Developer: Zynga
Price: Free
Version: 1.1.28

App Reviewed on: iPhone 5, iPad mini, iPad 3
Graphics / Sound Rating: ★★★★½
Gameplay Rating: ★★★½☆
Playtime Rating: ★★★½☆
Re-use / Replay Value Rating: ★★★☆☆

Overall Rating: ★★★½☆

I was initially attracted to Battlestone due to the lovely screenshots and launch video. Zynga’s latest free-to-play game is an action-oriented hack-n-slash role playing game (RPG) that evokes apps like the Spacetime Studios MMO games, Arcane Legends and Pocket Legends. Zynga’s take on an action RPG, though, is quite different mechanically, but the visuals do seem familiar.

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That similarity aside, Battlestone starts out extremely well. Players run through a few tutorial levels, learning how to swipe across multiple enemies to attack, how to navigate from area to area, how to summon new heroes, and the like. The process is quite fun, and–like any good free-to-play game–hits the sweet spot of challenging ease that keeps folks interested up to the point where the energy runs out. Each battle area costs energy, and gems are used to heal your heroes during battle. There are also coins earned for each mission, which can be used for upgrades.

The map-based gameplay starts to feel familiar and tired, though, long about the second or third trip through each map section, which is broken down into a “kill all the enemies” area, a “destroy all the pylons” area, a “fight to the treasure” areas, “duel” multiplayer areas, and a final “boss battle” stage that is unlocked once players finish the other areas on easy, medium, and hard difficulty.

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The most unique mechanic here is summoning heroes, and the ability to fuse one hero to another to increase one of their stats list. Got a fire archer and a regular archer? Sacrifice the regular one and get a boost for that already higher-stat hero, just like a collectible card game. Heroes are summoned using pink, gem-like Battlestones, earned during boss battles. Other gems and coins will also allow you to upgrade or summon heroes and purchase more energy, as well.

Multiplayer seems a bit on the indirect side, too, as players pick heroes to duel other Battlestone player heroes in areas similar to the single player maps. It’s fun, at first, to battle other players until it becomes clear that the other player is essentially AI-controlled, and the fight is more based on stats than anything else. Still, it’s a fun way to earn a Battlestone per victorious duel.

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There are guilds to join or create, though I didn’t see much of a use for them aside from bragging rights, and staying invested in playing more Battlestone.

A final complaint, I didn’t see any cross-device sync, and playing on the iPhone vs the iPad resulted in two different sets of heroes. It would be a plus to be able to play on one device and then pick it up on another on the go.

Overall, Battlestone is a great starter, but finally betrays a lack of depth once the relatively simple mechanics are learned. Without any direct friend challenges, the multiplayer, too, loses its charm quickly.

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