States, Path of War wastes little time in getting down to business.
It's a near-future tale of oppressive military rule and grassroots rebellion.
The political set-up doesn't have much meat on its bones, nor does it require it. You and the other good people simply have to murder and overthrow the naughty men. Who needs nuance?
I'll be joining the rebels over the course of a week, and will report back with my findings every few days.First impressions
You start out being bossed around by a beardy Southern stereotype in a tutorial that's significantly longer than it needs to be.
You see, anyone who's had even a sniff of Clash of Clans and its ilk - i.e. everyone - should be pretty clear what's going on here.
Broadly, Path of War is similar to that Clans-inspired crop of mobile strategy titles, with low-intensity base-building and battles capped at 3 minutes.
The battles themselves, however, are a little different. Maps are split into columns, à la Plants vs. Zombies, and units cannot cross the boundaries.
The strategy arises from where you decide to deploy units, as they can only move forwards. Armoured cars can plough through columns fenced with barbed wire, for instance, while Grenadiers deal best with buildings.
If you get a unit to the other side of the map without being killed, it's automatically cashed in for Command Points that you can spend to deploy another.
Not a life-changing diversion, then, and there's the same end goal of destroying everything before all your own units perish, but it's a refreshing little shake-up of the formula nonetheless.
The theme of moving towards Washington also works well for a game with big social ambitions, as players don't just see their their current location, but are surrounded by those at exactly the ideal level to compete or cooperate with.
Indeed, a large part of Path of War is said to be its co-operative guild-based play, but that hasn't reared its head as yet. Let's give it a few days and see if we make any new chums.Day 3: Bogged down
I'm at level 6 now in Path of War, which doesn't seem like much progress for the amount of time I've put in.
Well, the amount of time I've tried to put into it at least.
You see, to play Path of War is to be in a constant battle with developer Envision Entertainment, who seems to be doing everything in its power to stop you from playing.
Want to upgrade a building? That'll be 3 hours. And you can't work on multiple buildings at once without spending hard currency.
Want to ploddingly move your base ever closer to Washington, as per the game's interesting-but-wasted premise? You don't? Well, you have to. And it costs fuel, as does launching an attack.
Ah, fuel, the bane of my life. While it can be upgraded, at this point my oil well produces 95 fuel per hour. To move any significant distance on the map costs at least 5 times this. Do you see the problem here?
It's frustrating, because the gameplay is actually a fun little departure from the usual free to play strategy fare.
Sure, it's hardly a revolution (see what I did there?), but there is some satisfaction in fielding a perfectly-balanced line-up of troops - from grenadiers to missile trucks - and seeing them tear apart the enemy's defences.
The column-based approach just makes everything seem more rigid, more controllable - not like other F2P strategy titles, where you deploy your troops and they all just run off and largely do as they please.
But the main problem with Path of War is that it's simply dull - something that really shouldn't be an issue considering it boasts a far more interesting premise than many other F2P titles out there.
Some of the game's highlights are news bulletins, reporting on the unfolding story and the wider context behind the actions the player is carrying out.
In some, President Adams directly addresses the rebels - i.e. the player - and promises that their insurgency “will soon be quelled,” while wild-haired rebel leader Colonel Connor remains steadfast in his refusal to back down.
But they're all too short, too few and far between, to make any major impact.
As it stands, I'm simply levelling up (slowly) moving across America (barely) and fighting the same battles over and over again to scrape some XP together.
The first three days have been disappointing, and I can't help but wish I was playing a different F2P strategy title instead. Rival Kingdoms or something.
This is it, then, Path of War's Scrooge-on-Christmas-Eve moment - if it doesn't change its ways in the next four days, the consequences will be grave. By which I mean it'll get a low score. Tiny Tim will be fine.
Day 7 - Wartime camaraderie
I'm not sure that anything's actually changed since the last entry, but I'm certainly getting far less frustrated with Path of War now.
Playing it on its own terms, dipping in and out a couple of times a day, makes for a much better experience.
I've also finally joined an alliance, which gives access to a surprisingly active and fully-featured chat window.
Even more shocking is the fact that, at least in my experience, the community is awash with friendliness and genuine advice rather than incoherent swearing and use of the word 'noob.'
It's telling, however, to see that the bulk of conversations in the chat window involve formulating workarounds to the energy system, or the best way to deal with having no Diamonds.
It's like a chummy support group, with nobody I've seen expressing anything that even remotely resembles enjoyment - more like a feat of endurance that they're committed to grit their teeth through.
The bread and butter gameplay remains the same - attack various Regime-run bases to earn XP, all while slowly constructing and levelling stuff up at your base.
There are new resource-generating buildings made available along the way - namely power and nuclear power plants - but they serve little other purpose than adding more resources to maintain.
To continue any further seems a little pointless, then. After seven days of playing, it's extremely unlikely that Path of War is going to suddenly change its ways.
It's a harsh, uncompromising mobile strategy that offers you two choices: endure the grind, or pay for IAPs.
And, with the App Store jam-packed with livelier, more generous free to play strategy titles, neither option is particularly attractive.How are you getting on with the game? You can tell us and the rest of the PG community about your experiences by leaving a comment in the box below. Click here to learn about our free-to-play review policy.