Tag: Old school RPG »
App Reviewed on: iPhone 5
Graphics / Sound Rating:
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I’m always a bit leery of starting up a “traditional” iOS RPG. It’s not that I dislike the subgenre; it’s just that the results are typically hit or miss. Usually miss. Sticking with the awkward baseball analogy, RPG Aeon Avenger is like one of those overly dramatic moments in a sports movie where the batter looks like they’re going to miss, but they tag the ball anyway. They don’t necessarily hit a home run but at least they aren’t out. Well it makes sense in my mind, anyway.
Aeon Avenger is a lot like playing an awkward RPG styled after Chrono Trigger. An unlikely hero gets swept up in an adventure spanning multiple time periods, never leaving his world, per se, but seeing it in several different states over the centuries. In Lake’s case (yes, his name is Lake) it all begins when his family is slain by a mysterious man who can control monsters. With the aid of a wandering swordsman and a time-traveling sorceress, he sets out to put an end to the mysterious Man in Black, time paradoxes be damned.
Despite a generally simple look and some fairly uninteresting maps, Aeon Avenger does have some pretty impressive sprite work both for the portraits and enemies. It also uses an interesting system that allows any character to equip any weapon type, but they’re also most effective with their preferred implement. Different enemies also have particular weaknesses to certain weapons so it can sometimes pay off to switch things up a bit. In addition to the weapon system there are a number of skills that can be equipped to a given item to grant its wielder additional abilities. Of course not all skills can be used with all weapons but it’s a nice way to really diversify the group.
As I’ve mentioned the maps are rather bland, but the overly sensitive movement controls (complete with overly restrictive hitboxes for the virtual stick) make them even more of a drag to navigate through. After a while I gave up on exploring because it was so bad, and I love exploring. It’s also a shame that the script is so awkward. I didn’t notice many actual errors in the dialog, but it just doesn’t read all that well and the overall story is rather hard to get invested in. And what’s up with having to go into the “Status” menu to equip things? Why not, I dunno, use the “Equip” tab in the “Tools” menu instead?
I can’t honestly call RPG Aeon Avenger the next big iOS RPG, but it’s certainly not a bad entry into the genre. The story isn’t exactly captivating and the combat is fairly standard, but it does make use of an interesting equipment system that’s worth experimenting with.
Both Zeboyd and Penny Arcade have had a hand in their fair share of RPGs over the past few years, but it wasn’t until recently that the two found each other and created some incredibly sweet (and utterly surreal) music together. This third entry in the Rain-Slick Precipice series marks both the Penny Arcade RPG’s first foray into “retro” territory as well as Zeboyd’s best refinement of their quirky RPG system to date. Ancient sea gods and mimes are just the beginning.
One of the biggest differences between a Zeboyd RPG and a more typical example is the treatment of the combat. Health, magic, and items all reset after every fight, eliminating the need to constantly micromanage party resources. To compensate for this enemies gain strength with each passing turn, lending a sense of urgency and increased strategy to every combat scenario. What makes Rain-Slick 3 so much fun (aside from the rampant Penny Arcade humor) is the emphasis on multi-classing. Finding the right combination of character abilities can lead to some incredibly satisfying victories, and the way everything resets after every battle makes experimentation far less grueling.
How does it Compare?
The original Rain-Slick 3 made its debut on both Steam and Xbox Live Indie Games, and felt right at home on both platforms. It’s wonderfully retro while at the same time incredibly modern and accessible. And all of that “magic” has been retained in the iOS version. All the humor, the unique mechanics, the splendid visuals, and so on have made the transition almost seamlessly. The only real difference between the mobile version and its console/PC brethren - aside from the smaller screen and blessed portability - is the interface, which has been adjusted for touch controls. And save the rather garish virtual stick, it’s very near flawless.
One of the things I love most about Rain-Slick 3 on iOS is that it’s not an “inferior” version like some ports tend to be. All the bonus content (alternate appearance packs, Lair of the Seamstress DLC, etc) is included, and it’s received just as much post-release support as the other platforms. The fact that it’s a fantastic game even without prior knowledge of any inside jokes or experience with the previous two titles makes it all the more noteworthy.
*NOTE: “Console-quality” refers to the quality of the experience, not just the graphics. This is about the depth of gameplay, content, and in some cases how accurately it portrays the ideals of its console counterpart.*
As Spiderweb Software's fantasy epic hits its 18 year anniversary, the final game's App Store debut is looming on the horizon. But it's not just the second iOS release for the series, not counting Avadon as it's a separate thing, it's the final chapter to a second trilogy. That's six games, total. And I was lucky enough to be able to ask series creator Jeff Vogel about it.
First and foremost, what made you all decide to create a role playing game in the first place?
I've been obsessed with role-playing games since I first learned to play Dungeons & Dragons, around 32 years ago. Sometimes there is something about a genre that just grabs you and doesn't let go.
I have to ask, when you all began work on the first Avernum, did you have plans for a 6-part series?
Avernum is a rewrite of my very, very first game, Exile: Escape From the Pit, which I started in 1994. When I began it, I honestly thought it was just a hobbyist thing, and I didn't look for one second past the first title. Happily, the world I created turned out to be very versatile and have a lot of stories in it.
And why six games specifically?
Two trilogies. I think three games is a really good length for telling one epic story. So the whole series is two almost self-contained arcs.
I imagine you've learned quite a bit from working on so many titles, and not just the Avernum series. Were there any particular bits of experience you've gained along the way that have been more useful than most?
I have learned so much since I started, and 18 years in, it feels like I learn more every year. Things about how to design, to code, to test, to market. It's a huge, complex field, and there is no shortage of mistakes and foolishness on my part I need to correct.
In that vein, have there been things that you know now that you wish you knew back at the beginning?
I wish, when I started, I knew to pony up the money and find good freelance artists. I made a lot of the art in-house, and I should have had real people doing it. Especially the interface.
Have there been any unique challenges in developing any of the Avernum titles for iOS as opposed to Mac or PC?
Adapting from a mouse/keybords interface to a touchscreen was difficult and required a lot of thought. Touchscreens don't work as well for hardcore, tactical games. Happily, people seem to be happy with the interface we developed.
I imagine iOS distribution is fairly different than Mac/PC. Have you found there to be any specific hurdles in releasing, selling, and supporting a game on the App Store?
Marketing. Visibility. It's a hugely, HUGELY busy and competitive platform. It's so hard to stand out from the teeming masses. Happily, we are about the only ones writing this sort of game for iOS, which helps.
Has there been more notable success on one platform as opposed to the others?
Avadon: The Black Fortress continues to do really well for us. I recommend it. It's fun.
Now that the final game in the series is coming to iPad, might there be plans to bring earlier titles to the platform?
Yeah, a few. I'm adapting Avernum 6 now, and I hope to have it out in October. However, the older games use an old code base that would be extremely difficult to adapt to iOS.
On a similar note, are there any plans to make the series available for iPhone?
No. The screen is too small. I will need to rewrite the engine from scratch to adapt to it.
I hope to someday write games for the iPhone. I'm really thinking about it. But that sort of thing needs to be baked in from day 1.
Lastly, how's Avadon 2 coming along? I noticed the little blurb about it on the website. Will that be available for iOS alongside the first one?
It's going. Slowly. I want it to be out next summer, but I'm having a little bit of mid-life burnout. But it is happening. And it will absolutely be out for the iPad.
Megara Entertainment, crafters of the rather popular Fabled Lands, has just released their latest stand alone "choose-your-own-adventure" rpg. The Keep of the Lich-Lord is adapted from a tale of the name from the Fighting Fantasy series of gamebooks, penned by none other than illustrious interactive fiction authors Dave Morris and Jamie Thomson. Expect much decision-making and dice-rolling, naturally.
All the expected and classic gamebook gameplay is present and accounted for. Players can choose between two distinct classes this time around (Rogue or Paladin) and enjoy close to 100 color illustrations along with the orchestrated score. This isn't a mere straight port, however. Megara has added some new story twists along the way, so even battle-hardened veterans might find a few surprises. Heck, they could even stumble across a new magical item or two that could make a huge difference down the line.
iPad-owning gamebook fans should head on over to the App Store right now and grab The Keep of the Lich-Lord for the measly $4.99 asking price. I mean, it's not like that newly-resurrected necromancer is going to change his mind about tearing the land apart, right? At least, not without a little "encouragement."