Pocket God vs. Desert Ashes is a strategy game that emulates a war between two factions. However, its war isn’t very fast; it’s a long, grueling one. This strategy game is a war of attrition, and that isn’t a good thing.
I’ll be the first to say strategy games aren’t really my thing, but I didn’t think Pocket God vs. Desert Ashes would be very challenging. I was wrong. The game takes the combat and structure of the free-to-play Desert Ashes Vita game and pits the faction against the cast of Pocket God, a mobile game. You control the characters Ooga Chaka, from the latter title when the alien-like antagonists, the Landians, invade your land through a portal. The game’s loose story is that the Landians quickly build bases in your land, and your duty is to rid it of them. However, that’s the only tidbit your given. The game uses this as the basis for the story, but adds nothing to hold your attention throughout the game. It depends on its gameplay to hold you, which is arguably fun at times, yet very challenging and long.
The way battles work is there are three structures in Pocket God vs. Desert Ashes: headquarters, troop dispersals and resources. The headquarters is the main location for both factions. Capture it and you win the battle; have yours captured, though, and you lose. Troop dispersals are exactly what you think; they are where you choose what kind of troop, each with a different cost, to deploy. Holding these locations increases your maximum number of troops you can have on the field. Lastly, resource locations are where you get the gold to purchase those troops.
You start off each battle holding a various number of resources, headquarters and troop dispersals. Usually your best bet is to start off with the weaker ground troops since they can move farther and are the only ones that can capture those structures – they are also cheaper. The game can be quite rough if you don’t learn this quickly – it took me forever myself. Each type of troop has its own tile movement limit, attack range, and which troop it is strong and weak against that makes the combat so variable. The AI is actually fairly competent; it realizes if its troop is strong or weak against yours and will make a decision of movement or attack based on that.
The way battles work is like this: you’ll be in range of an enemy and you will be given the options to attack. At this point, a percentage will pop up over that enemies head with the percentage of damage you will do to it – the percentage is NOT the likelihood of you destroying it. You make your decision to attack based on that percentage; if you can’t kill it and want to back out, you can actually back up and move in another direction – your movements aren’t set in stone unless you attack or choose “stay.” In that sense, it isn’t as hardcore or as traditional as other strategy games, but it is a good option to give you a taste of what strategy games are all about. It also doesn’t take away from the game’s difficulty.
It’s very hard for me to express how I feel about Pocket God vs. Desert Ashes’ difficulty. Even though I mention it is a good option for gamers trying to get into strategy games, the difficulty can be de-motivating and crushing to your spirit. You can’t change any difficulty option in the game, but the difficulty comes from how the maps are laid out. The proximity of your structures and troops to the Landians is so close that it may take you hours to complete a single battle – and this doesn’t really change throughout the campaign. Even though the number of structures and landscape changes, it remains difficult to overcome the enemy, and that may keep some from continuing on with it – and for good reason. The difficulty needs to be adjusted to where it peaks toward the end and the barrier to entry is shorter.
On a more positive note, the graphics are appealing and use a variety of colors that just pop. When in battle, the game will go into a more detailed view as troops fight against each other. The music is also enjoyable, and while it doesn’t compliment a battlefield tone, it seems oddly in place and will be a close friend as you struggle through those difficult levels. There is also some more levels outside of the campaign mode called Skirmish that can keep you content for your strategy needs. Lastly, the game has a multiplayer mode where you can control everything from troop perks to turn time limit that will allow you to take turns when you want and play like you want.
All in all, I felt satisfied whenever I would overcome the Landians in battle. Even though the battles were long and grueling, I thought that Pocket God vs. Desert Ashes was well designed and fun despite its difficulty problems. It’s hard to recommend the game to a strategy newcomer, as your mileage will vary, but I grew to enjoy it even though it left a bad initial impression. If you have a high tolerance and patience, then this game is for you.