Here is a textbook example of how to create a real-time strategy game on DS.
Dawn of Discovery is the latest game in the popular Anno series. These games have traditionally put an emphasis on colonization and civilization development. The developers have flawlessly translated a real-time strategy experience to the DS. Dawn of Discovery provides one of the deepest experiences on the platform.
There are two modes in the game, Story and Continuous. In Story mode, the game tells the story of King George's two sons, William and Edward, who are asked to acquire new lands to produce goods that will satisfy the demands of King George's empire as well as find new technologies to fix the drought plaguing the land. You play as William, while Edward, whose ideals of civilization are quite different, ends up being a rival.
The seven chapters of the main story mode teach you all the game mechanics and specific functions of each building. During the story, William encounters a civilization from the Orient and tries to establish a friendly relationship with them, while Edward has his doubts and remains hostile with the new civilization. To complete a chapter, you have to complete specific objectives such as paying tribute, advancing to a specific level, building specific buildings, or meeting a specific population requirement.
The other mode is Continuous Play, wherein players are allowed to challenge computer opponents in a randomly-generated map. You can choose to play up to two opponents and adjust settings of the map. The goal in this mode is to conquer all of your enemies' islands with military force. Regrettably, there is no multiplayer feature.
Due to the game's emphasis on civilization development and resource management, it's not farfetched to compare Dawn of Discovery to a game like Sim City. While most real-time strategy games require you to train villagers and assign them to collect a specific resource, in Dawn of Discovery, players raise a building that harvests or creates a specific resource. The process is automatic once you connect that building to a nearby warehouse with roads.
The most important resource in the game is coins, which are earned by taxing your citizens. You can adjust how much you tax your citizens; however, if you overcharge them, you will see a decline in population. If you don't charge enough, your empire will start losing gold, which eventually will mean that you won't be able to afford to keep your empire functional. There are five classes of civilization; your citizens will evolve to the next class automatically as long as you meet the requirements and keep those resources well-stocked. The big incentive to upgrade your citizens' class is that they will pay more taxes, at the cost of forcing you to manage more resources cumulatively.
The production values are outstanding for a DS game. Dawn of Discovery features an appealing cartoon-like art style. The story is told with beautifully drawn static screens, and they are accompanied by great voiceovers with proper English and Middle Eastern accents.
The weakest aspect of the game is the combat; it feels like an afterthought compared to the rest of the game. To command any soldier or a group of solders, first you have to switch into combat mode and then assign soldiers to travel to a building, invade enemy islands via a battleship, or defend an island from an enemy invasion. When in a building or battleship, soldiers are represented by dots. When you assign soldiers to travel to another building or battleship, the soldiers are represented by a blip with a number of how many soldiers are traveling. If any other thing requires your attention, such as the economy, you must exit out of combat mode. It feels a little counter-intuitive, especially if you need to worry about dealing with multiple things at once.
Despite a few minor flaws, Dawn of Discovery is a very impressive package, and overall, it provides a full-fledged real-time strategy game on the DS without cutting corners.