When it bounced onto the App Store, Ticket to Earth drew me in with its vibrant and highly saturated colors — don't judge me I like shiny new things! When I learned it was a strategy RPG, I was prepared to be underwhelmed as I have played so many other games in the same genre I didn't think I could be surprised.
Ticket to Earth not only exceeded my expectations, but has raised the bar across the strategy RPG genre moving forward. There's no other way to put it, Ticket to Earth is Fleckin' fantastic!
Story & Setting
Ticket to Earth takes place on the colony planet New Providence where life isn't as marvelous as the government-controlled media — NP27 — would have you believe. It's arrival day, meaning the starship known as the Martian Princess has completed its ten-year journey from Earth, which will allow colonists ticket-holding colonists board the ship to head home. Only 1% of the people on New Providence can afford a ticket and there are massive protests in the center of the city.
Suddenly, the broadcast news is interrupted with this ominous message.
Soon after this, you take control of Rose, one of the residents of New Providence who is tending to a garden before she makes her way to her friends Xenia's house to watch the broadcast of the Martian Princess landing. As you may expect, this is where things start to go haywire, as Rose is visited by a mysterious stranger.
Ticket to Earth wastes no time pulling you into its wonderful story. While the broadcast news style intro at the top is a common video game storytelling trope, it does its job of introducing the setting and context in which this story takes place in an understandable but concise manner. It helped me get my bearings in this new world without boring me, making the fact that it's a little cliché obsolete.
The mediocre start to the game doesn't last long as by the time you get to the first mission — which is a tutorial of the awesome battle system — there's already enough going on to hook you into the story. A Mysterious stranger, killer robots, and mutated cockroaches keep you chasing for a solution to the multiple problems at hand and had me firmly invested in the plot immediately after all the shit hits the fan and I never lost interest.
While I would have liked to see a little more character development to the non-playable characters (NPCs), both playable characters, Rose and Wolf, are delightfully well-written.
Each mission you complete and each dialogue option you read through in the ChatLink between missions reveals little bit more about our heroine and hero, including the fact that labeling them as heroes may be the wrong choice.
When Rose questions herself and is horrified that she has killed other humans we see her wrestle with the weight of those decisions for more than just this one conversation pictured above. It sticks with her throughout the game, especially as she unravels the plot that is filled with twist and turns. These revelations and moments of self-doubt and frustration make the characters feel totally authentic and sucked me into the story even more.
As a self-proclaimed strategy RPG fanatic, I didn't expect the gameplay in Ticket to Earth feel new to me, but boy was I wrong. Much like other popular strategy RPGs, Ticket to Earth uses a grid-based battle system, but to my excitement, that's where the similarities to other games — like Fire Emblem and Invisible Inc. — end.
Ticket to Earth calls its grid-based battle system the Movement system, which is conveniently baked right into the plot of the story so you never forget it. Each battlefield is covered in a randomly-generated array of color-coded tiles. You can move as far as you want across the map as long as you can connect the same colored tile; see the gif below for a visualization.
Not only does the Movement system breathe new life into a battle system that stretches back to the days of 8-bit graphics, it's incredibly deep and challenging to master, making every story battle and side-mission entertaining as heck.
Just when you think you have started to master the Movement system, the game throws a new mechanic into the mix, so you never get bored. Whether its new powers that you can only activate when walking across a particular kind of tile, items that appear on the map when you slay an enemy, or the extensive list of talents you can acquire for your characters, battles in Ticket to Earth are constantly evolving.
I repeatedly find myself making use of the option to replay old missions because I want to try out new strategies. Different movement techniques, new power combinations, and even testing out newly acquired talents is just as fun as playing the new missions as they become available.
It's refreshing to see a strategy RPG that heavily relies on the strategy part of its genre. Ticket to Earth will kill you if you're not careful, you must examine the map carefully and choose your action wisely or you'll be doomed to repeat the same mission over and over again. It can be mildly frustrating as you're still learning the game, but it's wildly entertaining the whole time.
Design & Sound
In a simple sentence, Ticket to Earth is amazingly beautiful.
The brightly colored landscapes catch your eye no matter where you are in the game, and the anime/manga style complement the richly-paletted backgrounds nicely. I love how each new chapter in the story starts off with a very smooth moving dialogue and picture combo that reminds me of comic book panels.
The battle animations are just as impressive as the the incredible combat system. Each attack and power not only looks amazing, but looks unique, which is no easy feat in a game with close to 100 different abilities. The fluidity of the combat animations keep up the fast-paced intensity of each combat, even if you take a minute to plan your next move, the battles never seem to skip a beat.
The soundtrack takes a backseat to the lustrous graphics, but is certainly impressive in its own right. While you may never really think about the ambient sounds playing during each mission or in the background of the ChatLink dialogue screens, it does an excellent job of pacing the game. When Ticket to Earth wants you to pay extra attention to a line of dialogue or to something happening on the screen, the music will soften. When it wants you to enjoy the fast-paced combat the music will start pumping louder and louder given you a perfect soundscape to bash in some skulls.
- Believable and well-written playable characters
- Incredible storytelling
- Original and in-depth battle system
- Beautiful artwork
- Nothing glaring
Ticket to Earth is an absolutely incredible game and is a must-download for gamers everywhere.
The story is littered the surprising plot twists, impactful characters, and a well-written narrative that will keep you invested in the rich world of New Providence and the people who populate the planet.
Beautifully designed graphics that blend the manga/comic book style artwork with brightly colored backgrounds and landscape, make Ticket to Earth pop off the screen in a delightful burst of colors, that never gets old.
An original battle system that breathes new life into the strategy RPG genre. The Movement system offers an extremely deep and complex combat experience that never goes stale, as there is always new powers and abilities to acquire.
Bottom line, Ticket to Earth is an intelligent, fresh, and gorgeous game that is worth every cent of its $3.99 price tag.
What do you think?
I have been enjoying Ticket to Earth so much, how about you? Let me know what you think of the game by commenting below or hitting me up on Twitter!
Luke Filipowicz has been a writer at iMore, covering Apple for nearly a decade now. He writes a lot about Apple Watch and iPad but covers the iPhone and Mac as well. He often describes himself as an "Apple user on a budget" and firmly believes that great technology can be affordable if you know where to look. Luke also heads up the iMore Show — a weekly podcast focusing on Apple news, rumors, and products but likes to have some fun along the way.
Luke knows he spends more time on Twitter than he probably should, so feel free to follow him or give him a shout on social media @LukeFilipowicz.