App Reviewed on: iPhone 5
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9th Dawn has some pretty lofty ambitions. The App Store description likens it to both open, modern RPGs and old school favorites like Ultima. That's a pretty big claim for just about anyone to make, let alone an iOS RPG that's essentially appeared out of nowhere. The crazy thing is, the developers actually pulled it off.
Bad things are happening all over the continent, as is usually the case. Players get to choose between three different playable classes (Knight, Archer, and Mage), then the set out to do pretty much whatever they want. There's a brief introduction to the immediate area surrounding the town of Agaria, but once that's over with the landmass is their oyster. A set of virtual sticks move and attack, and a contextual button is available for chatting, but most of the interaction is done via tapping on various objects such as chests and barrels. There are lots of goodies hidden throughout the environments, many of which might be hidden behind secret doors or otherwise off the beaten path.
As simple as it may look I'm still a big fan of 9th Dawn's graphics. The slightly better than 16-bit sprites look great. I was also amazed by just how much of a world there is to explore. The tiny slice of land players will spend their early moments is only a sliver of the rest of the continent, and every single area of the map could potentially hide caves, dungeons, or other little nooks worth checking out. Of course none of that would be very interesting without the promise of loot, but there's plenty of that to go around as well. I recently acquired a pair of gauntlets that boosted my character's defense and attack power that I'm still fairly excited about.
While 9th Dawn does an admirable job of realizing its own ambitions, it isn't without a few problems. The story is, for the most part, a complete throwaway. And while many of the character interactions can be charming, all dialog is presented in massive text boxes that fill the entire screen and disrupt the presentation. I also had trouble figuring out where I was supposed to go on several occasions due to vague directions and some features (such as cave entrances) blending in with the environment. The hints for each quest make this problem less painful, thankfully.
I was somewhat skeptical going in to 9th Dawn at first. It didn't take long for my mindset to change. Now I can't stop thinking about the little pixely world sitting inside my phone and the treasures hidden within it. Just waiting for me to find them.