Tiny Metal Review – A homage to Advance War

I first saw Tiny Metal back in Kickstarter and my thoughts at that time were, ‘Finally! Advance Wars for the PC.’ Though it isn’t a continuation to Nintendo’s highly rated Famicom series, also known as Advance Wars series in the West, it is more or less a homage of it.

You play as Nathan Gries, a Lieutenant in the Artemisia army, in Tiny Metal campaign mode. When a plane ferrying the sovereign of Artemisia was shot down upon its return from a diplomatic mission, the wrath of the Artemisian was directed at its neighbour Zipang, an isolated island nation, for the barbaric act of terrorism. Nevertheless, this incident leads to an armed conflict between the two nations and the young Lieutenant leads a strike force to the island nation as a form of retaliation, while searching for Artemisia’s missing king.

You control a versatile army made up of infantry, tanks and aircraft that move around in a grid, with the final objective of eliminating all enemy forces or the capture of their HQ. You are always vying for map control and capturing of resource-generating cities and unit-production buildings which can only be captured by infantry units. This, in turn, transforms the weakest unit in the game to a vital asset to the army even during the later stages of the game.

Tiny Metal | AREA 35

The core gameplay of Tiny Metal is pieced together nicely, with missions throughout the campaign underlying the strength and uses of every unit in the game. Infantry units are quite weak as compared to the other units, but they are the only ones that are able to capture cities and factories. Metal – Tiny Metal equivalent to a tank – boasts a considerable amount of power and armour, and is easily the bread and butter of the army, yet it can be easily rendered obsolete by the helicopter gunship. The same gunship can be dealt with ease by the Striker – a mobile missile launcher unit – which in turn, is completely defenseless when being under fire. Such actions create a balance unit system and set up a very diverse tactical gameplay.

Veterans of the Advance Wars series may recognise the formula that Tiny Metal had used within its premise, as it has shared similarities to Nintendo Advance Wars franchise. It is no surprise using a blueprint that had been a success in the past in this day and age, but Tiny Metal developer, AREA 35, added a little ruse to heat up the battlefield through the use of action command.

Action command such as Focus Fire allows you to attack a single unit with multiple units targeting it to attack simultaneously. Ganging up against a powerful unit is the way to go in order for you to not incur any losses to your unit. Other commands such as Assault will push the unit back a tile – if the terrains allow it to – and allow its attacker to take over the now empty tile. But such action will cause you to forfeit the right of First To Fire as an attacker and that right is given to the defender.

It may seem that such a command is inconsequential as compared to raw brute military strength, but such tactics will broaden your means of approach. An enemy unit is standing on its own unit production facility? Use Assault to push the enemy away from it so as to block the enemy from producing more units. Does the enemy have a powerful unit that a single unit can’t go up against? Use Focus Fire to bring it down without incurring damages.

Tiny Metal | AREA 35

Overall, action command adds a little flair to the tactical aspect of Tiny Metal. Yet the same set of command isn’t used by the AI at any given time. My honest opinion on the AI tactical abilities is that it is mediocre at best due to its inability to use the same sets of command as the players, and the only time I feel pressured battling against the AI is when it has numerical superiority containing powerful units.

With the release of the multiplayer update, Tiny Metal campaign has expanded beyond the original 14 main story missions – each of which would take roughly 30 minutes to an hour to finish. Despite the addition of the new mission, the commanders (the game characters) has no direct impact on the battlefield. They exist purely to narrate the story and events that occur within Tiny Metal. Dante, a military commander of the Artemisia army, is being introduced as Artemisia greatest tank commander. With such an outstanding ovation, I was put under the impression that he would have some sort of boost to the tanks units in the game. But at alas, it’s nothing more than an illusion.

To experience the full tactical aspect of what Tiny Metal has to offer is to head on over to multiplayer and fight against other players. As both sides begin with equal resources, the one with better tactical prowess will emerge victorious. Unless you have a friend to play against, I wouldn’t want you to get your hopes up with the thought of fighting other players. As at this point of time which this review is being made, the multiplayer scene is already dead.

Tiny Metal | AREA 35

With that being said, I’m battling against nostalgia with every mission I undertook in Tiny Metal. Always comparing it with whatever faint memory that I have left of the Advance Wars franchise. I had my fair share of fun with it, but the lacklustre AI won’t be able to satisfy the thrill you would expect to get from a tactical wargame. Unless you have a friend to play with or looking for a simple tactical strategy game to play, I’d recommend deferring your enlistment for an indefinite period of time. 

Platform: PC (Windows, Mac OS), Playstation 4 & Nintendo Switch
Publisher: Sony Music Entertainment (Japan) Inc. / UNTIES
Developer: AREA 35
Rating: 7/10

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