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Arel Wars is a new lane based side-scrolling real-time strategy game from Gamevil, with gameplay in the same vein as Swords and Soldiers on PC and iOS. It’s a challenging yet fun title with Gamevil’s great patented pixel art style, full of color and pop. It also tells a fairly interesting fantasy tale across three different campaigns, and best of all, it’s totally free. Though it’s supported by ads, they never interfere with gameplay.
The origins of this world are fairly common as far as fantasy goes. A creator birthed three unique races: the cunning Humes (Humans), the ferocious Busters, a humanoid race of cats, and the magical Elvens. This creator got all mad and stuff when the races nearly wiped each other out, and as such abandoned them. Now this triangle of hatred continues, though as is clearly hinted at throughout the game, higher powers in the kingdom are doing all that they can to fan the flames of hate ever higher for their own devious purposes. Each faction follows their own campaigns and stories with their own heroes, and it’s interesting to get each race's perspective on the rest.
The game is rather simple. You spawn units to follow either of the two lanes, and have various upgrades and abilities at your disposal. You can take your hero out of the base for some real offense, but also instantly call them back if they’re needed on defense. Battles are won when the enemy’s castle lays in ruin, and each stage has a special bonus objective for greater rewards. The strategy comes in the pre-battle set up. You have limited slots to equip different classes into, and it’s important to bring the right troops for the job. Within the first hour or so of each campaign, just following the battle hints and making sure you always complete the bonus objectives before moving on should give you enough of an upper hand. The cluttered interface and menus can be a bit daunting and off putting at first, but it’s all much simpler than it appears. After two or three stages, you’ll know what’s up.
The colorful pixel art is a feast for the eyes, and the soundtrack is awesome. Even if it is manageable, I’d say the cluttered and complex user interface really detracts from this experience. It doesn’t help that it was incompatible with my Motorola Xoom, so it all had to be crammed on the smaller screen of my Nexus. I’ve read that the game becomes brutally difficult to the point where in-app purchase coins are required to progress, but I played for well over an hour with one faction and never reached that point, and there are three factions. The game is completely free, so even if that’s true, you’ve still got quite a few hours of fun packed into this little title, and you’ve got nothing to lose by giving it a try. It’s sure to satisfy strategy fans with its simple and addictive gameplay.