Developer: Cedar Hill Games
Price: Free
Version: 1.0
App Reviewed on: iPhone 3GS
Graphics / Sound Rating: ★★★★☆
Gameplay Rating: ★★★★½
Playtime Rating: ★★★½☆
Replay Value Rating: ★★★½☆

Overall Rating: ★★★★☆

Ahh, isometric dungeon crawlers. They can be lots of fun, but in all honesty the formula is starting to wear a little thin. Constantly battling hordes of enemies for experience and loot is fun, but I can only play what is essentially the same game so many times before I start to get bored. And that’s where Emissary of War comes in.

The game starts just as the curiously coiffed Ghent, emissary to the Dominion, and his buddy/human pack mule Hassock are finishing up with the last of their treaties in Ogre territory. This, of course, involves fighting through a bunch of aggressive indigenous creatures. Then fighting through the Ogre chief’s guards. Then fighting some more. Yup, lots of fighting. And, of course, the requisite RPG-style upgrades for both characters using money and runes found and earned.

Really, it’s the fighting that makes Emissary of War stand out. Thanks to the supremely under-appreciated Hassock, what could have turned out as yet another dull grind becomes more of a strategic affair. See, while all Ghent does is hit things with his sword until they stop moving, Hassock tosses potions. Lots and lots of potions. Players can queue up a number of these concoctions (all unlimited) before and during any fights, then basically sit back and watch the fun.

Another unexpected but pleasant surprise for me was Emissary of War‘s script. Lots of story-focused iOS games try to be funny, but not many succeed. This one succeeds and does so with some pretty solid voice acting that actually sells the humor even more. I have to admit, even though Hassock’s sporadic and clumsy falls can lead to being without some much needed potions for a time, it’s still funny to hear “*THUD!* Ghent? I fell down again…”

Players can download and play the entire first chapter for free, but will have to shell-out $0.99 in order to continue on to Chapter 2. This in itself isn’t a bad thing, but the first (and free) half can be completed in about an hour or so. It kind of makes me think the full experience won’t last all that long. It’s also a shame that quitting mid-level will boot players back to the start of said level, with checkpoints only used in the event of catastrophic death, but none of the stages are all that terribly long so it’s not a horribly big deal. Still, it’d be nice.

I was, and still am, genuinely surprised and impressed with Emissary of War. It’s fun, funny and genuinely different in a genre over-saturated with Blizzard wannabes. I still worry that the overall experience of the full game will be a bit too short, but a dollar is a small price to pay for something like this.

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