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Penny Arcade's On the Rain-Slick Precipice of Darkness 3 is a Console-Quality iOS Game

Posted by Rob Rich on November 30th, 2012
+ Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad
Our rating: starstarstarstarblankstar :: FOLLOW THE MIMES :: Read Review »

The Backstory
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.

The Gameplay
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.*


Asura Cross Review

+ Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad
By Rob Rich on November 26th, 2012
Our rating: starstarstarstarblankstar :: A STRANGE JOURNEY
Asura Cross isn't the most polished game out there, and the bizarre cross-over of adventure and fighting game might not interest everyone, but it can be quite fantastic if given the chance.
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Knights of Pen and Paper Review

+ Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad
By Rob Rich on November 5th, 2012
Our rating: starstarstarstarhalfstar :: I WANNA CAST MAGIC MISSILE!
Knights of Pen and Paper puts players in the unique position of acting as both Dungeon Master and Adventurer in a tabletop RPG, and it's ridiculously awesome.
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Hellfire Review

+ Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad
By Rob Rich on November 2nd, 2012
Our rating: starstarstarstarblankstar :: STRANGE BEDFELLOWS
Hybrid games are often quite popular but not many of them manage or even attempt to combine these disparate elements so effectively.
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Penny Arcade's On the Rain-Slick Precipice of Darkness 3 Review

+ Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad
By Rob Rich on October 29th, 2012
Our rating: starstarstarstarblankstar :: FOLLOW THE MIMES
Penny Arcade and Zeboyd's latest and greatest RPG of Weirdness has made its way to the App Store, and it's quite fantastic, despite a rather overbearing interface.
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Crossword Dungeon Review

+ Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad
By Rob Rich on October 26th, 2012
Our rating: starstarstarhalfstarblankstar :: A LITTLE FLAT
Role playing games and crossword puzzles mix surprisingly well, but in Crossword Dungeon's case it could've gone a bit further.
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DarkGate Review

iPhone App - Designed for iPhone, compatible with iPad
By Blake Grundman on October 25th, 2012
Our rating: starstarstarstarblankstar :: REFRESHINGLY RETRO
This retro-inspired role playing game represents everything that made Super Nintendo era JRPGs so much fun.
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EpicHearts Plus Review

iPhone App - Designed for iPhone, compatible with iPad
By Rob Rich on October 22nd, 2012
Our rating: starstarstarstarblankstar :: EPIC NANNIES
EpicHearts isn't just another action RPG. It's another action RPG with a story that hasn't been done to death, delightful visuals, and quite the robust offering of content.
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Zenforms: Protectors Review

+ Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad
By Rob Rich on October 9th, 2012
Our rating: starstarstarblankstarblankstar :: GIVE IT TIME
This monster-training RPG has some very clever ideas but it's far from complete and could use more than a few adjustments.
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Mission Europa is a Console-Quality iOS Game

Posted by Rob Rich on September 28th, 2012
+ Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad
Our rating: starstarstarstarblankstar :: HIDEOUSLY AWESOME :: Read Review »

The Backstory
A mining operation on Europa, one of Jupiter’s moons, has gone quiet. A team is sent to investigate and gets shot down in short order. Players control the lone survivor as he teams up with the facility’s computer in order to piece it all together and hopefully get home intact. A task made all the more difficult by the horrific cyber-zombie-demon-monsters that used to be the miners. It’s the kind of story we’ve seen in Sci-Fi horror before (Virus and Moontrap are just two examples I can think of), but it lends itself incredibly well to the interactive medium.

The Gameplay
Mission Europa (specifically the quintessential Collector’s version) is an odd duck of a RPG. It takes place entirely in first-person, utilizes both melee and ranged combat, features skills and summons that are akin to magic, contains tons of “lewts,” offers a crafting system, and has a pretty creepy atmosphere despite looking like it was rendered in crayon. Most of the time players will be wandering through the blood-stained halls, searching for a hidden item or hunting for a boss, all while fighting their way past the repurposed crew and other monstrosities. All the while finding and refining the abilities and gear that suits them best.

How does it Compare?
Because Mission Europa is an amalgamation of a number of different game types, it’s a bit like a lot of things. The gear collection, refining, and crafting is reminiscent of classics and contemporaries like Diablo or even Borderlands. The first-person combat is similar to an older Bethesda title, say like Oblivion. Meanwhile the oppressive atmosphere and disturbingly dark tones bring cult classic System Shock 2 to mind. The amazing thing is that it incorporates all these concepts, but it does them well, and even cohesively.

I could picture Mission Europa running on a PC quite easily, and it’s got the wealth of content (loot drops, crafting, creepy story, multiplayer, etc) most PC gamers crave. It would be right at home on Steam, too. Who knows? Maybe with a little push Banshee Soft might submit it to Greenlight and put my claims to the ultimate test.

*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.*

Adventure of Terapets: The Crazy Scientist Review

+ Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad
By Rob Rich on September 24th, 2012
Our rating: starstarstarhalfstarblankstar :: DIAMOND IN THE ROUGH?
Things in Teraland could use a bit of polish - okay a lot of polish - but that doesn't keep it from scratching that monster-catching itch.
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RPG Symphony of Eternity Review

iPhone App - Designed for iPhone, compatible with iPad
By Rob Rich on September 10th, 2012
Our rating: starstarstarhalfstarblankstar :: A GREAT PERSONALITY
It's not much of a looker, but this RPG has some interesting stuff going on under the hood.
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Dragon Island Blue Review

+ Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad
By Rob Rich on September 3rd, 2012
Our rating: starstarstarstarblankstar :: A SLOW BURN
Could it be? A monster collecting and training game that doesn't limit players' involvement with arbitrary timers and pseudo-required in-app-purchases? Why yes it is!
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Avernum Creator Jeff Vogel Talks About Past, Present, and Porting

Posted by Rob Rich on August 21st, 2012
iPad App - Designed for iPad
Our rating: starstarstarstarblankstar :: INSTANT CLASSIC :: Read Review »

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.

Avernum 6 HD is slated to hit the App Store on October 10th. Avernum: Escape From The Pit and Avernum 6 are also available from the Mac App Store.

Aralon: Sword and Shadow Is A Console-Quality iOS Game

Posted by Rob Rich on August 3rd, 2012
+ Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad
Our rating: starstarstarstarstar :: CONSOLE WORTHY :: Read Review »

From the first moment video game consoles began to appear in homes across the world, there were people who longed to take the experience with them wherever they might go. And as rapidly as technology might improve, it’s still not easy to replicate the console experience on a handheld device. But it is possible, even on gadgets that weren’t created with video games as their primary function. With that in mind, we present an iOS title that many of us here at 148apps believe is worthy of being called a console-quality game.

*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.*

The Backstory
An unlikely hero with a tragic past. A mystery to unravel. Revenge to be had. After some fiddling with avatar creation Aralon: Sword and Shadow begins with a bit of a foggy back-story about the main character’s father and indications of political corruption. Players work their way through a few tutorials masked as quests – thankfully no “kill the rats in the tavern cellar” tasks – then set out on their quest of discovery and redemption. And what a quest it turns out to be.

The Gameplay
Aralon: Sword and Shadow is the very thing many iOS owners have been clamoring for; an open-world fantasy RPG. Enemies, treasures, and hidden areas are strewn throughout the land just begging to be defeated, found, and explored respectively. There are plenty of skills to learn and master, many of which depend on a character’s class. Factions are available for joining. Potions can be crafted from plants and other items harvested throughout the environment. Quests of all sorts can be found and taken just about anywhere. There are even a number of side tasks such as fishing to keep players distracted. In essence; it creates one of the most expansive, content rich worlds ever seen in an iOS game.

How Does It Play?
Aralon: Sword and Shadow is a fantasy RPG set in a massive fully-explorable world, with day/night cycles, mounts, few boundaries, and is playable in first or third-person. It sounds quite a bit like an Elder Scrolls game, doesn’t it? Well it kinda is. Virtually every aspect of Aralon’s gameplay is reminiscent in some manner of Bethesda’s acclaimed series; from the traversal to the crafting. The land may not be quite as large or borderless as those found in Morrowind, Oblivion, or Skyrim, but the spirit of exploration is certainly comparable.

Touch controls and hardware constraints aside, Aralon: Sword and Shadow basically is an Elder Scrolls game for iOS devices. The world is huge and full of secrets, there are lots of items to acquire and enemies to vanquish, and most importantly it’s incredibly easy to spend hours doing non story-related tasks. And honestly, I can’t think of a better game to call a console-quality iOS game.