January 1, 2017 5:14 PM | Thomas Faust
The fact that most people probably haven't heard of Checkmark Games' Shattered Throne could serve as a cautionary tale about the importance of doing PR. As a turn-based tactics game in the vein of Advance Wars or Battle Isle, this should have piqued my interest right away but alas, the game launched basically to no fanfare at all. So I guess it is high time to (belatedly) rally an army and vanquish my foes, one turn at a time.
As is par for the genre's course, you lead pixelated warriors into turn-based battle, clashing with the bad guys' armies while some political intrigue and high fantasy shenanigans play out inbetween missions. What makes the game pretty interesting is the concept of combo points, which is at the heart of Shattered Throne and a neat idea overall. These points basically reward you for ganging up on units by making each subsequent hit (within the same round) cause more damage. They also force you not to be too reckless. Even if your units are strong, getting surrounded by a bunch of weaker foes will get them killed for sure. But then, they certainly are expendable. Since you can recruit new units on the battlefield and they don't carry over to the next mission anyway, it's a totally valid tactic to use parts of your army as cannon fodder, disctracting the AI, going after weakened enemies with no regard for their own safety, or shielding more important units. Not having to agonize over the well-being of every single character under your care almost feels liberating and allows you to play a little more reckless.
While the game is not super-polished - its nice pixel art clashes with the style of the portraits, and the UI could probably use a full make-over - the actual game mechanics feel well-done. In addition, features like a skirmish mode, asynchronous multiplayer, and a map editor with Steam Workshop support add longevity. Game balance is pretty tough to get "just right", but Checkmark Games seem commited to support the game with regular patches and an upcoming post-release content patch. Fans of the genre should definitely give Shattered Throne a closer look.