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Review: Witch Wars (iOS)

Tuesday, May 22nd, 2012 by

I haven’t particularly seen eye-to-eye with Com2uS over the last year or so. They’re a solid developer out of South Korea that’s making quite a name for itself in the mobile space, but that name is also synonymous with shady in-app purchases. From their social games to their mobile gaming staples, there’s a good chance their games are consciously going to try bleeding a little extra cash from their users. If there’s one thing Com2uS does particularly well, though, it’s competitive multiplayer.

Witch Wars is Com2uS’ latest game. It’s likely their best game yet.

Starting up the game, I was surprised to find such pleasant music accompanying a clean menu. Too many games in the App Store lack polish in the audio department, but Witch Wars is not one of them. Moreover, the seven selectable witches each have their own voice work to accompany game play. While their battle cries are simple, it’s a nice touch to help differentiate the characters.

Unfortunately, six of the seven witches are locked from the get-go. While three more can be unlocked via coins that you earn through playing the game, the last three can only be unlocked via in-app purchases. They are not cheap, either, and their skills cost more to advance. It’s an unfair advantage, but it’s easy enough to decline battle against these overpowered little witches if you want to level the playing field.

The game consists of matching five different types of blocks within a 6×6 grid. Each block has a different effect, from the spell books that raise your magic level to the handcuffs that lock random blocks in place on your opponent’s grid. Matching four or more blocks forms a more powerful, golden Power Block similar to the jewels in Bejeweled Blitz.

You can view your opponent's grid in the window, but you won't have time to look.

As blocks are removed, more cascade in to replace them. Consecutive matches result in a combo meter building in the background of the grid. If you fill the meter, which slowly dwindles as you play, all the blocks in the grid turn into Power Blocks for about five seconds. It’s a great reward for players who are able to consistently build combinations, but I lack those skills. Additionally, as all the blocks turn gold in this “Fever Mode,” it can be quite difficult to distinguish between the blocks. Good luck getting more than one or two matches during this time.

Even though the smaller grid makes the game seem simplified, it may actually make things more complex. The smaller confines make matches easier, sure, but it also means you have no excuse to stutter. The game plays fast, and every lull feels like an eternity. You don’t have time to wait for locked tiles to unlock, and they will right before your eyes as you’re about to make a move, you just have to move on and hope you can come back a few seconds later.

Each witch has three magic spells with varying effects. Some of them effect your grid, others effect your opponents, and some are just good old fashion healing and direct damage. You can strengthen these spells, as well as four other stats, via the coins you earn in battle. Of course, should you want to throw money at the problem, you can also purchase coins in the shop.

While there is a single-player mode, Witch Wars is all about online battles. It’s damn good at it. Playing against another person adds a tangible sense of tension. The battles play out a lot like a tug of war, with characters going back and forth as they attack and heal depending upon their grid. It really is a blast to play. I haven’t had this much fun playing competitive puzzle game since Puyo Pop Fever.

However, that’s not to say Witch Wars is perfect. The game crashed numerous times when I tried to purchase the “remove advertisements” option. Moreover, as the advertisements are all Com2uS games anyhow, there’s no revenue being generated for them. No, this is simple behavior modification like the fly painted on a urinal. It’s an annoyance just for the sake of being annoying as it saps my battery life.

Really, they're milking that dollar, but the game's worth it. Also, battery life!

Additionally, people who are willing to pay extra are going to have a leg up on the competition. I’ve come to grips with this aspect, lame though it may be, and forgive Witch Wars because it’s your standard free-to-play model. Plus, no achievements are tied to your character progression like the ones in HOMERUN BATTLE 2. It is worth noting that you would need to make $25 worth of in-app purchases, bare minimum, to unlock all the achievements, though.

Finally, though I’ve had few problems finding opponents, I’d love to see more robust matchmaking options in the future. Moreover, there are no options to let me add friends or save rivals like there are in HOMERUN BATTLE 2. Instead of automatically picking an opponent completely at random, maybe I’d like to find someone around my skill level. There’s very little reason to have Win Points if you’re not going to use them when deciding my opponents. At the very least, let me cycle through opponents rather than exiting online mode altogether when I decline a match.

Witch Wars is frenetic fun at a hectic pace that takes match-3 from its casual roots and makes it into a fierce competition. It takes the genre forward the same way Bejeweled Blitz did: by adding a little tension to the game. With clean graphics, soothing sound, and terrific online gameplay, Witch Wars breathes new life into the stale match-3 genre.

5 star

(Witch Wars is a universal app that features retina display graphics and GameCenter integration. Note that you will need a Com2uS account to play. Advertisements can be removed via ninety-nine cent IAP or as a package deal with coins.)

About the Author

Fade to Slack is a founding member of Delta Attack, an American expatriate in South Korea, and a true believer in the legitimacy of mobile gaming. Keep up with him on Twitter at https://twitter.com/Fade2Slack so he can justify having a Twitter account.

Fade to Slack has written 352 posts on Delta Attack
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  • Mark A. Brooks

    Downloading it now homie.

    • Fade to Slack

      I’m sure you’ll dig it, sir. However, there’s no option to add rivals or friends at this time, so there’s no way I’ll be able to match up against you. Yes, that pun was intended.

      • Mark A. Brooks

        Just drained my fucking battery playing this shit. I don’t even care that my opponents have unfair advantages. It’s awesome, sir. Thank you.

        • Fade to Slack

          My pleasure. Sometimes dumb luck can make up for the disadvantages. Fever Mode + swords and handcuffs can turn the tide, sir.

          I don’t know if you’ve had any games come down to the wire, but it’s exhilarating when you squeak out a victory.

          • Mark A. Brooks

            I have a humble ten or so victories, and I’m quite a bit faster than most of my opponents (Bejewled Blitz skills carry over quite nicely), but their levels are extremely high. It’s alright. I’ll be there sometime.

            • Fade to Slack

              I agree. I could see where people would be REALLY tempted, though, to make some of these purchases. However, the characters appear pretty well balanced overall, so there isn’t much of a reason to unless you just HAVE to have a particular loli.

              All in all, I’m rather surprised by how much I like this game. It was very much under the radar. Hopefully, people take note.

              I have a feeling that you’ve since surpassed my 20 or so wins since you posted this comment. I’m trying to decide if I’m going to level up my spell book or save up to boost Dancing Sword. The latter sounds better to me right now.

              • Mark A. Brooks

                Something clicked last night and I just started winning almost every match. I’ve just been concentrating on boosting my passive skills after maxing out Disturb, which is the only skill I use (and I tend to use it whenever it’s ready to go, unless I’m in the middle of a big combo that I need to keep going). Seems to work well.

                Currently ranked at around 700 or so. Yeah, I’ve been playing the shit out of this one. Takes too long to get coins, but y’know.

                • Fade to Slack

                  That’s pretty hardcore, sir.

                  I’m still trying to play through Punch Hero so I can form a guide or I’d likely be right there with you.

                  Hope this isn’t taking away from your D3 time. Or, you know, parenting.

                  • Mark A. Brooks

                    Well, yes and yes. That first day, anyway. I’ve got a better grip now.

  • Markham Asylum

    I know it’s free, but man, Puzzle Quest and Clash of Heroes just slayed me on match-3 games.

    Plus, does this even have a single-player mode, or is it all deathmatch?

    • Fade to Slack

      I get that feeling, sir. I do. I played those games, as well as a ton of Meteos, over the past few years.

      That said, the online experience is unmatched. It’s lightning quick as you go back and forth with the other player. If you’ve enjoyed Match-3 games in the past, then you may well love it. If not, again, it is free to play.

      As for the single-player element, it’s the same. Instead of a living opponent, you go against AI opponents in an endurance match. I’ve seen mention of an endless mode, but I don’t know where to find it. Perhaps a future update…?

    • Mark A. Brooks

      Honestly, it’s the online vs. aspect that makes this game. Otherwise it would be just another match 3.

      • Fade to Slack

        Seconded.

        Com2uS does this element particularly well. The balance in this game is better than HOMERUN BATTLE 2, too, which is why I can forgive the IAP.

        It’s definitely worth trying.