Reviewed: May 3, 2010
Released: March 31, 2010
App Store Price: FREE
While most everyone I know is hopelessly addicted to Farmville on Facebook, Iíve found a much more rewarding online multiplayer interactive experience. Turf Wars has apparently been around for awhile, but I was somehow left out of the loop until I received an email telling me that an iPad version was being released for the system launch. I decided to check out this very small and very FREE app, and within hours I was hopelessly addicted. A few weeks of dedicated gameplay later, Iíve managed to get most of my iPhone-owning friends hooked, and have pretty much taken over my entire city or at least key areas.
First off, Turf Wars comes in two flavors, the small version for the iPhone, and the Turf Wars Liviní Large version I am here to review; not that there are any major differences. The iPad version gives you 10 free Respect Points and a much larger screen size that lets you scroll through the numerous menus without accidentally buying or selling something, and it really makes turf acquisition much more enjoyable and accurate with some very large maps. It's also worth noting that the iPhone version is a battery sponge with the GPS draining a fully charged battery if you keep the game active for over an hour.
The good news is that you can play your same game from both devices, which actually makes things very exciting when it comes to the GPS-integrated gameplay, but more on that in a moment. Needless to say that with two devices to play the same game on, I am logging into Turf Wars about 12-15 times per day for 10-15 minute sessions, a dedication that no other game on any system has every earned or deserved in my 30 years of gaming.
At its core Turf Wars is a whole lot of math and equations that are masked with an attractive set of menus and a slick GPS system that uses Google Maps to plot, maintain, and take over other playersí turf. For those who played iMob, youíll know what to expect, at least in theory, but the whole GPS and real world maps takes the game to a whole new level and makes it highly personal and interactive. You take territory you know and care about like your home, your office, your favorite restaurant or bar, then you build it up and aggressively defend it.
It all starts by creating your character and establishing a turf. You place your first turf based on your current GPS location and slowly build up that turfís influence by upgrading it with various things you can purchase in the market like Graffiti, Razor Wire, Storefronts, Warehouses, or even a Gambling Den. As your turf grows it increases your influence and makes you more money, and if it overlaps another player's turf you might be able to extort some protection money from them.
The number of turfs you can own is based on the level of your character, a variable that increases with Experience that you earn by performing Missions and Fighting your fellow mobsters. Missions require Energy and Fighting requires Stamina, making for a unique mix of level grinding and adding some strategy when it comes to assigning earned skill points after each level increase. Missions are safer but fighting offers more rewards for the risk. Mission are the easy way to advance, slowly and safely, but to really get ahead you will need to do a lot of fighting and that means mobbing up and going to the market to purchase lots of weapons and body armor. The bigger and better equipped your mob, the better chance you have of winning battles and earning money and experience.
"Mobbing up" takes some serious work that requires you to not only promote your own unique player code in forums and various mob websites, but also to actively seek out other player codes and type them in one at a time to invite those players into your mob and wait for them to accept. As your mob grows larger you will need to purchase weapons to keep them battle ready, not only to attack other players but also defend your character when you are offline.
While Turf Wars is a massive online game you can still attack players and their turf in their absence. Everything is handled with complex equations so you canít really abuse the system. After taking so much damage a character will go into the Emergency Room and be immune to future attacks. And there is a banking system in place to protect your cash from those who would beat you down repeatedly to drain your funds. And if you do start to feel bullied you can always organize a Vendetta to teach them a lesson.
Turf Wars seems to be very balanced when it comes to current and ongoing gameplay, and there are definitely rewards for diligent players. My town is fairly small and only has a few dozen people playing but I was able to take over as Capo for several surrounding areas. Capo is the title you earn when you have the most influence in an area, and itís a nice position to hold as it rewards you with free police protection, which can add up fast when you have multiple turfs. Obviously those who have been playing the game longer will have a headstart and a gap in stats that you can never close unless they stop playing and you don't.
Turf Wars is the first game that has actually compelled me to get in my car (multiple times) on my lunch hour and drive around acquiring new turfs outside the normal range of my playing at home or at work. I am now actively driving 8-15 miles per session finding existing players and setting up turf next to them to coax protection money from them. About 10% of my hourly income is now coming from other playersí turfs.
Iím sure the game is much more difficult to get started with or even play in more populated areas. I panned up to Chicago and the screen filled with multi-colored overlapping circles. I canít imagine a new player even trying to play in such an established area, but for smaller and mid-sized areas like Lafayette, IN we have room to grow, and the game rewards everyone with higher income levels and more opportunities the more people you have playing.
Turf Wars is the perfect mobile game with a real-time clock that boosts your skills every few minutes and makes a cash deposit each hour. I try to login at least once an hour to do some missions and attack some mobsters, and every three hours I have enough money to upgrade my turfs and mob. Each session might last only 5-15 minutes depending on how much there is to do. Perhaps the biggest compliment I can give this game is the fact that it earned a spot on my quick access icon bar on my iPad.
I suppose a time will come when I get burned out or simply lose interest in Turf Wars. I look at the players at the top of the leaderboards with a thousand turfs and thousands of mobsters in their gang and know I can never hope to compete. But for now Iím just making personal milestone goals, to get Capo, to get top spot on local leaderboards and to simply get on the statewide leaderboard, even at the bottom. Once you get in the groove the game requires very little effort and rewards you daily with cash and a sense of accomplishment.
The game has certainly slowed down now that it takes a day to level up and up to two days to earn a new turf. And there are elements I havenít even explored yet like attacking a turf or engaging in a Vendetta. Iíll definitely be sticking around for a few more months just to see where this all goes. The community is great and there are built-in forums to help you learn the nuances of the game and ask questions or even make suggestions to the game designer, who actively participates in discussions.
Turf Wars is free, and for those who have the spare cash or just want to reward the designer with a few bucks, there is an in-app purchase system where you can purchase Respect Points. These points are also earned slowly through leveling up, but if you want to accelerate the process you can drop some big bucks for various point packs and get a jump on the rest of the players. Iím not against paying for enhancements, but in a multiplayer game such as this, I have to question the fairness of a system that could tip the balance of power to those willing to spend real money rather than put in the hard work.
In closing I just want to explain why I did this review. Itís GCMís policy to not review games that werenít provided to us, which obviously excludes any free games or apps, but Turf Wars is only going to get better the more people we have playing it, so hopefully I can use the outreach of this website to encourage thousands of other would-be gangsters with iPhones and iPads to download the app and carve out their own little piece of the planet. And when you do, tell Ďem Tony Sparks sent ya by inviting LUNAR138 to your mob.