1. cjvitek's Avatar
    Risk, EA Games
    $4.99, ***1/2


    • Nice import of the risk game
    • Multiplayer is great!

    • AI is too easy to beat
    • No customization of the rules

    Risk has come to the iPhone. Well, there have previously been “Risk-like” games available (some of which have been reviewed) but EA Games brings us the official version of Risk. And in doing so they bring a nice game to the iPhone, but it is not without it’s flaws.

    Risk is the original game of world conquest. You and your opponents start off each controlling certain territories within the world. Through a combination of luck and skill, you try to take over the other territories (using dice rolls), with world conquest being the ultimate goal. The EA version of the game sticks true to the board game in most respects, and overall can be a fun way to play.

    When playing Risk, you have the option of starting off in “quick mode” with armies already placed on the board, or in the “normal” mode where you get to place you starting armies and choose territories. You can choose to have either human of iPhone opponents (human opponents can play via wifi, Bluetooth, or via Pass n’ Play. There is no remote server option or anything, so if you don’t have anyone to play with you locally, you have to play in single player mode. You must have at least three opponents, and you can have as many five.

    When setting up the game (assuming you have an iPhone opponent) you can choose one of three difficulty levels (more on this later). There is no option for using different maps, which at first I was disappointed with. However, this is the “official” version of the game, so of course they are going to keep with the official version of the board.

    When playing, you move through three distinct phases – first “draft”, where you get to place your armies. Then “attack”, where you can choose other territories to attack. Lastly, “fortify”, where you can choose armies from one territory and move them to another territory (assuming they are contiguous within your controlled territories). Going from one phase to the next is pretty easy, but be careful because once you leave one phase, you can’t go back (if you made a mistake).

    The standard risk rules apply, and I was disappointed to see that you couldn’t modify them at all. For example, you can’t set a non-arithmetic increase to the bonus armies from cards. You can’t choose multiple fortify (multiple territories). These are some standard rule modifications that many people use over the years, and it would be nice to see them incorporated into the game. Interestingly, one of the standard risk rules (extra bonus armies if you own the territory on one of the bonus cards) is no where to be found.

    When attacking, it was nice to see that they have a feature for “continuous” attack – that is, continuing to attack until you are either defeated or win (rather than just doing it three dice at a time). This is a feature that speeds up game play a lot. Unfortunately, you can’t choose the number of dice you want to roll (either as a defender or attacker) which is another feature that is normally found in Risk.

    The play continues to progress until there is one player who conquers the whole world. That’s it, game over…until you start a new game. In the process of playing, you can achieve various medals (strategic, defense, etc) and as you accumulate these, your “rank” goes up. While I have not yet achieved the highest rank across the board, it doesn’t appear that you can unlock anything by achieving these ranks. At the very least, it would be nice to see some sort of themes, color schemes, different avatars, or something like that become available.

    The graphics in the game are nice. They don’t do any cut scenes or anything (aside from when you start the game), and there is a deliberate “computer monitor” effect to the screen – as if you are the commander watching the results on your computer monitor. Overall the graphics are okay, but they don’t see to take full benefit of the retina display.

    My biggest disappointment with the game is the AI. I realize that it may be difficult to program a good AI in this game, but even at the highest level of difficulty I found that I beat the game about 80% of the time. Often the game would make seemingly stupid mistakes (choosing whom to attack), ignore a chance to wipe out an opponent to get additional bonus cards, or other obvious mistakes like this. The game is no longer a “see if I can win” kind of game, but instead I now try to see how quickly I can win. Or I deliberately handicap myself to make the game more interesting (such as trying to take Europe first). Without a better AI in the game, I don’t envision this app staying on my iPhone for long.

    All in all, this is a good import of the Risk game, but not without its drawbacks. Lack of rules customization, not taking advantage of the retina display, but mostly a poor AI really detract from the game. The variety of multiplayer options are nice, and if you have someone to play against this is a really good app. But if you are relying on playing against the phone, you may become bored with it relatively quickly. For $4.99, I was hoping for more. Three and a half out of five stars.

    Rating scale:

    * = No redeeming qualities or features, probably not worth it even if it is free
    ** = Few redeeming qualities, or is simply isn't worth the price
    *** = Some good features but also some clear flaws.
    **** = A solid app, worth the money if interested, a few flaws or problems or slightly overpriced
    ***** = Top of the line app, no problems or drawbacks.

    Price is factored into the ratings. Ratings are lowered if I feel the price of the app outweighs the benefits/enjoyment/features it provides. Likewise, an app that is a good value for the money will have a higher rating. 
    08-12-2010 02:10 PM