Full-fat Civilization on iPad and iPhone showcases that mobile gaming can sit shoulder to shoulder with PCs and consoles when it comes to nuance and complexity. But sometimes you don’t want those things – you want 4X larks without a single game requiring you to block out several days in your diary. This is where Hexonia comes in.
Hexonia scratches the Civ itch in a manner that should appeal to old-hands and newbies alike. An optional tips window leads you through the basics of stomping about in a turn-based manner, giving enemy tribes a kicking, researching tech, and eventually reigning supreme by virtue of having killed everyone else.
The joy of tech
Each go finds you making key decisions. Do you train new units to explore and fight? Should you build structures to more rapidly generate resources? Would it be better to hold back on conquest, given that more cities ramp up the cost of researching new technologies that let you have nicer things?
In Hexonia, tech maxes out before guns show up: with very rare exceptions, bombs and cannons are your lot for projectiles. And instead of a tech tree, you get linear pathways, most of which provide two routes to an end-point power-up.
It feels very manageable, even if the progression is sometimes odd. Fair enough that discovering clams subsequently lets you research fish farms. Quite how cheese leads to horsemen, though, I’ve no idea. Are they milking the…? OK, then.
Where Hexonia really shines is in how it looks and feels. Plenty of attention has been paid to the interface, which lets you quickly zip about. Also, the game looks great, with polished cartoonish visuals and distinct tribes.
This goes beyond mere aesthetics, too – each tribe begins with specific techs, an additional unit (such as a guard or horseman), and has access to bespoke Guardian units that are created when cities reach a certain size. These add lashings of character and shake up battles.
Sentient robot tribe Ironclad has Sci-Clops – a terrifying clanking steampunk monstrosity that shoots death rays. Frelia’s Stone Golem unsportingly punches defenders right out of their cities, so your troops can sneak in and take over. Amazon’s Tarantula turns enemies into spider eggs, which hatch to become eight-legged critters under your command.
A bit artificial
These powers are just as well, given that Hexonia is very heavily geared towards fighting. There’s not even basic bartering – the second you meet another tribe, they want to kick your face off. At higher difficulty levels, this means you’ll need to rush research of knights and swordsmen, to have a fighting chance of not being slaughtered.
There’s also an elephant in the room, in Hexonia feeling a lot like Stuff favourite Polytopia. Perhaps that’s inevitable when stripping back Civ, but it at times feels like the rules and limitations align a little too closely.
Still, there’s room on your device for both. Polytopia remains the better game, but it’s more complex, and is visually crude. Hexonia is an ideal 4X if you want something that looks fantastic, with an immediacy and fluidity that’s usually lacking in this genre. It would be nice, though, if the AI players weren’t quite so psychotic.