All Posts By Jordan Minor
After their smash debut, the Angry Birds have gone from physics-based puzzle games to space adventures to kart racers. Angry Birds Epic, the newest entry in the series currently in a soft launch phase, continues the franchise’s evolution into the Mario of mobile by casting the birds as heroes in a turn-based roleplaying game. We grind through this ambitious spin-off for the latest edition of It Came From Canada!
When the dastardly Prince Porky and the rest of his pig army steal innocent eggs, it’s up to a brave band of birds to stop him. Starting out with a lone red warrior bird, the player’s party soon sees new recruits like a yellow wizard and white healer. There’s no real overworld to explore in Angry Birds Epic. Instead, the party travels from battle to battle on a linear map, occasionally coming across treasure chests or resource deposits. The fights themselves play out like simplified, turn-based, JRPG battles in the vein of Paper Mario or the more recent South Park: The Stick of Truth, albeit without the cursing or focus on timed button presses.
The battles do have some depth, however. Using an intuitive touch system, each bird can either attack an enemy or use its special sub-skill. For example, the wizard’s lightning strike attack hits several foes at once. But it can also choose to create a lightning shield around itself or an ally that damages incoming foes. As the birds levels up, some skills can even be applied to the whole party.
Complimenting these strategies are the surprisingly complex skills of the enemy pigs. Some stronger pigs charge up attacks over time like meteor showers or taunts that cause all foes to target a specific vulnerable bird. Other enemies have more passive abilities like Prince Porky’s resistance to attacks above a certain damage level. When the red chili pepper at the bottom of the screen fills up, players can unleash a devastating special attack. However, it may be useless against bosses like Prince Porky or other shielded enemies so players still have to play smart.
These bite-sized battles make up the vast majority of the Angry Birds Epic experience, but there are a few things to do outside of combat. Players can forge stronger weapons, brew potions, and scrounge around for more loot. Aside from tackling the main campaign, players can also participate in daily dungeons and lottery spins for the chance to earn even more prizes. Partaking in these side activities strengthens the team and makes the story quest easier, but the fair yet steep difficulty curve definitely still feels designed to push players towards spending more money.
It’s hard to be too mad at the game though, because the world of Angry Birds Epic is so pleasing to take in. The colors are vibrant, the animation is exquisite, the music is joyfully rambunctious, and the whole presentation is so charming players will be reminded why so many people got hooked on this franchise to begin with. Like all things Angry Birds at this point, expect Angry Birds Epic to soar once it fully launches.
These days it’s super easy to be immediately cynical about freemium games on the App Store. Just the mere mention of energy systems or recharge times can cause players to roll their eyes. Considering Dwarven Den, the new game from Backflip Studios currently in a soft launch phase, is based entirely on these mechanics some might dismiss it out of principle. But the more open-minded will discover a shockingly fair dungeon exploration adventure. Get ready to dive deep in this edition of It Came From Canada!
In Dwarven Den players control a dwarf spelunker making his way through a series of caves. Each cave has a different objective, like find the lost dwarf or mine all of the gold, but efficient exploration is what everything ultimately comes down to. Pathways are blocked off by various types of rocks, and mining through them depletes the player’s energy. Run out of energy and either pay up or quit and wait for the dwarf to recharge. However, each cave is also littered with red gems that restore energy when mined. The tension comes from trying to make progress while keeping energy reserves high.
It would have been so easy for Dwarven Den to keep energy gems artificially scarce to encourage customers to pay. Fortunately, players can get through much of the game with intelligent play alone. By raiding treasure chests for loot, players can forge stronger weapons and armor. Rocks become easier to mine and sometimes even give back energy. By mining blue gems, players can also use a variety of Zelda-style tools like fog-clearing torches and rock-clearing bombs. Bombs are especially effective against energy-draining spider foes.
Using all of these tools in Dwarven Den‘s surprisingly non-linear dungeons makes for a satisfyingly cerebral experience. Each dungeon is basically a big environmental puzzle to solve, and there’s always more than one right answer. It’s not Dark Souls, but the combination of tense challenge and freedom for creative player experimentation works in a similar way. It avoids becoming the tedious loop of repeating an action, waiting, repeating the same action, and waiting again that it could have easily devolved into.
Things can get a little stressful, but that’s offset by Dwarven Dungeon‘s bright, chubby characters and cheery voice samples. The 3D visuals move smooth and fast. Meanwhile, each new item equipped shows up on the player character as a nice touch of customization.
There is the nagging fear though that Dwarven Den‘s freemium elements are so non-aggressive they might be too good to be true. Since the game is still in a soft launch phase, there’s still time for it to decide how money-hungry it wants to be. As it is now though, Dwarven Den rightly chooses to be a great game first and a cash magnet at a distant second.