Tiny Metal: Full Metal Rumble, a deep turn-based military strategy game with enough units, special abilities, and tactics packed in to keep even the most veteran strategist coming back for more is developed and published by Area 35. Ever since I got an early look at the game this past PAX East I’ve been looking forward to getting my hands on the final build. I’m pleased to say that Tiny Metal: Full Metal Rumble didn’t disappoint. It scratches a turn-based itch I’ve had for a while, even where other recent entries into the genre, such as this past February’s Wargroove, failed to satisfy.
The Campaign of Tiny Metal: Full Metal Rumble contains 39 missions, of various size and difficulty. The story falls into the category of good enough. While most moments serve simply as an excuse for why the next battle is happening, there are a couple of genuinely nice scenes where the characters shed their predominantly goofy facades and become a little bit more. Though not much.
During the course of the campaign, the player controls armies representing several different factions. The only real difference between these factions is their commanders. Commanders have both passive and activated abilities the player can utilize in their road to victory. Passive abilities fall into the categories of either affecting the cost of a unit or improving a unit’s stats. The activated abilities are larger stat buffs that sync up with the passives. Example: A commander’s passive makes mecha units cheaper to build, and their activated ability might make them move faster, and hit harder, for a turn. Many missions give the player the option of choosing between two, or more, commanders, furthering the ability to customize their play experience.
The moment to moment gameplay in Tiny Metal: Full Metal Rumble is exactly what veterans of the genre would expect. While advancing across a map shrouded in the “fog of war” players must balance their efforts between capturing cities to improve their income, destroying enemy units, and pursuing whatever that mission’s particular objective is. To further add some voluntary difficulty each mission also has three special challenges assigned to it. These range from completing the mission in so many turns, only recruiting infantry units, not losing a single unit, and a host of others.
My only small complaint with how the objectives are presented in the game is that while playing the game the victory options of destroying all enemy units and destroy enemy HQ are always listed. This is a problem for me because there are several missions where these objectives are simply impossible. And while I learned quickly enough to ignore their presence it seemed like a very sloppy bit of game design.
My only significant complaint with Tiny Metal: Full Metal Rumble comes with its line of sight system. The ability to see into trees or city squares feels far too restrictive. Often times the only way to see in them at all is to have a unit adjacent to them. While there is a unit that lets the player see enemies that there is no line of to making a line of sight this tight can be frustrating. Especially during missions where there is only a small number of units under the player’s control.
Tiny Metal: Full Metal Rumble also brought several new mechanics I had not experienced before that gave the game more tactical depth, and a bit more character. The new commands Focused Fire and Assault change up the gameplay noticeably. Focus Fire rewards the player for thinking a little bit ahead, allowing several units to attack simultaneously. This mitigates the damage a stronger unit may have been able to deal out if it had been attacked several times by each unit individually. Assault allows a unit to push an enemy back a square. This is useful for stopping the capture of cities or setting an enemy up for a bigger attack. The drawback though is that the enemy will get to shoot the assaulting unit before it gets attacked. So the attacker must survive that in order to push the enemy back.
Perhaps my favorite aspect of Tiny Metal: Full Metal Rumble’s gameplay is the presence of character units. These units are not constructed at a factory but are called in from special com towers that appear on many of the maps. These units are special for two reason. They often have special abilities other units of their type lack. For example: one character unit that was in a scout vehicle, along with the usual anti-infantry gun, sported a missile for damaging tanks. The best thing about them though is their experience carries from battle to battle.
Whenever a unit in Tiny Metal: Full Metal Rumble damages an enemy it gains experience. With experience units gain promotions which improve their stats. Normally a unit starts a mission with no ranks. However, characters keep any previous experience gained allowing them to become truly powerful figures on the battlefield. And they are completely optional to use. So those seeking a tougher challenge can simply not call on them.
There is also a world map the player can explore between missions. The purpose of this is to discover caches of coins and map packs that can be purchased in the shop. These map packs are used in the skirmish mode and are gotten only through gameplay. No microtransactions. Along with the caches players find, coins are also earned at the end of each mission. The better you play, the more coins you earn. By about mid-way through the campaign I had the vast majority of content unlocked. Skirmish mode games take the same form as the campaign, just without the narrative trappings. Maps of various sizes, number of opponents, and terrain types are present for a player to choose from. Couple this with online multiplayer, and the lengthy campaign, and there is no shortage of tactical challenges for die-hard commanders to cut their teeth on.
The graphics in Tiny Metal: Full Metal Rumble are a charming mix of style and practicality. Your armies move about three-dimensional maps passing through cities, forests and mountains. And if the 3D visuals ever become a bit too busy the player can easily adjust the camera to a completely top-down view to simplify the tactical situation.
Unit design in Tiny Metal: Full Metal Rumble is also wonderfully done. I rarely got one unit confused for another and animations were smooth and pleasant to watch. My only complaint with the unit design is in their audio. Whenever units are given a command they bark out one of several lines. While most of these are various ways of saying “ok” some of these lines devolve into fairly cringy sayings that get repeated far too frequently. The worst offender was the standard Metal(tank) unit. Whenever ordered to attack a unit it would deal overwhelming damage to the statement “Wham, bam,(cannon fires) thank you ma’am” would be heard. Luckily these audio lines can be turned off, or changed to a different langue.
In the end I have appreciated my time with Tiny Metal: Full Metal Rumble, and expect I will continue to as I return from time to time to knock out a quick mission here or there. With the depth of strategy, and wide array of missions to choose from, there is plenty of fun to be found in this not so tiny entry into the turn-based strategy genre.
Tiny Metal: Full Metal Rumble is available now on Nintendo Switch and PC.
Tiny Metal: Full Metal Rumble
I have appreciated my time with Tiny Metal: Full Metal Rumble…with the depth of strategy, and wide array of missions to choose from, there is plenty of fun to be found in this not so tiny entry into the turn-based strategy genre.