Whatever success Warpgate goes on to get, it has already achieved one notable feat.

Without doubt, this has been the most hyped-up and eagerly anticipated release in the relatively short history of gaming on the iPhone and iPod Touch.

Players, including myself, waited many months for this space conquest game to appear.

Has the wait been worth it? Yes, it has – despite a couple of the game’s key elements falling slightly short of expectation.

As well as exploring a vast open-world galaxy, Warpgate from Freeverse also serves up an outer space commodities economy, complex relationships between several conflicting factions, combat against pirates and various other elements which make it one of the most immersive gaming experiences yet delivered on Apple’s mobile devices.

Your Local Guardian: Warpgate

Starting off as a relative nobody with a only a small ship to your name, the aim is to roam the universe building your own space empire.

You have freedom to follow the game’s underlying story which will put various fetch-and-carry, combat and other objective-based missions your way, or you can go off and do your own thing by flying to different planets within the huge cosmic world.

Alternatively, you can do a combination of both – switching between the main plot and setting your own path.

When free from the main missions there are numerous possibilities for what you can become.

For instance, you can form alliances with one or more of the factions in the game, becoming an evil space warrior attacking any ships that come your way, or becoming a do-gooder by building up a positive reputation with the friendly races.

You can stay out of the in-game politics altogether if you choose and become a galactic entrepreneur instead, buying various products at low prices and then transporting them to other planets to sell for a big profit.

Your Local Guardian: Warpgate

Along the way you can upgrade your ship’s weapons and shield, or pick up a new vehicle to cruise around the cosmos in.

Warpgate boasts some impressive numbers – including 36 star systems to explore, 120 planets, 172 ships and 60 weapons. Transferring between star systems is done via warpgates which you fly into, hence the game’s title. A toll must be paid, making these gates the space equivalent of the Dartford Crossing.

The game gives off a huge sense of scale. In addition to the large numbers of items in it, the universe itself feels huge – this is portable gaming on a grand scale.

Your Local Guardian: Warpgate

Controls in Warpgate are mostly touch.

To move your ship around your either tap on a spot on the screen where you want it to move to, or you swipe your finger across the screen in the direction you want to fly.

These controls work well for the most part, although I’ve found it slightly fiddly sometimes, especially when trying to change direction which has resulted in my craft spinning around before heading off in a different direction to what I wanted.

Different virtual buttons appear on the screen when actions can be performed, such as attacking another ship, landing on a planet, answering mail, travelling through a warpgate or scanning an asteroid to decide if you want to mine it for minerals.

Camera controls allow players to rotate the view as well as zoom in and out.

The interface is generally user-friendly enough and the different screens are nicely laid out, although the buttons can feel too small.

Graphics in the game are at the upper end of the quality scale, while the music has a suitably epic sci-fi sound to it.

Your Local Guardian: Warpgate

Much to my liking, Warpgate’s gameplay emphasis is on strategy rather than fast-paced intense action. It’s more a game for wannabe space tycoons than shoot ‘em up fans.

There are a couple of things which let it down – namely its fighting and trading not being very deep or sophisticated.

When you go into battle against other ships the game switches to a different view showing you and your opponent squaring up for the fight.

In the first release of the game, this animated cutscene removed all control over your ship’s movement. All you could do was tap on-screen buttons when they turned green indicating they were available to use.

After a few seconds of button mashing the fight was done and the results were shown.

This led to combat feeling very hollow, with players being more spectators than participants.

In the first update to the game a new shield boost button has been added so you can beef your defences up briefly, and this increases interactivity slightly.

Another change is new accelerometer controls during combat which allows you to move your ship around, getting into good positions for attack or defence.

Aside from being out of character with the rest of the game, these tilt controls don’t feel precise enough or intuitive. Battles still feel slightly random, where luck more than skill wins the day.

More work needs to be done in this area.

Your Local Guardian: Warpgate

Similarly, commerce is somewhat shallow. The economy doesn’t feel dynamic enough, and the trading of commodities seems quite rudimentary much like the Dope Wars style games of old.

Values of products don’t appear to change much when you revisit planets, so it becomes something of a memory game learning where you can pick certain things up cheaply and where you can take them to get a good return.

The economy doesn’t seem to vary much, and it feels too static.

Battling and buying are pretty crucial to enjoyment of the game overall. While not terrible, these two areas do need some improving and livening up, which can hopefully happen in future updates.

In every other regard Warpgate is an excellent game.

It offers dazzling presentation and absorbing gameplay with generously extensive and long-lasting content.

It’s a stellar game for iPhone and iPod Touch, so I suggest you get into your ship and go track it down in the App Store solar system.

Verdict: 8 out of 10 – Falls short of perfection due to shortcomings in its combat and business systems, but Warpgate is still a very enjoyable space trading sim which justifies most of its pre-release excitement.

An iPad version of Warpgate is also available.