You sort of know exactly what DC Unchained is going to be from a glance at the App Store icon. It'll either be a squad-focused, turn-based RPG, or an all-but-on-rails ARPG. It's the latter, by the way, and it features a whole host of DC superheroes and villains who are battling to try and save the world.
But there's more going on here than in your average mobile ARPG, especially if you're a massive DC comics fan. And even if you're not, this soft launch build shows that there's promise in the meaty fighting and epic upgrading that the game has to offer.
Big news dropped this week as Gameloft announced they’ve soft launched Asphalt 9: Legends in the Philippines. This has caused quite a stir primarily because the Asphalt games are among some of the best-looking racing games on the App Store. Heck, you might have already started looking at screenshots and are wondering if you should make a Philippines App Store account just to check it out for yourself. Well, if you are, I’m here to tell you that you shouldn’t, and here’s why:
Get Set Games has recently let slip (i.e. told everybody in a press release) that a sort of definitive version of Storm Casters, called Storm Casters Ultra, is bound for the App Store. In fact it's soft launched in Canada right now.
Due for release sometime in May, Earthcore: Shattered Elements has been in soft launch on the Canadian and Danish App Stores for a while now. A fair bit of effort is clearly being put into ensuring that everything about Earthcore: Shattered Elements is polished. It’s showing too, with this game steadily shaping up to be something quit special for CCG fans.
You’ll immediately notice that Earthcore: Shattered Elements looks quite gorgeous. Each card is attractively designed, easily rivalling the likes of Hearthstone in terms of looks. It’s an ideal way to encourage you to want to collect them all, not just for the sake of progression, but because of how they look.
Each match involves taking it in turns placing cards down, with you not able to initially place a card directly opposite your opponent’s, until the second turn. Besides elemental values at play here, with the usual fire beating water, and fire beating earth, there are also skills to use. These can make all the difference, so it’s important to note that you can only use one skill per turn. Some skills are simply a matter of inflicting extra damage to your opponent, but they can also be used to change elements and more.
There’s an extensive card crafting side of things too, which soon opens up. Earthcore: Shattered Elements promises that you can create over 500,000+ unique card combinations and I can see that being likely. There’s a plentiful supply of depth here.
That’s perhaps where the longevity for it will lie - enticing you into creating the ultimate deck to defeat others through PvP. In which case, it makes sense that Earthcore: Shattered Elements has been in soft launch for so long with balancing issues being ironed out.
As it stands, Earthcore: Shattered Elements already seems pretty appealing and potentially quite challenging, even for experienced CCG players. With further refinements planned for its already seemingly extensive campaign mode, as well as some tweaks to balancing, it can surely only get better. Earthcore: Shattered Elements is due for release sometime in May. We’ll be sure to keep you in the loop.
Nightmare Guardians is a game riding several big trends in the medium right now. Because all of those trends don’t necessarily align, the end result is a weird, curious experience that’s hard to precisely pin down. However, that doesn’t mean we still can’t try in this edition of It Came From Canada!
So what are those trends exactly? Well for starters Nightmare Guardians feels like an interactive history lesson for a certain strain of Blizzard Entertainment’s evolving catalog. Players join a band of elite warriors to fend of waves of encroaching evil forces, and the dark fantasy atmosphere is just the beginning of the Diablo comparisons. The semi-automated gameplay has players tapping the screen to move their character who will then automatically wail on whatever is nearby that needs wailing on. From there it’s up to players to prioritize threats and protect the wall behind them from succumbing to enemy attacks. That means managing loot and experience and other action-RPG staples, as opposed to technical skill, is the best way to become powerful and succeed.
However, players aren’t exploring dungeons - they’re just surviving horde after horde of foes in a box. This structure makes Nightmare Guardians even harder to categorize. Later levels introduce shields and buildings to protect, giving the game a tower defense twist, but really it ends up turning into a single-player/co-op MOBA. Learning the different hero-specific spells like quick dashes or zombie-killing fire blasts, and more generic debuffs like spells that cripple enemy healers, is essential. Coordinating and strategizing with your partners, whether it’s a computer or another player online, also adds to the DotA vibe, as do little touches like “last hit” and “kill steal” bonuses.
But even that classification still doesn’t feel entirely complete because, for all that it borrows from these intensely complex and competitive genres, Nightmare Guardians is actually surprisingly approachable. Easily killing countless foes with flashy finishing moves feels like Dynasty Warriors of all things. The quick-hit, mobile-friendly framework could easily be called a wave-based shooter with swords and spells swapped in for guns. Based on my earlier online encounters it’s not hard to get into at all, which could be good or bad, depending on how elitist your perspective is.
If this preview sounds a little confusing, if the more you read it the less you understood about the game, well that’s just what playing Nightmare Guardians is like. But if you’ve been left intrigued as well, like I still am, you can check out when it launches everywhere soon.
If developers insist on making even more Clash of Clans clones, they’d better gin up a better excuse than “we just want a lot of money.” Fortunately for Compass Point: West, the Wild West setting actually proves to be pretty thematically appropriate for the genre. But is that a good enough reason to continue the gold rush? Find out in this edition of It Came From Canada!
Like I said, Compass Point: West's biggest coup is that the Clash of Clans template of building a town from scratch, populating it, defending it from invaders, and exploring uncharted parts of the map is basically the western cowboy pioneer spirit in a nutshell. So while the gameplay remains virtually unchanged, unlike other clones, it rarely feels like a nonsensical chore. Plus, the lush 3D graphics really sell players on the organic world. The texture of the ground, the swaying of the trees, and the flashes of the guns give the game that crucial, if cartoonish, frontier feel. True grit.
But Compass Point: West does offer slightly more than just a cowboy cover of Clash of Clans, even if all of its new ideas don’t exactly work. When enemies invade, players place hero units like the sheriff on top of buildings, which mixes up the standard tower defense and alters the nature of town design. To find new missions, players manually send out the Pony Express to reveal new parts of the map via charming animations. Finally, instead of recruiting offensive troops, players earn all their units - from cowboys to bankers - through a randomized playing card system. After completing missions, or by paying, players draw several cards and reap the rewards. On one hand this adds a neat element of chance, and units eventually revive after death so the stakes aren’t punishingly high. But taking away player choice also makes them more likely to depend on freemium currency, which is always dubious. At least players can choose to fuse units into stronger allies, so their strategic options aren’t entirely beyond their control.
At this point Clash of Clans clones are as ubiquitous as cowboy movies were in the 1950s. So if the idea of the two of them finally coming together sounds good to you, check out Compass Point: West when it launches everywhere soon.
Figuring out how to best preview Beast Quest, the upcoming action RPG from Miniclip, proved to be surprisingly difficulty. This isn’t a judgment on the game’s quality, but it really does feel like a bunch of pieces from other, more famous games stitched together. So in this edition of It Came From Canada!, I’m just going to describe those pieces and how they find a way to fit together.
Beast Quest's general structure resembles any other casual RPG on the App Store. Players complete various short quests like gathering X amount of treasures or killing X amounts of enemies to level-up and take on the next major story mission. Those story missions revolve around the overarching goal of killing the elusive boss monster, giving the game a Monster Hunter or even a Shadow of the Colossus vibe. The combat is straight out of Infinity Blade, except players just tap a button instead of swiping to attack. However, while that control choice is nicely streamlined, holding a run button and moving the camera to steer the character feels even clunkier by comparison. The impressively large, dense, and snowy initial open world is a like a very, very light version of Skyrim, and by climbing “eagle peaks,” players gain a cinematic panoramic view of the landscape to flesh out their map, Assassin’s Creed-style.
That’s a lot of disparate influences. So how well do they fit together? Let’s put it this way: while the game is full of many beastly creatures, Beast Quest itself most resembles is a successful Frankenstein's Monster. By taking all of these proven ideas and applying them in the places where they make the most sense, few parts of the game feel lazy or weaker than each other. The individually strong parts strengthen the whole. Even the vague fantasy setting is generic and receptive enough to include these nakedly obvious inspirations without suffering any kind of tonal or mechanical whiplash.
Beast Quest is currently in a soft launch phase and will be launching everywhere soon. So it won’t be too long before you can decide whether or not this surprisingly seamless hodgepodge works for you.
With the Pokémon trading card game finally bringing those precocious pocket monsters to the App Store, it was only a matter of time before that other 90s, vaguely Japanese, childhood nostalgia hot property Power Rangers tried to get in on the action. Yes, Power Rangers: UNITE is a Power Rangers collectible card game. But is it as mighty as the morphing rangers themselves? Find out in this edition of It Came From Canada!
Obviously you should have a lot of reverence for the Power Rangers franchise to get the most out of Power Rangers: UNITE. But we should also examine its merits as a card game, too. Perhaps given its young target audience, the systems are actually pretty simple. Both players face each other and lay cards on their five-by-two grid. Unit cards placed on the front row, like rangers and powerful Zord robots, provide defense against enemy units directly opposite them. If there is no enemy, the card can target the opponent's health directly. The game ends when one player runs out of health or cards. Meanwhile, players use the back row to activate various spells like drawing from the enemy’s discard pile or increasing a unit’s likelihood of scoring a critical hit. One particularly neat mechanic has players placing a ranger on the board in their civilian form only to then morph them into their Power Ranger form on the next turn. Strategy ultimately boils down to effectively managing your offensive units. You have to know who to pit against who, who to power up and when, and when to tag someone out or sacrifice them.
But really, Power Rangers: UNITE wisely places its focus on copious amounts of Power Rangers fan service. As players build their deck they can choose from over 20 years’ worth of heroes, villains, and giant robots. The artwork is clean and high-res, the sound and music samples are exciting and numerous, and the original Mighty Morphin' series is, deservedly, over-represented. The limited animations somewhat bring down the production value - images just slide around - but the volume of content is still impressive and especially noticeable when encountering new challengers online.
While it may not be as provocative as the recent POWER/RANGERS short film, at least Power Rangers: UNITE won’t subtly mock fans for still enjoying the franchise. It should be launching everywhere soon.
At this point it’s pretty safe to say that no MOBA is going to dethrone Dota 2 and League of Legends anytime soon. After all, if Batman can’t do it, nobody can. However, with a genre as popular and profitable as this one, there’s still room for smaller games to carve out unique identities. Jurojin: Immortal Ninja opts for this path with its shinobi battle arena, and we see if it’s worthy in this edition of It Came From Canada!
What immediately sets Jurojin apart from its contemporaries is its theme. Ninjas are nothing new for video games, but in a MOBA landscape full of nothing but vague fantasy archetypes, it’s refreshing to see bamboo forests and stealth assassins instead of generic crystals and character designs two steps away from a Blizzard game. The smooth visuals and movement complement the elegance of the heroes and gives the game the precision the eSport-friendly genre demands.
Also aiding the precision are the controls that work around the limitations of a touch screen in some clever ways. Instead of controlling the character directly, players freely spin a flowing cursor/camera around and their ninja will follow. It’s quick and sharp and makes targeting opponents for melee or projectile attacks a breeze. Although there are paths to follow and enemy structures to take down, in general Jurojin’s environments are more open than the rigid lanes of other MOBAs, so the more open control scheme really shines.
Players put those controls to the test in typical multiplayer battles as well as some welcomed single player challenges. Kill waves of enemies to get the loot and cash necessary to upgrade elemental spells and skills for the next real challenge. Obviously these missions lack the depth of a true duel, but they still do a great job rounding out the package and making up for the lack of additional characters to master.
Ninja Gaiden meets Dota might be too much praise for Jurojin: Immortal Ninja, but that’s not the most inaccurate comparison either. See for yourself if this ninja way is right for you when the game launches everywhere soon.
The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt may still be a few months away, but very soon players will be able to get a new taste of the acclaimed Polish RPG on their mobile devices with The Witcher Battle Arena. While it trades open-world exploration for compact multiplayer brawls, we see how much of that old Witcher charm remains in this edition of It Came From Canada!
The Witcher Battle Arena definitely has a lot of MOBA elements, but its changes are significant enough to keep it from fitting squarely into that genre. Players choose from a handful of characters from Witcher lore, like lumbering trolls or agile archers, each with their own skills to master like giant arrows or fire storms. From there they team up with two other players to fight another team of three, whether it’s online humans or bots, to the death.
But instead of using typical MOBA ideas like creeps or lanes or turrets or crystals, here battles boil down to direct confrontations and capturing outposts. To whittle their opponents’ health to zero, players kill their foes as well as maintain control over the three outposts as long as possible. Conquering a neutral outpost takes just a few moments, but once they are all quickly snapped up, players must last long enough to completely steal control points for their team. This back and forth makes up much of the game. Although the limited arenas are compact to the point of claustrophobic, teams must still make sure not to spread themselves too thin as they try to take enemy territory while simultaneously protecting the base. The variety of skills and shop upgrades add to the tactics, and just one well-executed surge can move a match from a stalemate to a decisive victory in minutes. It’s about being in the thick of constant carnage instead of sneakily circumventing it looking for the last kill. Compared to most MOBAs, it’s less detached.
It also looks pretty good considering its unenviable position of being compared to a gorgeous AAA console cousin. The smaller maps allow for more details and the grim fantasy aesthetic of The Witcher shines through. It may not surpass Vainglory’s visuals, which are a graphical showcase for iOS MOBAs and iOS games (period), but it’s impressive nonetheless.
Just as The Witcher refuses to be like all other RPGs, The Witcher Battle Arena rejects rigid MOBA conventions. We’ll see how well that pays off when the game fully launches soon.
Over their long history, Square Enix has become synonymous with big, epic, blockbuster Japanese RPGs. But while mobile may be a great place for ports of classics like Chrono Trigger, when crafting a new game the company has to make something a little more modest than Final Fantasy XII 3. Heavenstrike Rivals is that new game, and we see how well it lives up to its pedigree in this edition of It Came From Canada!
While the game was made in collaboration with English studio Mediatonic, it’s hard not to notice the Final Fantasy style all over it. From the exciting but ultimately nonsensical name, to the plot involving brave youths rescuing a quaint and vaguely European world from a rising darkness, it’s pretty obvious where this game comes from. Fortunately it also has production values that rival its AAA cousins. The illustrated artwork is luscious and detailed, battle animations for the chibi characters are a delight, and the jaunty music sets the mood for adventure.
And players will need to be in the mood because Heavenstrike Rivals' strategic gameplay will demand a lot of their time, even if it is broken up into chunks via energy meters. Using units they’ve gathered, players face off against opponents on a board game-like grid. The goal is to have their army reach the end and begin attacking the other player directly. However, this requires fighting through the enemy units coming after them. It’s a straightforward idea, and the compact arena limits more extravagant strategies, but the game does offer depth through its unit variety.
Players gain access to more of their forces over the course of the round, and knowing all their quirks is where the fun begins. From the fighters’ increasing strength, to the scouts’ multiple hits, to the defenders’ shields, to the gunners’ range, effectively combining these abilities is the key to an effective squad. Plus it’s just satisfying to watch an enemy fall for your carefully planned trap. Outside of battle players can improve their squad even more by leveling-up stats, modifying magic users, and recruiting special vanguards to lead the assault.
A few years ago, Square Enix released a little strategy game for DSiWare called Dragon Quest Wars that entertained in a way similar to Heavenstrike Rivals. We’ll see if the larger App Store audience will be as receptive when the new game launches worldwide soon.
I think by now we all know that when pocket-sized elemental creatures with awesome powers are afoot, there’s really no other choice than to try and collect all of them. And in case that last sentence wasn’t clear enough, yes, Moonrise is a lot like Pokémon. But it does put its own spin on monster battling, and we find out just how original it is in this edition of It Came From Canada!
When a peaceful race of creatures known as the Solari is corrupted into bestial Lunari through “Moonrise,” it’s up to the player to tame and purify them. But Moonrise's world isn’t all dark and foreboding. The game opens with the player graduating into a Warden, and it feels like a friendly martial arts exam. Still, the mood is oddly dour for such a kid-friendly genre, and part of that is due to the aesthetic. Instead of the expressive and cutesy anime characters one might expect, people look weirdly old and realistic, wearing contemporary clothing while exploring ancient ruins. The monsters themselves are more stylized, which is a given considering names like Snaptrap and Buzzle, but they also have a strange, earthy edge that tips over into almost frightening. But style aside, when it comes to visuals, what the game should focus on before launch is fixing its erratic frame rate and overall sluggish feel.
Players can take on quests and visit side towns, but monster battles are where it’s really at. In the wild, players encounter savage Lunari and can either defeat them outright or trap and train them with their limited Warden keys. Elemental match-ups follow the typical rock-paper-scissors formula where water beats fire, fire beats grass, and so on. Players can also challenge rival Wardens. Once the fighting starts, players launch their attacks in real-time. However, different attacks have different recharge periods, so players must juggle between different skills to keep up the offensive. They can use two Solari at a time and swap between them at will. Players can even use lengthy but powerful attacks of their own to give their team an extra push. It’s hard to say if this system is any better than a standard turn-based one, but at least it is different.
History has shown that the only things people “gotta catch” all of are these monster battling games themselves. Players will get their chance to snag Moonrise when the game launches worldwide soon.
It’s easy to want to write off Blades of Brim as a gimmick. You could look at its swordplay as a cheap attempt to distinguish itself from every other endless runner out there. But the combat actually is an integral part of the game, giving it a distinct identity. Is that enough to overcome endless runner fatigue? Decide for yourself in this edition of It Came From Canada!
Blades of Brim uses the typical endless structure. Players try to dash as far as they can while dodging and defeating obstacles and enemies. There aren’t distinct environments per se, but as players level up they’ll unlock new parts of the map, granting them access to new areas during each trip. The worlds are diverse and the transitions between them are fairly seamless. The coolest touches are the little challenge rooms that give players some task to complete on a stretch of road seemingly existing in a pocket dimension. Meanwhile, the cartoon fantasy visuals have tons of colorful energy and, more importantly, run super smoothly.
But obviously Blades of Brim's big hook is its prominent combat system. By swiping the screen, players will slash their sword. Fortunately, it’s a lot more robust than just a single, glorified defensive option. Players can use slashes to stylishly hop between lanes and fling themselves skyward, all while taking down enemies in their path. They can also take advantage of the branching level design for moves like wall runs and flying ground pounds. Successfully and fluidly chaining attacks together, while constantly propelling forward, makes players feel like a force of nature. And the game’s forgiving health system, allowing players to take one hit and recharge health from there, prevents needlessly frustrating roadblocks. Rounding out the system are unlockable weapons like axes with different stats, along with new characters. And if players are really in a pinch, they can sacrifice some magic to summon a double-jumping dog to ride, complete with a handy projectile attack.
Blades of Brim looks like it could carve out a nice little niche for itself in the expansive endless runner landscape. Players can see if that niche is right for them when the game launches globally, soon.
Call of Duty makes a lot of money, and Clash of Clans makes a lot of money. So, logically, Activision thinks they can make a lot of money by putting those two things together. With Call of Duty: Heroes, that’s exactly what they’ve done. But will fans of bombastic shooters enjoy a tiny freemium tactics game and vice-versa? We go Oscar Mike to find out in this New Zealand edition of It Came From Canada!
While Call of Duty has gone everywhere from World War II to Vietnam to the near future, Call of Duty: Heroes takes place during the popular “Modern Warfare” era of the series. As the leader of a military base, players fortify their surroundings using the latest and greatest army toys. Bunkers, turrets, and thick walls defend HQ from roaming insurgents as well as other players in online battles. But as you’d expect from a game like this, there’s also a substantial offensive campaign as players engage in real-time strategy missions all over the globe. Successful assaults typically boil down to effective unit composition. Normal soldiers are cheap and easy to mass produce, but only armored soldiers can withstand heavy fire long enough to actually accomplish anything.
However, all of that is just the Clash of Clans formula that has now proven its success countless times. What does the Call of Duty license bring to the table? Well first off it actually creates this weird incongruous feeling. The detached, rational perspective of an omniscient commander in the sky doesn’t quite gel with the fast, visceral, and up-close cinematic action the series banks on with its tagline, “There’s a soldier in all of us.” Beyond that though, there are times when the game is more than just Call of Duty in name only. The leveling system works as a fine Prestige Mode substitute. The top-notch production values, with detailed visuals and an excellent frame rate, match the franchise’s high standards. Killstreaks and air strikes put players behind a turret and have them mow down targets from a familiar first-person perspective, and players can even enlist heroes from past games like John Price and his famous mustache.
Even if we have reached peak Call of Duty, the franchise still carries plenty of cache. We’ll see if that carries over to this new mobile spinoff when Call of Duty: Heroes launches everywhere soon.
Creature Academy doesn’t have time for your slow-paced, grandparents’ RPGs. In the span of a few minutes, it has players slicing down monsters, toppling a boss, improving their party, and repeating the whole cycle all over again. But while role-playing this quickly may work during a bus ride, does it sacrifice depth in the process? Find out in this edition of It Came From Canada!
Structurally, Creature Academy is a fairly rote action-RPG. With their three-person party, players venture out into various environments, like meadows or volcanoes, looking for monsters to slay. They’ll encounter everything from Hackits, little burlap sack creatures that recall Dragon Quest’s iconic Slimes, to towering goblins and mushrooms that serve as the bosses of each area. Players can then customize their party between skirmishes by giving them better weapons and gear along with limited-use boosters like extra speed or strength. However, while party leaders will typically be heroic human characters, players can also recruit fallen foes to their squad like the trident-wielding, amphibious Fischenchips. Furthermore, players can evolve and combine captured monsters to create even more powerful allies. Beyond the main campaign, players can also test out their team in a wave-based survival mode.
But what stands out so much about Creature Academy is how it takes those standard tropes and plays them at what feels like double speed, after a painfully, and ironically, slow initial install. The game is divided into dozens of separate levels and, at least initially, players will just cruise through them crushing monsters in seconds. This isn’t to say that the game is mindless. It’s good to know when to use a ranged weapon vs. a sword or when to swap out a weak character because one death equals game over. But the game just moves so freaking fast that everything kind of becomes a blur, especially once screen-clearing special attacks and overpowered online helpers enter the fray. It’s not bad, just chaotic, and at least the graphics keep up.
Hyperactivity isn’t historically a hallmark of RPGs, but maybe that will give Creature Academy its own identity. Players can see if this whirlwind of level grinding and monster battling is right for them when the game fully launches soon.