The Long Siege
By: Anomaly Studios Pte Ltd
Match-three games are my go-to games for trains, waiting in line, lying in bed and similar settings. The problem is that the majority of them these days are filled with consumable in-app purchases (IAPs) that I don’t have any patience for. So I’m always on the lookout for a good premium match-three without IAPs. My absolute favorite is Hero Emblems, but I ran out of content. So I’ve been looking for new games to fill that void.
I had a blast with You Must Build a Boat, but I’m not a fan of the pixel graphics. It also has a few bugs and is lacking GameCenter leaderboards, so there’s no real replay value. I haven’t looked at it much since I completed it once. So when I saw the announcement for The Long Siege, I couldn’t wait to play. So how does it compare to others and is it worth your time?
First, let me throw this out there. The Long Siege feels like a cross between Hero Emblems, You Must Build a Boat (YMBAB), Battle For Blood, and Alto’s Adventure. The game it’s most similar to is YMBAB because of the real-time sliding tiles mechanic. It also has a similar currency system. You match gold coins and blue coins to earn the currencies and they each have different uses. One is for upgrading your troops and the other is for upgrading your cannon and tower and purchasing buffs. Both currencies are easy to accumulate, so the game never feels too grindy.
The way it works is you have sword tiles, bow tiles and staff tiles on the board, along with the aforementioned currency tiles. By matching three tiles of the sword, bow or staff tiles, you’ll summon the warrior, ranger or mage. If you match four or more tiles, you’ll get a more powerful giant troop. There are also utility tiles, which repair your tower and offer some other buffs later in the game. The enemy tower sends out their own troops to fight yours, but it also shoots projectiles at your crystal. If the crystal turns from green to red, you won’t be able to summon any more troops until you repair it back to green with some utility tiles. This continues for several rounds until it ends in either victory or defeat. At the end of each level, or tower, you’ll encounter a sludge-like boss with a lot of strength and health points. So the game can get a bit frantic and stressful at times.
In the Long Siege, cannon tiles will appear on the board when you make non-troop matches such as currency or utility. These can be tapped and used immediately, the same way spell tiles were used in YMBAB. If you liked YMBAB exactly as it is, you might find this game lacking in a few areas. Specifically, in YMBAB, you can continue making matches nonstop. But here, you have to wait for the board to settle before you’re able to make another match. It does give you time to think and breathe, but also makes the game feel a bit slower compared to YMBAB. But those who found YMBAB too stressful may appreciate this. Personally, I wish transitions between rounds were a little faster. The game itself is fairly fast-paced. Not quite YMBAB frantic, but fast enough that you need to keep moving. I do like that it’s not necessary to keep your eye on both the top part and the bottom part of the board at all times like you do in YMBAB. You do need to glance up there every once in a while to see what’s happening, but most of your attention can remain on matching tiles. The sound effects also help you keep track of your tower’s damage without taking your eyes off the board.
The game is similar to Battle for Blood in that your matches summon troops to defend your tower and attack the enemy’s tower. Battle for Blood has different troops you can choose from and it uses swapping mechanics instead of sliding. The problem I had with it was that upgrades cost a lot and it was hard to earn gold. It made the game feel very grindy. I assume that was done to get players to spend money on IAPs. Instead, I deleted it. Thankfully, the Long Siege has no IAPs and currency is plentiful, so it feels balanced.
What makes me think of Alto’s Adventure are the low-poly graphics and night/day cycling. On top of that, you get three goals/quests to accomplish and then are given three more. For the most part, I found them doable, but I did get stuck on a difficult one for a long time, which prevented me from accessing the last three quests on my first game. I wish, in both games, each completed quest would be replaced with a new one. But that’s a design choice, and perhaps the game would have been too imbalanced that way. If you can’t complete all three quests given, you won’t be able to unlock the next buff. So you’ll be playing with a bit of a handicap.
The Long Siege doesn’t have quite as much depth as Hero Emblems, what I consider the reigning champion of match-three games. For instance, matching five tiles doesn’t seem to do anything more than matching four tiles, which creates a giant, more powerful soldier. The enemies are also not quite as varied. Another thing I’m not a fan of is how each round in a tower is almost completely independent of each other. However good or bad you do in a previous round doesn’t really affect the next one, as the troops and shields don’t carry on over. The board itself does, along with any cannons still in there. So it does give you time to prepare your next move. But I find that hurts the strategic element of the game to have everything else reset at the beginning of a round. In Hero Emblems, every move counted and carried over throughout a dungeon.
The game can be challenging at times and I have had a number of defeats. But you get to keep all the currency you earn even if you’re defeated. So you should be able to afford new upgrades fairly often, making it a bit easier to progress when you’re having trouble. The upgrades come in the form of damage and health for each kind of troop. There are three ranks for each type and each rank gives them a new passive skill. You can also use gold to upgrade your cannons and tower defense. And finally, when you complete a certain number of quests or reach rank three of a troop, you’ll be able to unlock a new buff. These range from the Healer, which enables utility tiles to heal your tower, to the Bard, which grants your troops a brief speed and attack boost. So as things start to heat up, you’ll have more weapons at your disposal.
I played both on my iPhone 5 and iPad Air 2. My dying iPhone 5 couldn’t go more than ten minutes without being plugged in, but when plugged in it plays perfectly fine. I usually prefer to play my match-three games on the go and with one hand, so I don’t often play them on my iPad. But the nature of the game actually makes it very comfortable to play the Long Siege on an iPad. You can see my stream from earlier today with it (warning: may include some foul language):
The game is a bit on the heavy side (almost 500mb) for a match-three, and also a battery hog. If possible, I would love to see it streamlined a bit. For instance, Hero Emblems is only 135mb and it barely drains my battery at all. Otherwise, the Long Siege is very mobile-friendly, obviously designed for touch. Everything is on one screen. You just swipe up and down to see your troops and the store where you can buy upgrades. There’s no wasting time with dozens of menus and other useless junk.
When you get defeated in a tower, you’ll lose a few extra days. Hence the name of the game. The siege goes on and on. The idea is to complete the game, which consists of twenty-five towers, in as few days as possible. So the replay-ability comes from trying to beat your own time as well as others’. This isn’t my preferred way to chase a high score, as it means you have to be in top form every time you play or your whole score will suffer. But it’s still an interesting idea and I applaud the developers for trying something new. It also means that the lack of iCloud capability isn’t a huge deal, because you can just play two different games on your two devices and see which one ends better. I’m currently stuck on the last tower of my first game, at day 179. I’m trying to improve that score on my iPad game and hopefully defeat that final boss!
Overall, I’ve been having a lot of fun with the Long Siege. There are a few improvements I would like to see, but it’s still very enjoyable as is. While it may not have the depth or scale of Hero Emblems, it’s a solid match-three tower defense game. And it’s such a rarity to find one without IAPs. The most challenging, and perhaps slightly imbalanced, part is the quests. But if you’re looking for a fast-paced premium match-three RPG, you can’t really go wrong here. So give the Long Siege a download.
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