- Light-hearted strategy that’s accessible to newcomers
- Fun match-3 battle system
- Witty dialogue
- Plenty to get through considering the £7.99 price tag
- Controls aren’t as intuitive as they could be
- Strategy might not be deep enough for series veterans
Tiny Token Empires is comparable to a pizza covered in pineapple. In practice, the two should not go together, they’re both completely different foods and the thought of fatty fruit juices should be enough to make anyone feel a bit nauseous. But somehow they blend together to create something fresh and unique, and compliment each other quite nicely even though it’s a combination that’s definitely not to everyone’s tastes. Tiny Token Empires doesn’t restrict itself to just one genre, but instead combines elements from both the turn-based strategy and match-3 genres to create a great little game, despite there being a few rotten olives amongst the topping.
The game is all about world domination. At its roots it’s like playing a game of Risk, as you take your chosen army across the globe while outwitting your foes along the way. You start things off with just your main character as the Commander of the army and maybe a few scouts, before gathering the funds needed to produce a team capable of taking on everyone who stands in your path and taking your rightful title as King of the World.
The main campaign consists of taking several different armies to victory, each of which have four different scenarios to tackle. They’re increasingly difficult and increasingly long, the latter of which can take a couple of hours to get through (although thankfully there’s an option to save at any time and resume where you left off). It’s not as serious as it sounds though, with tongue-in-cheek dialogue and a light-hearted approach to a genre that isn’t exactly known for making players smile.
And this is why Tiny Token Empires has more appeal to an audience beyond strategy enthusiasts. The whole strategy is element is present, but won’t stir your grey matter to the extent where it’s overwhelming. Countries are claimed simply by moving units across the board, sometimes a battle of match-3 the only obstacle between you and a new place to down your arms.
That’s not to say a bit of thought isn’t required though. The more territory you acquire, the greater your income. You’ll need this to not only to expand your army, but to fortify your existing towns, upgrade them to Cities or even Capitals, and make sure that it’s as hard as possible for the enemy to start a takeover.
As mentioned before, the battle system is entirely a match-3 affair. Once you’ve assembled a squad (which can have up to five units within it), battles are triggered by either entering areas of the map where the “wildlife” resides, or by launching an attack directly on the enemy. Taking turns, it’s your job to reduce the enemy’s HP to zero before he does the same to you. Attacks are launched by earning enough points from the grid, filling the blue meter for the respective unit allows you to get a hit away. Aligning three blocks gets you 20 points, while matching four blocks gets an extra turn, and matching five gets you a juicy bomb that blows out all nearby blocks for a wealth of extra power.
It’s not as simple as it sounds though. Each unit has its own way of attacking, which corresponds to an icon and a colour on the grid. For example, a melee attacker has red blocks on the grid, an archer has purple blocks and so on, so there’s an art to getting the right balance within teams. A trio of swordsmen in your squad means that they’ll all gain points when you match up three red blocks, but if no reds are available then it’s essentially a turn wasted. The assembly of a perfect team is vital for success, too much of a mixture or not enough can be your downfall depending on who or what you’re facing. Of course there is the option of simulating the battles, but that’s for the cheaters and cheaters alone.
There is a problem with this situation under certain scenarios unfortunately. In the instance that your team is made up of entirely the same affinity, and you run into an opponent with the same type, it turns into a slog comprising of whom can salvage the scarce source of power the fastest. It doesn’t happen often, but when it does you’ll just feel like mashing the circle button to surrender.
It’s also quite clear that the game isn’t native to PS3 based on the control scheme. From the main menu screen alone it’s clear that the directional buttons don’t work in-game, which is a shame as the left analog stick is a bit fiddly when trying to select blocks in battle. Using a combo of the directional buttons and a swipe of the right stick to move blocks in the chosen direction would’ve felt much more intuitive, so it’s a shame that they weren’t used.
Tiny Token Empires is a hybrid of genres that definitely works. Turn-based strategy veterans may be underwhelmed by a relative lack of depth, but the game is accessible to a new audience who perhaps aren’t quite so engrossed in the genre. Add that to a well thought out match-3 battle system, witty dialogue that will genuinely make you grin and plenty of campaigns to tackle, and you’ve got an Empire that’s well worth stepping foot into.