Even a glance at Tiny Metal’s mechanics will likely bring to mind Nintendo’s Wars series, and with good reason. It’s the same format, same style and effectively the same concept but with a few notable tweaks to the formula. Aside from the new 3D sprites, the game features a number of new unit changes, with the likes of Sniper and Spec Ops units giving infantry much more staying power in battles. Furthermore, various army elements now have the capacity to lock onto units in synchronised attacks, which both speeds up games and grants bonuses to effective damage. As such, there’s a greater emphasis placed upon tactical cohesion over rushing an enemy force. More importantly, however, units can gain greater experience and benefit from constant fighting, which makes them more than mere fodder in these games. This should have made for an excellent PC alternative to the classic franchise, but for every step forward there was at least two back.
The key issue with Tiny Metal is it’s clearly a skeleton of what could be a much better game. There’s a competent single vision to the game and the 3D take on the old chibi-army aesthetic is entertaining, but more than a few strategic qualities are missing from the game. This is evident from how the units have been streamlined into merely a few categories, with anti-air and artillery being rolled into a single unit. Furthermore, the lack of naval elements means that you only have a few avenues to approach the enemy from, which is only made all the more notable thanks how to airborne and ground units cannot occupy the same space.
Some of the shortcomings of the units themselves could have been alleviated thanks to more distinctive commanders, but the game doesn’t retain the bold personalities it needs for them. There’s nothing truly distinctive about each CO in terms of their tactics, strengths or how they influence units, which robs the game of some much needed tactical variety. It’s made all the more notable thanks to the total absence of multiplayer, which could have easily helped it overcome a few of its more repetitive qualities.
While Tiny Metal succeeds on presentation and has a competently made core combat system, the lack of so many essential features of this genre ultimately undermines any success. While tactics junkies might get a few hours of fun out of it, once you are done with the short campaign you’re left with little to really enjoy. Fans of Advance Wars and its ilk would do better just to stick to the older games. Or at least until Area 35 can build upon what they have established here.
TINY METAL / DEVELOPER: AREA 35 / PUBLISHER: SONY / PLATFORM: PC / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW