Version Reviewed: 1.3.1
Device Reviewed On: iPad 2, iPod touch 4
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The roguelike is a genre of game that I’ve always wanted to get into: the idea of having a character that one doesn’t want to die, because death is permanent, yet through death learning more about the world to eventually master it. I would love to be the kind of person that is a Nethack expert. However, I was born in the overcaffeinated generation and I demand my games be interesting within minutes. Thus, Cardinal Quest is a great entry point into roguelikes for my blood, which is pretty much straight caffeine at this point.
Players choose one of three classes: the fighter, thief, and wizard, each with their own strengths. The fighter gets in enemies’ faces to fight them, the wizard uses abilities and spells to fight from a distance, and the thief is fast, preferring to strike first. Then, they descend into the dungeon to try and kill the evil minotaur Asterion. Levels are randomly generated, with items and abilities appearing in random order. However, better equipment and tougher enemies generally appear over time in a regular order, so don’t expect to be fighting minotaurs in the second room. Still, the randomization means that each experience will be somewhat different because the different abilities will force players to adapt in each session. The soundtrack from noted indie game composer Whitaker Trebella sets a perfect mood for the game, ramping up as the later levels of the dungeon are entered.
The thief is probably the most fun to play as, because the Shadow Walk is so much fun to use. He can use it often thanks to his high speed stat that the ability determines its recharge rate on. It enables him to quickly sneak around undetected, but also do great amounts of damage by attacking while undetected. He isn’t easy to use, but he can be clever when used properly. Though, learning the game isn’t that hard: a few playthroughs will get players acclimated to the mechanics.
However, the game isn’t very deep. Players don’t have much say in how their character is built, and don’t get time to really care for them because with only 2 lives, the end can come quickly. Still, this is meant more for bite-sized chunks of play, and this is more for the kind of person who wants the mechanics of the genre with none of the filler. The money earned in the game is just there as a score indicator. The controls could really use swipe-based movement, as while the control scheme works well on phones, it seems fraught with inaccuracy on tablets. Inventory management controls make it too easy to accidentally move around items when just trying to view their stats.
Cardinal Quest is a good snack for those looking for a quick roguelike experience, without expecting anything too deep.