Without a new Advance Wars game is far, far too long, a handful of other developers have stepped into the breach over the last few years. Last year’s Tiny Metal was a slightly above average homage to the series, but never managed to feel like a true successor, even after a string of updates. Just a year and a half later, developers Area 35 are back with a full sequel, but was that enough time to rectify the issues from before or is Tiny Metal: Full Metal Rumble a rushed tactical move?
There have been some changes in the story, like the campaign map taking on a 3D aspect which you can fly around using a helicopter. It’s advisable to do this as the map is littered with credits and unlockables like jukebox songs. It’s a neat little addition that could be used for more, as aside from a visual progress indicator, the map doesn’t really serve a purpose outside of collectibles and you’ll just be flying from one mission to the next in a linear fashion to move the story forward.
The missions have different goals ranging from capturing the enemy HQ to surviving a certain number of days as enemies encircle you. There are also secondary objectives such as capturing a number of buildings or finishing a mission within a set number of turns. While these do offer some variety, many of the missions boil down to rushing as many infantry units early to capture buildings, then bringing in tanks, mechs, artillery and aircraft to push back the enemy advances. Buildings are the lifelines of your army as they generate income, and when you get the airports and bases you can churn out unit after unit.
The main tactical element you will have to consider are the various unit strengths and weaknesses. If the enemy is fielding a lot of tanks, then riflemen and snipers aren’t going to have much of an impact, whereas attack helicopters will make quick work of them. Other vehicles include radar which will highlight an enemy presence in covered tiles, and while you won’t know what the unit is, you could still use this knowledge to send a unit near enough to attack or fire a few shells from afar and hope for the best.
While the majority of missions play out in similar ways, the survival ones do offer a significant challenge, putting you on the back foot and having to properly assess your targets. The time limit adds an extra element of tension and the AI does seem to act more aggressively in these situations. Similar limits may have helped with the open-ended missions, as you can often tell when you’re in a winning position, but have to grind through quite a few more turns to get the job done.
The story itself isn’t particularly engaging and you quickly get to a point where you’re skipping past the dull dialogue – the delivery of lines doesn’t help much either. You just find yourself wanting to get to the next mission and trying out new tactics and gear. With the fundamental gameplay remaining very similar, map designs don’t see a huge overhaul from the original game, with a grid-like setup with obstacles like hills that some units can’t climb up. There is a lot of colour though and the details look very nice.
If you finish the campaign and want more to do, a Skirmish mode is on offer with a host of challenges to conquer, with different numbers of factions on the field. There’s also online multiplayer, though even post-release I never once found an open lobby, and no one joined mine. It’s a shame because Tiny Metal: Full Metal Rumble could lend itself to being a good multiplayer strategy title.