The Next War

 Title   The  Next War  
 Genre   Real  Time Strategy War Game  
 Developer   Lampros  Potamianos  
 Format   Digital  Download  
 Price   You  name it  
 Where to get it  

Overall Rating: ๐Ÿ•น๐Ÿ•น๐Ÿ•น๐Ÿ•นโž•


Although a decent number of games have been released for the ZX Spectrum Next, none of them have really peaked my interest - until now. While it's true that most retro games these days appeal to me mainly for inspection, evaluation and inspirational purposes in developing Spriteworx games, every once in a while a game will come along that looks intriguing. As you may already know by reading some of the other articles, the typical fare of platform and scrolling shooter games doesnโ€™t hold much attraction for me as it's all just more of the same. So what makes this one different? Well, to put it simply, it's the first game that sparks my itch to actually play for my own enjoyment. 


An important part of the enjoyment of a game is determining how well the actual gameplay lives up to the hype and description that is presented to us before we even click the download button. What does The Next War promise? According to the author's description: 

"It is a slow paced strategy game that can get frantic at times. Place up to 35 defence turrets on the battleground in order to defend the area from the continuous onslaught of enemy forces." 

Well, that's not too much of a buildup but in all honesty, that's exactly what it delivers. Actually, the pace seems like it might even be a bit too slow at times when you are just waiting for some tanks to plod their way around the course but thankfullyโ€ฆ 

"You can also switch between normal (x1) and fast (x2) speed"

DETAILED EVALUATION (Maximum 5 joysticks)

Installation & Startup (Easy Peasy!): ๐Ÿ•น๐Ÿ•น๐Ÿ•น๐Ÿ•น๐Ÿ•น

One-click download. Copy files to an SD card, pop it in the Next and run the .nex file from the browser. Couldn't get much simpler.

Menu Interaction (Could be better): ๐Ÿ•น๐Ÿ•น๐Ÿ•น

Startup screen does not respond to cursor keys but rather "Q" and "A" to move the selection arrow up and down and space bar to select, however there is no message on the screen to indicate this. The enter key cannot be used to make menu selections.  If the joystick button or space bar is held down, the selector jumps back and forth between menu selections so you need to press and release quickly. The saving grace is that the menu does respond intuitively to joystick.

Controls (Smooth sailing!): ๐Ÿ•น๐Ÿ•น๐Ÿ•น๐Ÿ•น๐Ÿ•น

Keyboard, joystick/gamepad or mouse (yes, I said mouse). The directions cannot be mapped to the cursor keys but can be mapped perfectly to the number pad of an external PS2 keyboard. The on-screen pause and game speed selection buttons during gameplay are fantastic, intuitive and super useful. You are unable to quit the game while it is paused however. The online instructions recommend that a mouse is the best way to play this game but it is also super-playable using a gamepad (or joystick). 

Meeting Expectations (Bang on!): ๐Ÿ•น๐Ÿ•น๐Ÿ•น๐Ÿ•น๐Ÿ•น

The "slow paced strategy game that can get frantic at times" is as accurate and realistic a description as you're gonna find in the world of video games. In fact, it is refreshingly free of hyperbole and unfounded hype. Bravo!

Playability (Nailed it!): ๐Ÿ•น๐Ÿ•น๐Ÿ•น๐Ÿ•น๐Ÿ•น

The gameplay is smooth and responsive with collision detection that appears to be pixel perfect.

Addictiveness (Gimme more!): ๐Ÿ•น๐Ÿ•น๐Ÿ•น๐Ÿ•น๐Ÿ•น

On the addictiveness scale this game probably ranks somewhere between carbs and prescription pain killers. If this type of game is your cup of tea you may find it frustratingly intoxicating to the point of delirium.

Graphics (Hmmm..): ๐Ÿ•น๐Ÿ•นโž•

Wicked (is that term still used?) startup screen graphics with gatling gun animation and clearly laid out menu selections. The in-game graphics, however, leave something to be desired. They are certainly acceptable to serve the gameplay but this would be a tempting area to focus on when looking to give this game a bit more polish. That being said, graphics don't generally pull a lot of weight in our overall game evaluation.

Sound (Good): ๐Ÿ•น๐Ÿ•น๐Ÿ•น

Heavy metal music on the startup screen (while not my preference in general) perfectly suits the gatling gun animation and gives a hint at the turret blasting frenzy which awaits you in the higher levels of the actual game. It makes you eager to get into the action right away. The in-game music is, wellโ€ฆ there is none. But I'm not a fan of in-game music so I'm good with that. The sound effects such as the shots and impacts are actually quite good but some variety for the different turret and vehicle types would be nice and the sound of the chopper blades could be amped up a bit. The tanks and other vehicles also make no sound as they traverse the playing field. 

Replayability (Play it again, Sam.): ๐Ÿ•น๐Ÿ•น๐Ÿ•น๐Ÿ•น

Theoretically, TNW is inherently infinitely replayable due to the endless permutation of strategies available in selecting, deploying and upgrading your turrets. A bit more variety in the form of more maps, two player mode or even a level creation utility would really top up this category rating. 

Value for Money (Kick ass!): ๐Ÿ•น๐Ÿ•น๐Ÿ•น๐Ÿ•น๐Ÿ•น

If this game is up your alley and you find it as addictive as I do then the value for money of this title is about as good as you could want. Actually it's a steal. The minimum suggested donation on the download site is $2. I think I got my money's worth after about the first 20 minutes. 

Ideas for Enhancements

 While this game is pretty awesome as-is, here are a few ideas to make this a truly stellar title: 

  • Add a de-bounce feature for start screen menu selections to prevent menu cycling when the button or space bar is held down.
  • Allow the "Enter" key to be used for menu selection (in addition to the space bar).
  • Allow directions to be mapped to the cursor keys (if possible).
  • Allow cursor keys to be used for menu selections or put instructions on screen to use "Q", "A" and spacebar.
  • Allow exit from the game while it is paused.
  • Add some sort of cool overall evaluation at the end of the game (perhaps a rank?) to easily see how well you did. For example, "Congratulations, you obtained an 86% kill ratio and achieved a rank of Super Battle Commander!".
  • Create a map editor and have an online portal for users to upload their custom maps for others to download and play.
  • Have a 2 player mode where one player secretly selects the type and timing of the enemy units that will invade the map for each wave, then the second player is the one placing the turrets. Player one receives points for un-killed units.
  • Add in-game instructions.
  • Have an attribute box pop up when you hover over a turret to tell you what type of vehicles it is effective against.
  • Make the range ring for the turrets more visible.
  • Improve the graphics for the buildings.
  • Add rumbling sounds for the tanks.
  • Have different sounds for the bullet impacts depending what type of vehicle they hit.
  • Have a way to pause the game and wait for you to finish placing turrets between levels so you're not rushed? Still should be able to place more turrets during the gameplay though.
  • Have different graphics for different turrets other than just color change.
  • Have different sound effects for the different types of turret (shots and impacts).
  • Have the slowdown shot make the vehicle slow down permanently?
  • Put a counter on the screen indicating number of turrets remaining available to buy.


Far from being an over-hyped, under performing game, The Next War delivers exactly what it promises - and then some. With excellent value for money providing many hours of entertaining strategic tower defence frenzied fun, it leaves us wanting even more. 

We can only hope there's an enhanced sequel in the works.