App Reviewed on: iPad Pro
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It's rare to see narrative-heavy role-playing games hit the App Store, but that's exactly what Terafyn is. Although it's an episodic affair (with only one episode out so far), there's a surprising amount of world-building, character customization, and combat in the game, all of which are satisfying right up until Terafyn suddenly departs from its winning formula at the end of the first episode.
Spin me a tale
Terafyn is a high fantasy RPG where your character, a humble child born in a fishing village, stumbles across some mysterious magical beings that seek to do harm to the land. All in all, it's not the most terribly creative story, but Terafyn's world contains enough quirks--like magical wards, talking dogs, and reptilian wizards--to make your boilerplate quest worth exploring.
The entirety of Terafyn's visuals rely on static illustrated backgrounds and text boxes explaining the action. Beautiful artwork and sharp writing make Terafyn come alive more than any sort of animation or additional graphics might, though.
Pick your poison
The role-playing you can do in Terafyn is quite open-ended in the sense that you aren't locked into playing any particular character type. The game sports three different attributes that reflect three fantasy hero archetypes (warrior, wizard, and rogue), and you can put points into any of these attributes whenever you level up.
These attributes end up determining how well you might pass skill checks at certain points in Terafyn's story and--more importantly--affect which cards you can use in your battle deck. Combat in this game is deck-based, but there's more chance to encounters beyond the luck of the draw. Each time you play a card, spinners appear that determine whether cards you use hit, miss, or strike a critical blow. The more you spec your character in a specific direction, the better you get at using certain cards. Conversely, cards outside your skill set can have a chance at failing, or might have a larger miss rate.
Railroaded to ruin
Unlike typical role-playing games, Terafyn grants levels for your character at set intervals in the story, so you're limited to how much you can power up across the game's prologue and first episode. This isn't a huge problem, but being able to grind out experience sure could come in handy in the boss fight that comes at the end of Terafyn. For whatever reason, that fight in particular is so brutally difficult and accepts only a specific strategy that it feels almost impossible unless you build your character a specific way. It's a terrible turn in a game that otherwise feels remarkably well balanced.
As a free-to-try title, I'm not sure Terafyn does itself a whole lot of favors. The prologue definitely gives you some generous runway with the game before asking you to buy an episode, but the possibility space in the early game is so limited in a way things aren't in episode one. That said, the end of episode one is such a bummer that it's likely you'll regret buying it even if you take the chance on it and enjoy most of what's behind the paywall.
The bottom line
Terafyn is such a promising game. It has a great sense of style and props it up with some satisfying and balanced gameplay for the vast majority of the experience. Right at the very end of the first episode, though, the entire game makes an unpredictable turn in difficulty and structure that feels unfair and frustrating. If subsequent episodes of Terafyn look anything like the end of first, I will not be playing any more of it, but there's a case to be made for buying into the experience if that fight gets re-tuned and subsequent episodes stick to the game's core formula.