Developer: SMS Services O.o.o.
Price: FREE
Version: 1.0
App Reviewed on: iPhone 5
Graphics / Sound Rating: ★★★★☆
Gameplay Rating: ★★☆☆☆
Playtime Rating: ★★★½☆
Replay Value Rating: ★★★☆☆

Overall Rating: ★★★☆☆

Combining what looks to be My Little Pony-style dragons with puzzle RPG-style gameplay seems like a winning concept. It’s cute but still universally accessible, and the RPG/puzzle mix should appeal to a fairly broad audience. So it’s a shame that Battle for Niria’s core gameplay, even its very framework, seems so woefully incomplete.

Evil, darkness, save the world, blah, blah, blah. Battle for Niria begins with a little dragon selection, follows up with a peculiar tutorial in which most of the sound effects don’t work and none of the progress carries over, then requires players to do it all over again on their own. There’s a little bit of a “pet-thing” going on in the background as players use coins earned through play to purchase new equipment for their dragonling or furnishings for their bedroom, but the actual gameplay is all about gem matching. Players will have to try to outlast, outscore, or outfight their opponents (be they other players or NPCs) by matching three or more gems while occasionally triggering a special ability or two. Once they’ve earned enough gold they can teach their little scaly avatar some new tricks, give it a swanky new outfit, and so on.

There are a lot of little elements to Battle for Niria that are quite enjoyable. Quests keep players engaged and there’s always a nicer set of equipment to chase after. The mini-games at The Lab (still match-3, but without any “fighting”) are also a nice touch as they can be a nice way to earn some extra items without worrying about competing with anyone. Of course that doesn’t mean the combat is bad. In fact, the way the board doesn’t “refill” until after both sides have run out of possible moves makes for an interesting challenge. Players really have to think fast if they don’t want to leave their opponent an opening on their next turn.

The problem with all of this is that none of it, with the exception of the graphics, feels finished. I’ve already mentioned the lack of audio during the tutorial, but most everything else seems incomplete as well. Quests sometimes task players with acquiring a specific number of items but won’t tell them where to find any of them. Battle animations are pretty much nonexistent despite the impressive looking models. Worst of all the actual controls are unresponsive and clunky with some swipes moving the wrong gems and others not registering at all, even after multiple attempts. Oh, and I couldn’t get the Facebook login to work at all.

Battle for Niria is a neat idea but it currently feels like that’s all it is; an idea. Most of its promising features just aren’t fleshed out enough, and the controls make it more frustrating than fun.

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