App Reviewed on: iPhone 3GS
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As someone who wasn't all that impressed by earlier entries in the series, I was a little cautions when I first started up ZENONIA 4. To be fair, I think most of my trepidation was based on getting an iPhone somewhat late in the game and having other more recent games to compare them to. But now we're playing number four in a franchise that Gamevil has been steadily improving with each iteration, so that excuse doesn't hold up anymore. Good thing it doesn't have to.
ZENONIA 4 is a sort of culmination of the series thus far, in more ways than one. Side-stepping specifics for the sake of fans who have enjoyed the story thus far, I'll just say that the game covers multiple time periods. It overlaps with the canon of previous games in some places, and re-introduces notable characters in others. Through it all, the classic action-rpg style we've all come to expect ferries the story along. Albeit with a few new tweaks.
I'll just say it point-blank: the mechanics in ZENONIA 4 make the other three look silly by comparison. It's been a natural evolution that can be seen when taking the time to play through them all in numerical order, with this one sitting right at the top. If earlier games in the series were people, that would make ZENONIA 4 the guy with the giant brain that can create matter with his mind. Save the over-reliance on kill/gather quests, that is. It's a bunch of little things that add up to make a huge difference. Character animations are the smoothest they've ever been, especially when compared to the jerky movements of the second game. The UI is less intrusive and more easy to use, with a semi-ring of special quick slot buttons around the action/attack button. The list goes on.
My biggest complaint about it all is that there are a number of smaller aspects that aren't clearly explained through tutorials or questing. Items can be crafted, enhanced and combined at the blacksmith, but there's very little guidance for any of it. A smaller but possibly more significant complaint to other more "conspiracy" obsessed users is the way ZEN still hamstrings character progress. It's manageable most of the time, and makes a sad sort of sense in a free game, but the way I'm limited to teeny tiny amounts of inventory space unless I spend "the special monies" can be irritating.
I'm confident that ZENONIA 4 won't disappoint series fans. It's ironed out almost all of the kinks from the earlier games and makes for a darned good time regardless of a player's previous experience. Newcomers might be a tad lost with some of the story elements, but that won't stop them from enjoying themselves. Plus they can always download every other game in the series for a grand total of "hardly anything."