Strategy games have always had a strong presence on the gaming market across all platforms, from the classics like Age of Empires, Starcraft, and Warcraft III to the more recent Starcraft 2 or mobile titles like Clash Royale. The Tactical RPG genre, on the other hand, doesn’t always receive the love it deserves. Turns out, however, that Shieldwall Chronicles: Swords of the North – a new game of this genre from a small developer – is actually pretty solid.

With a 30-plus hour campaign (and an interesting one no less), five options for difficulties with numerous challenging levels, and a huge roster of characters – each with their own stories to tell, Shieldwall Chronicles offers tons of replayability. Not only that, it’s incredibly fun. When you get used to it (and perhaps make a few changes to suit your personal preference), you’re going to enjoy every single minute of it.

A mythical world full of monsters and adventures await

The first thing that draws you in is the story. You will play as the leader of a group of mercenaries hired to protect a caravan on its way to the northern realms. During this seemingly simple mission, your party is pulled into a much bigger conflict that threatens to destabilize the established order. It’s not exactly what you’d call revolutionary, but it is still enjoyable nonetheless, and all of the characters are well-developed. Furthermore, the story splits into multiple branches depending on your decisions, making you want to replay the game again with different choices after the first playthrough. Many games have tried this and ended up empty and repetitive, but Shieldwall Chronicles really manages to pull it off.

It’s pretty easy to grasp a hold of the basic mechanics, as everything is introduced in a helpful tutorial.  The actual gameplay, though, is a bit more complicated. For starter, the sheer number of characters in your roster can already be quite intimidating: 15 unique classes, each with its own abilities, backstory, and each is useful in different situations. On top of that, there are subtle mechanics that aren’t covered in the tutorial. While the campaign of Shieldwall is a solid 30-hour one by itself, the game is designed to last well beyond that. To fully explore the party composition, you’re going to need another 20 hours or so.

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An example of a decision in the game

All this builds up to the question that everyone is probably wondering: Is the gameplay fun? The answer is a definite yes. Depending on the difficulty you choose to play on, the turn-based combat is either insanely hard or incredibly simple. Of course, higher difficulty levels are going to demand a decent amount of strategic planning every turn. The game gives players two options when it comes to combat systems: Simple or complex. In the Simple mode, you only consume action points to perform characters skills and abilities from magic items. At the beginning of a battle, each character starts with a full pool of action points and recovers a random amount anywhere between 1 and his/her maximum after every turn. If you play in the Complex mode, you always regain max action points at the beginning of each turn. However, every action from attacks to movement and skills will consume them.

The Simple option is definitely friendlier towards new players, as you don’t have to choose between attacking or using skills or moving around. The only thing you need to take into consideration is whether it is more efficient to use a skill this turn or the next. The Complex mode, though, will allow you to attack more if you stay stationary or move further if you are willing to sacrifice damage in that turn.

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Combat requires a lot of strategic thinking

iOS is actually not Shieldwall Chronicles’ first platform. That honor belongs to Steam. Still, the developers have done a good job with this port… as long as you play it on an iPad. The game is playable on iPhones, and it even supports cloud saving (for iOS devices only) for you to easily switch between phone and tablet, but it is not suited for a smaller device. The UI has too many details for a small screen. As mentioned, it is playable, but definitely not advised. If you can, you should always try to play on an iPad – any iPad will suffice.

All in all, Shieldwall Chronicles is a very solid game. It does need a bit of work to be sure, especially on the whole small screen thing, but it is still a very well-made and fun game. Clearly, a lot of effort has been put into this. In a market where games are made for consumption and consumption alone, it is nice to see a genuinely quality title created by someone who really cares.