WWDC 2009: First look at Saga Tactics on iPhone

Details on the first persistent online strategy game for iPhone

WWDC 2009: First look at Saga Tactics on iPhone
| Saga Tactics

Aside from a select few titles that have timidly toyed with network multiplayer, the connected nature of iPhone has yet to be fully exploited. Saga Tactics intends to break the ice, venturing far beyond the YouTube replays and statistical role-playing games for a fully realised, fully connected strategy game.

In the high fantasy world of Saga Tactics, six factions vie for supremacy in turn-based battles. Nature fights the Undead while Machines confront Light in a persistent war for domination. These factions are comprised of characters from a variety of races – orcs, elves, humans, and others – that interact within the context of a larger, connected universe that goes beyond individual battles.

"This is much more ambitious than a stage-by-stage tactics game," trumpets Slava Zatuchny of developer Silverlode Interactive. More in line with a massively multiplayer game than offline adventure, Saga Tactics hopes to leverage the connected nature of iPhone with strategic gameplay. "iPhone is always connected and we want to take advantage of that for something unique," he says.

Zatuchny was unable to give us hands-on time with the game due to its early state, though was more than eager to share details on its inventive design. "We're planning to spend about a year developing Saga Tactics," he admits. That time will be used to fine tune the game's turn-based battles that feature 68 different units each with various attacks and special abilities.

Units are called into action by plunking down cars. Unlike a traditional turn-based strategy where units are drafted according to how far you've climbed a tech tree, Saga Tactics grants access to units based on the cards you own. You can spend in-game currency to purchase specific cards or cheaper booster packs that randomly award you with cards. In-app commerce will even allow you to buy gold using cash, which then can be used to purchase cards and booster packs in the game's digital marketplace.

The decision to base gameplay on cards was made specifically to ensure accessibility claims Zatuchny. "It's important that users can pick up the game and instantly know how to play and the cards do that." When you have a handful of cards, he explains, you know that you're able to play them. That clarity promises a level of accessibility that could make Saga Tactics a compelling entry point for strategy gaming newcomers.

Ease of use won't prevent the game from possessing depth, though. Zatuchny highlights enchantments as one of several features that support in-depth strategy and customisation. "We want a thinking man's game," he tells us. Cross-platform connectivity with a free-to-play PC version is another measure to sophisticate the game and attract a diverse pool of players into the fold.

While Saga Tactics is far from receiving a definite release date, Zatuchny was confident in the game's price point: $1.99. The incorporation of in-app commerce requires the game to carry a price, which is more than reasonable given the wealth of gameplay to be offered when it appears on the App Store at the beginning of 2010.