There are a lot of crappy mobile games out there—those that use monetization more like a game mechanic than just as a way to sustain their studio. I never heard of The Battle of Polytopia until recently, and that’s too bad. Polytopia takes the 4X genre and condenses it into a super-fast mobile iteration you can also play on computers. Think Civilization but on a scale that makes bite-sized play sessions manageable.
The Battle of Polytopia is a 4X (explore, expand, exploit, exterminate) turn-based strategy game. Unlike some 4X games, Polytopia isn’t meant to be a game that is played over hundreds of hours—instead, most matches can be completed within ten minutes, depending on the game mode. But if you want a longer gameplay experience, there are those options too. And there are both single and multiplayer modes to appeal to competitive gamers or those who just want a solo challenge. Battle for Polytopia, despite its form factor, is a surprisingly addictive 4X strategy game.
While The Battle of Polytopia fits wonderfully as a mobile game on Android and iOS, most of my time spent with it was through Steam on a desktop PC. While it definitely has the hallmarks of a mobile game—even with some microtransactions—The Battle of Polytopia is an addictively fun game no matter where you play it, and while it is a bit “lite” compared to other 4X titles, it’s like a perfect cut of 4X, trimmed of the fat.
There are two main ways to play The Battle of Polytopia: single player and multiplayer. Single player is experienced in multiple different ways. You can play the traditional (and personally recommended) Perfection mode, a more 4X traditional Domination mode, and Creative mode. Creative mode allows you to set up a game in any fashion you’d like, including choosing between Perfection and Domination modes as well as an infinite mode. The multiplayer mode has slightly different game modes: Might and Glory. Might works a bit like Perfection mode, being that it’s points-based. Might requires you to capture all of the enemy capitols to win. You can also play locally with a pass and play mode.
The Battle of Polytopia has somewhat simplified gameplay, especially when compared to a more traditional 4X game. If you’re playing the points-based rounds, the gameplay is lightning fast. Create units, conquer cities, and upgrade those cities by exploiting nearby resources. Every aspect of gameplay is refined down to its base element, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t strategy involved. Each unit you can recruit, for instance, has a set distance it can travel, an armor value, a range it can engage enemies at, etc. Even the starting tribe you choose can make a difference, since each of the 16 total tribes (with DLC) has its own advantage.
Each of the tribes has their own starting area, but also something that sets it apart from the others. The original 12 tribes each had a talent on the technology tree unlocked, but the DLC tribes tend to be a little more interesting. Like the Aquarian tribe that has a slightly different tech tree, and uses water to their advantage, or the Polaris that can free surrounding terrain. The most recently released tribe, the Cymanti train bugs and use poison to defend their fungus blanketed marsh homes. It’s a shame these tribes are locked behind a paywall, and it costs almost as much as the base game to buy them all. But if you’re addicted to The Battle for Polytopia’s gameplay, you might find yourself tempted by these unique tribes.
While I enjoyed my time with The Battle for Polytopia, I think it might work best as a mobile game. It certainly translates to PC just fine, and is fun enough—but I think I’d find myself playing it more often on the road than at my gaming PC. It does have extremely low system requirements, so it might be an option for those who don’t have a PC that is built for games. Either way, The Battle for Polytopia has 4X gameplay boiled down to its core mechanics—I haven’t played anything else quite like it.
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