Welcome, brave soldior. As a member of the strategy-game-craving masses, you’ve likely seen a few epic iOS strategizers here and there. If you’re anything like me, an unabashed outer-space geek, you most definitely have a creamy spot for genre classics like Master of Orion. If all of that rings true, and you have an iOS device, hold on tight – we’re going in deep with 9 Colonies.
The thing I have to lay out here is that 9 Colonies isn’t your standard run-of-the-mill sprawling master strategy exploration title like others I’ve played (Distant Star anyone?). 9 Colonies takes a different approach; a more story-driven take on the strategy genre is how the game was developed, which is very cool if you’re an RPG freak like me, but don’t get excited yet – the story bits of the game are surprisingly lacking. The game is a single-player turn-based science-fiction strategy story that allows you to steer the fate of any one of the 9 colonies of our solar system – and yes, Pluto is included, jerks. In the name of Science and cosmic spelunking, Earth’s inhabitants have colonized the solar system, but old enmity, deep-seated nationalistic ardor and the like have taken over, as we knew they would. A once utopian dream for a unified solar system has spiraled out of control as conflict ultimately blossoms into war.
The basic goal is to bring each of the nine Colonies to a mutual peace and governance under one leader to bring about sanity and peace, and to keep said peace from spiraling out of control from whence it came. It’s a great premise (and a fun one to play, in its essence), with all of the core command and conquer elements at hand — colony management, research, turn-based strategy — but each element has been developed in a uniquely utilitarian way that will really appeal to some gamers and will be a turn-off to others. The meat of the gameplay comes in controlling how your colony spends their time and effort, whether by researching and developing newer, greener, more efficient technologies, creating and constructing infrastructural improvements to the colony, or building war-fleets to raze and conquer new colonies.
I found this aspect of the game to be pretty easy and straight forward (the more I tap on a certain area to prioritize, the more my research or construction efforts are honed, for example). The controls are very straight forward and easy to manipulate if not somewhat crude – the graphic prowess of 9 Colonies could definitely be improved – but this is the bottom line: you’re basically presented with a numbers summary of your colony’s status accompanied by a very 16-bit-like animation of two objects hurtling toward one another during a battle. This is my main complaint for the game – the graphics are almost nonexistent and the gameplay mostly stems as a numbers game. Unfortunately, this led to the demise of my interest in playing after a couple hours! This isn’t just a graphics issue, the gameplay itself is very basic and utilitarian. If you like this style of gaming (which left a very DOS-like flavor in my mouth – DOOM anyone?) you may very well be pleased to spend hours with 9 Colonies – but in the age of iOS5 and the iPhone 4S, I was expecting a bit more oomph.
As an RPG It definitely veers on the slow side (as does Distant Star). 9 Colonies is an excellent take on 4X space strategy for the 4X purist, and as such, 9 Colonies occupies a unique space in the iOS game library. That being said, I wouldn’t spend more than half an afternoon playing around with it.
For a second opinion, feel free to check out this review at Bradtastic.