Rymdkapsel is a real-time strategy game for the iOS that actually works. The idea of making an iOS port of a game genre as complex and inaccessible as real time strategy sounds like a recipe for disaster—and if wasn’t handled with such an incredible amount of delicacy, that’s exactly what Rymdkapsel would have been. Instead, Swedish developer Grapefrukt has created an isometric strategy game that is as deep as it is simple.
As a quick warning, you should know that your first game of Rymdkapsel is not going to end well. You’ll begin by dragging down new rooms to construct from the menu at the top and assigning your two pixel minions to work. These rooms are given to you in randomized Tetris shapes that you’ll have to use to build out your ship. You’ll collect more and more resources and even discover mysterious monoliths that are just out of your reach. Add in an ambient synth score, minimalist visuals and gentle tutorial, and you’ll most likely get tricked into thinking that Rymdkapsel is a laidback game about exploration and just kicking back.
But Rymdkapsel is as much about “defense” as it is about “tower”.
When the meter at the bottom of the screen gets close to filling, the sirens will go off, signaling a wave of enemies coming your way. The nameless enemies’ wandering missiles will head your way looking to destroy your small cast of minions and end your space adventure. Early on in the game, defending your ship is as easy as assigning your minions to their positions in the defense room. However, as your ship gets larger and more spread out, placing your defense rooms throughout your base requires greater strategy and careful planning.
A lot can be said about the game’s sparse visuals and fantastic soundtrack. But the most important thing to mention is that the simple, geometric art style and bright colors are not mere ornamentation. Like the fantastic swipe-based controls, the visuals are an integral part of the game’s cohesive vision to remove genre clichés and barriers of entry. The result is an experience that feels like the full realization of developer Martin Jonasson’s vision to make a real time strategy game on the iOS that doesn’t get bogged down in the details—but instead flourishes in getting the big picture right.
Rymdkapsel gives you three pretty challenging achievements to go after, but unfortunately leaves it at that. It could really use more achievements or goals or further measures of success to give players a reason to come back—perhaps it could even throw out some curve balls to switch things up. For now though, I’m happy with some additional content being saved for future updates because even now, those first few playthroughs alone are worth the price of admission.
I used to be an avid Starcraft player and would love to build up my base and watch my little units collect resources as my empire expanded as a kid. The competitive nature of a game like Starcraft was just an afterthought for me (which is why I was never any good). To me, Rymdkapsel plays out like the ideal kind of real-time strategy game—a grueling tower defense game with enough strategy and aesthetic charm to make it not feel like a tower defense game at all. Rymdkapsel is so much fun to play that I’ll happily build my base again and again—even just to watch it crumble.
Platform: Android, iOS, Playstation Mobile
Release Date: 08/01/13