Trouble With Robots is a real-time strategy game using a collectible card mechanic for playing units and spells in a fantasy struggle against an invading robotic army. You’ll play through an engaging single-player campaign collecting stars in order to unlock more cards for you to use, all the while being entertained by the incredibly humorous dialogue and story.
All cards are unlockable by playing the game and the only In App Purchases you’ll have to make is to unlock the rest of the game after the first chapter, giving you a “pay once, play forever” experience that is rare to find with mobile/tablet gaming these days, especially where card games are concerned.
It’s a fun little strategy game that you can sink dozens of hours into, but is it worth the price of admission? Read on to find out…
You, the commander of a resistance uprising against an invading force of beaurocratic robot overlords will take a deck of cards (the size of the deck increases as the campaign progresses) into battle against Waves of enemies as they attempt to reduce all of your units’ life points to zero.
At the start of each Wave, you’ll draw a few more cards into your hand which is at the bottom of the screen. All cards have the same cost to cast, which is one “bar” of energy on your wand, and this slowly charges over time with a maximum capacity of five energy bars.
When played, cards will instantly summon units of your own from the left side of the screen, as well as other effects such as casting spells like dealing damage to enemies, healing your units, increasing their melee or ranged damage, and so on. Units themselves will attack enemy units that are the closest to them with no input from yourself – all you need to do is play cards when you feel is necessary and help micro-manage some of the aspects of the fights that are going on.
Not all units in Trouble With Robots have the same type of attack or damage output and their maximum health varies as well, so this also becomes relevant when watching the fights that are going on. Helpfully, a small health bar at the top of the screen will show you how much life is left on the unit you controlled who currently has the lowest amount of health, giving you some kind of indication of when it might be a good time to do a healing spell.
There are two kinds of attack damage, ranged and melee, and some attacks even have splash damage to nearby enemies if they have explosive effects and so on. Some cards will modify melee damage or ranged damage, leading to more strategic decisions about which units to summon and how to buff them with the appropriate spells.
There is only one other possible action you can take while watching the fights unfold, and that’s a special attack with your wand that costs one bar of energy and is a lightning bolt that will strike the enemy unit you tap for 50 damage. This helps you remain engaged with the fights even after you’ve spent all your cards, and it stops you from feeling like there’s nothing left for you to do.
These battles are relatively short, with a a few Waves in each level, and the Waves go quickly enough that you never have to wait long for a fresh hand of cards to play around with. The strategy here is very light, mostly consisting of choosing which order to play the cards and which enemy units to tap for your lightning bolts, but there’s enough strategy here to make it a fast, fun, “maybe I should have waited a bit longer before I healed” kind of deal.
Game Modes and Other Features
Trouble With Robots only has a single-player campaign. There’s no multiplayer options available which is unfortunate as that could have been quite enjoyable. However, the campaign is long enough and engaging enough that you really feel like you’ve got more than your money’s worth.
There are three Chapters in the campaign overall, and they give you the first (rather short) Chapter for free. A one time purchase will unlock the last two in a bundle, or you can unlock one at a time if you wish. Thankfully, the last two Chapters are much longer than the first and are where the bulk of the game is, so you’re going to want to go for the better option of the whole-app unlock: trust me on this. It’s just too fun not to and you’ll pay more if you unlock them one at a time.
The campaign consists of levels which unlock one by one over a linear pathway that winds around the world map. Each one has 3 difficulty levels you can attempt them at: Easy, Medium and Hard. On Medium and Hard, the enemies are stronger, but you’ll earn more Stars overall with a multiplier on and Stars are important because they are needed to unlock more cards in your collection.
I found Easy a bit too Easy, Medium not too challenging overall, and Hard just enough of a challenge to feel like I wasn’t steamrolling over the enemies all the time and lost a bit more often, leading to more careful selections of cards to take into battle next time.
Occasionally along the campaign pathway some side levels will open up, and these are optional Challenge levels that you can attempt but you’re not obligated to in order to continue along with the story. You’ll earn extra Stars which is helpful in unlocking more cards, soyou might need to do this occasionally to progress through the campaign if you’re finding it a bit hard on a particular level.
The campaign overall is incredibly enjoyable – it’s actually really funny, as the dialogue between characters turns out to be very witty and well written. There are a lot of puns and gags that could easily fall on the side of cheesy but actually don’t, and instead made me laugh out loud a number of times. It’s rare to find genuine humor that doesn’t fall flat in a strategy game of this kind so it was a nice surprise to encounter it here. There is also enough variety in the enemies you face and the cards you unlock to remain consistently interested in the unfolding strategies available to you as you progress through the game.
Deckbuilding and Strategy
With such a limited amount of cards to take into battle, surely there can’t be that many strategies in building a deck? Well actually, there’s quite a few, and it’s surprising how many they’ve managed to pack into a short design space. Not all strategies will fit the types of enemies you come up against in a particular battle as well so sometimes you need to re-jig your deck a bit to make it work. I like that the game keeps you on your toes like this.
A lot of the strategy relies upon the repeating nature of cards being used more than once over the course of an entire level, and some cards use this quite cleverly. For example, the ‘Gather Support’ card starts out summoning only 1 Peasant to fight for you, but each time you play it again after that will add an extra two Peasants to the total amount. This can snowball to quite high amounts, especially if you combine it with other cards that help you draw more cards, bringing it back into your hand more times than would otherwise occur between Waves.
Many other strategies revolve around summoning and buffing units of a particular race, or buffing a damage type. Peasants deal only melee damage and Elves deal only ranged damage, but Centaurs can deal both, so any blend of Peasant, Centaur and melee buff cards or Elves, Centaurs and ranged damage buff cards will produce a viable strategy.
Some cards interact with one another in other ways, such as being able to be triggered even if they are discarded from your hand, which helps other cards that require you discard another card from your hand as an added cost. For example, I run a build that uses ‘Stampede’ (pictured above) with the card ‘Mining Guild’ that summons 3 Dwarves and states that it will still do so even if it’s discarded. That helps pay for Stampede’s alternate cost of discarding a card, so you’re free to get your incredibly powerful summon of 3 Centaurs with no extra loss of cards.
Admittedly, you aren’t playing a 60 card Magic: the Gathering deck here, so the strategy is not going to be anywhere near as deep or as complex as that, but this game does have the personal endorsement of Richard Garfield who invented Magic, so your game must be doing something right if he likes it enough to tweet about it, right? I’m with Richard here – the game is fun and packs a lot of strategy into a tiny space and a short amount of time.
Trouble With Robots is a delightful, quirky, unique little game: it takes all the fun ofreal-time strategy games that see a lot of unit creation and micro-management, takes out all the hassle and headaches that can come with that and then throws in a fun little collectible card mechanic to boot. The art style is light and cartoony, but all the animations are really well done and it doesn’t feel cheap at all. While the interface and font choices are a bit questionable at times, overall the presentation is really simple, bright and easy to use.
It has something of a retro video game feel, almost as if it could have been a Super Nintendo game. This effect is greatly enhanced by the really wonderful musical score added to the game that has a strong Final Fantasy feel to the themes and I found myself inadvertently humming along to them after a while. This is fitting considering the slightly strange but quaint blend of fantasy races, magic and sci-fi robots is something that Final Fantasy has often done to great effect so there’s definitely a distant link here.
Trouble With Robots is worth the price of admission, which is hardly anything at all: a few bucks at most. There are no further in-app purchases, no booster packs, no annoying reminders to top up energy or stamina – you just pay once and play at your heart’s content until you’ve beaten everything in one go (about three days of no sleep?). I’m not sure how much replay value there is, as some of the battles start to feel a little bit repetitive after a while, but since it costs about a fifth of the price of a movie ticket these days and yet you’ll get dozens of hours out of this game, you can hardly complain. Trouble With Robots is a fun little game that packs quite a large punch for its size, and it’s well worth your time and money to check this one out.
For more screenshots, click here.
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