Developer: UNIT9
Price: FREE
Version Reviewed: 0.7.2
App Reviewed on: iPhone 4S

Graphics / Sound Rating: ★★★★½
Gameplay Rating: ★★★½☆
Playtime Rating: ★★½☆☆
Re-use / Replay Value Rating: ★★★☆☆

Overall Rating: ★★★☆☆

Decromancer is a free puzzle-y strategy game reminiscent of games like Rune Raiders, but with deck-building elements and an overarching quest structure. In short: it’s a solid, familiar-but-novel-feeling game with some disappointing free-to-play elements. It’s not by any means horrible, but it would be much more enjoyable without having such intentionally slow travel speeds and other annoying trappings that hinder game progression.

photo 4 (21)Free-to-play mechanics aside, the actual “game” part of Decromancer is a rewarding and fun experience that asks players to run an army by purchasing units and managing multiple economies to pull off victories. The game starts by introducing players to the overworld – beautifully illustrated to look like an old parchment map – which is used primarily for travel, viewing quests, managing cards, etc. Then it’s straight into battle.

Battles in Decromancer are the meat and potatoes of the game. Each round, players take turns summoning cards into battle and placing them strategically on the game board. Units across from one another will attack each other while units across from blank sections of the board damage an opponent’s morale. The object of each battle is to either defeat all enemy units or damage morale sufficiently enough to force a retreat. As players progress through the game they will gain access to more powerful cards, as well as spells and abilities that can also turn the tide of battle.

photo 3 (24)Between a varied set of cards, the hand-drawn art style, and neat battle system, there’s a lot to like about Decromancer. Unfortunately though, things like traveling, healing units, and buying more cards are marred by features that seem intentionally designed to aggravate players into dumping money into the game. The most egregious of these design choices definitely has to be travel times. When traveling across the overworld, a timer pops up to indicate how long it takes to get from Point A to Point B. Even when sticking to roads (which are faster than off-road travel), the game becomes an absolute slog. This wouldn’t be as bad if the game wasn’t so focused on backtracking but alas, it is. Need to heal units? Head back to the nearest hub. Decided that this battle isn’t going to work out? Retreating forces a backtrack to the closest camp. Want to buy more cards? Head back to the last set of quest givers. Because of this choice, almost everything about the overworld – besides the way it looks – becomes kind of infuriating. There is also a Quick Battle option available to face-off against AI or a local second player without having to deal with the overworld, but the cards available in this mode are contingent upon players’ progress in the Story Mode.

All of that being said, patient players or those willing to pay can probably derive quite a bit of enjoyment out of Decromancer. It is just a shame that a pretty cool game lies underneath such an insidious structure.


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