Version Reviewed: 1.1
Graphics / Sound [rating:4.5/5]
Game Controls [rating:4/5]
Re-use / Replay Value [rating:5/5]
Learn a lesson from me - don't start playing Orions: Legend of Wizards when you're supposed to be enjoying holiday vacation with the fam. Like a crack addict forced to dry up in rehab, my family was dragging me away from my iPod Touch on a regular basis. Just-One-More-Turn addiction had taken a stranglehold, and there was only one possible solution that could save my social life - lock the iPod up and throw away the key. Even while away from the game I was conjuring in my mind how I would arrange my cards in order to take down the insidious Hordamned, where I would next build my Crysols Gardens to yield the most production, and which cards I would buy on the next Power up. Oh yes, it's serious folks.
Originally a Pocket PC title, Orions is two different styles of game rolled into an attractive package. On the one hand, it wears the turn-based strategy clothing of games like the Civilization series where, in an attempt to conquer the map (and thus your foe) you need to build up resources, place structures that affect resources, and move from island to island (called Orions) defeating the Governers of said islands. On the other hand, Orions handles combat similar to collectible card games such as Magic: The Gathering. These two flavors of gameplay combine into a social-life-ruining Wunderdrug.
How this game has flown under the radar is beyond me. The app store is full of so many casual games, or play-them-once-games, or even crappy fluff games, that sometimes it's hard to rise above the noise, I guess. I've been waiting for a title like this for a long time. The style of play is perfectly suited for the iPhone in my opinion, and Orions hits it out of the park. In the resource building portions of the game, there are basic structures to build on your islands which generate the resources, and then advanced structures that change based on the island style (Fire, Ice, Earth, etc) that help to unlock cards for you to use in battle. As expected, the building tree contains requirements that must be met in order to build higher level structures. You have one war balloon that you fly from island to island, battling Governers of each island as you land on them. The battle plays out with your cards, some of which you have by default, others of which you've bought with your resources. Knowing your cards strengths and weaknesses, and how to play them, is key to winning any battle. The point of the game is to wipe out the enemy wizard's home Orion (this keeps the enemy from resurrecting when he dies), and then the wizard himself.
The replayability of this game is staggering. When creating a new game, you can choose to be one of 6 different wizard types (matching the Elements), choose 3 levels of difficulty, three map sizes (small, medium, big), and then whether to play the full campaign or just a duel. The variations of these options, and the way the actual game plays out, leads to and endless amount of scenarios that can play out in a multitude of ways depending on the cards you have and the path you select to victory. I haven't even tried the duel-only mode, which allows you to play card battles with either a local player or against the AI. Needless to say, it's one you'll want to keep on your device for a long time, and possibly even leave on the home screen to quickly access when you need your fix.
The only downside to this game is the initial learning curve. You can't just pick it up and immediately know how to play. I also found starting by reading the instructions a bad idea - they don't make a lot of sense when you haven't played the game yet. I suggest starting a new game and turning on the tutorial mode which will walk you through some of the basics. Once you have that down, start a new game with no tutorial and muddle your way through your first game, reading the instructions as needed. Some of the fun of the game, actually, is to discover the mechanics as you go. I'd also like to see some sort of wireless multiplayer (can you imagine an internet-wide Duel lobby with leaderboard?).
Here's a video outlining some of the gameplay, thanks to Youtube user izzynobre:
At only $4.99, Orions is a steal from the app store. If you like RPGs, Civilization-style games, or collectible card games, then I would not hesitate to buy this game immediately. Given that the Pocket PC version already has several expansion packs, I have to imagine that these will be released for the iPhone / iPod Touch as well, further feeding your addiction.