Category: Mobile

‘Space Grunts 2’ On Track for Release this Year, Adds Card-Battling Mechanics to Fast-Paced Turn-Based Gameplay

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Pascal Bestebroer is one of those little known, grizzled vets of independent game design. He’s been in the business for something like 15 years, but he’s found a real identity in the last 8 or 9 years. From a few gameplay vids or a round or two of play, you can spot those sometimes intangible signatures of OrangePixel.

Outside of the sprite work style that is similar from game to game, OrangePixel titles all seem to have a fascination with mechanical mash-ups. Reducing genre to its basic building blocks, then smashing them together is the mad doctor mindset you need to be ready for on approach.

The original Space Grunts rose above the glut of indie shooters in 2016 because of it’s bold take on real-time strategy and shoot-em-ups.

If there was one large disappointment about the 2019 follow up is that it doesn’t feel like a bold experiment. As a more traditional, deck building roguelike, Space Grunts 2 feels like a take on a genre that’s getting very close to critical mass.

That isn’t to say the OrangePixel doesn’t have his own ideas about what could change about this popular indie game framework. Space Grunts 2 values speed over anything else. Movement is quick and snappy. The procedurally generated maps are small and (mostly) easy to navigate. There are often a bevy of ways to solve some problems. Every run can feel like a speed run, and it never feels like you’re being forced to overthink your next few steps in order to make ‘the right move.’ It can be a freeing feeling to know that most moves feel like they can be the right move at all times.

While navigating these dungeons, you’ll also be picking up weapons and items. These are floating icons that turn into cards upon pick up, and are added to your deck. Whenever you run into an obstacle or an enemy, a hand of those cards are drawn. These are all the options you have when it comes to dealing with whatever’s bothering you. It takes several runs to really get the hang of what these items do. Over a dozen runs in, and I am no closer to understanding how to gather them in such a way as to create a competent deck.

I try to be discerning, but as cards get used, options become slim when aggressive enemies won’t let you be. You’re also heavily incentivized to pick up everything you come across, because it’s the easiest way to gain experience. But the frequency in which I find myself with an abundance of cards I don’t want or need suggests that some sort of strategy needs to be applied. I wish I was better at finding that balance, and I wish that the game did a bit more work to guide me towards one.

There are ways to affect your deck after you make it, but most of them involve finding little kiosk structures placed around the map. Some can change one card type into a different one. One lets you access all of your healing cards at once. But they spawn unreliably, and oftentimes it’s just easier to run to the exit than it is to find one of these things.

All this makes combat feel a bit uneven as well. The rules are straight forward – You and your opponent play cards one at a time, which resolve to do damage, heal, gain armor, or some mixture of those things. Some attacks can even affect enemies and terrain outside of the combat. But I never feel like my deck has character, or even some sort of win condition. It almost always feels like it’s just a pile of stuff I found that I have no real attachment to, outside of just throwing it at things that are trying to kill me.

Enemies themselves seem to just appear out of nowhere, with little rhyme or reason. Each of the worlds you progress through seem to share mostly the same biomes, and therefore a lot of the same enemy types. As you get further along, newer and stronger monsters appear, but they never feel like they belong in the environments that you find them skulking around in. When they do attack you, their plays are often a mystery to you. Without any hints of how they might act, you can find yourself throwing away valuable cards at them. More than once has an enemy chased me tirelessly from room to room, finally catch me, and do nothing on the first time, effectively wasting a big counter card I played. Their behavior doesn’t do your tactical play calling any favors.

The low bit sprite style is kind of an old hat by this point, but Space Grunts 2 does look pretty good, even if it’s not groundbreaking. Some of the HUD and tooltips lack polish, though. The directional arrows sit askew of center in a subtle but distracting way. Some of the text runs into each other. Part of my screen is obscured by the camera bevel on the front of my phone. Just odd, small things that alone aren’t problems, but taken together really makes me wish some of that stuff got a second coat of paint.

All in all, Space Grunts 2 isn’t nearly as exciting as the first. It does nothing to really rethink the card-based roguelike in any fundamental way. The scaled down approach does make it an appealing distraction for awhile. But without much depth, the quick dips into chaos will get old pretty fast.

Categories: Mobile Review

My Coloring : 3D Pixel Art Diorama – A healing 3D pixel art coloring book for mental relief and relaxation

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My Coloring: 3D Pixel Art Diorama is a functional app in the puzzle genre, aimed at somewhat younger audiences. It is supposed to provide fun gameplay, while also letting the younger audiences get a sense of space, shapes, geometry, as well as color. The game is in this respect perhaps also in the Family category and it can be a useful tool for preschoolers and your young ones to get them to have fun and also spark up that creativity. If viewed as an educational tool, this game certainly shines a totally different perspective with its gameplay, and here is what it’s all about.

Development and reception

This title is offered by Buff Studio Co., Ltd. They are behind such titles as My Oasis, Buff Knight Advanced, Galaxxy Idols: Dress UP and Runway, and others. The studio certainly prefers simulation, puzzle, and casual titles as this one is also somewhat aimed at education. All their titles are predominantly aimed at younger audiences. On Google Play, My Coloring: 3D Pixel Art Diorama Android has an overly positive score of 4.2 stars from over 1.2k votes, while thus far there is no iOS version announced.

There are several main easily grasped controls we need to use to get this thing going. And, those are mainly tied to positioning of the coloring items. It appears this app is meant to be used with hands-free and the device either placed on a flat surface or in a Smartphone holder, for many of the functions demand two fingers, and those can’t be thumbs, trust us we tried. Swiping the screen with both fingers away from each other will zoom the object in, while doing it towards will zoom out. To drag the object, you also put both fingers on the screen and then move them in a synchronized fashion in the direction you wish to move your object to.

Rotating the object is somewhat easier and requires just a swipe of one finger to the desired direction, and other functions like selecting the color and coloring, and all done with a single finger tap and swipe or drag.

The objects which the user needs to color are all divided into 3D cubes in a 3D environment, which makes all the important difference when this game is compared to some other coloring apps. It is aimed at getting the younger audience find that sense of space and coordination, besides shape and color. The objects are thus somewhat pixel-styled and look like toys or Legos, which is probably a good thing when children are using it.

However, as the game app progresses the objects and the “painting” gets more complex and soon the user will be presented with not one object, but an entire setup with various shapes and sizes, all with numerous coloring fields or “pixels”, and all in a very nicely presented 3D environment.

Since visuals are the main factor in this game, it was the sole focus in development for sure. The objects and the entire visual setup is nicely rendered and the toy-like models are quite comprehensive. This probably presents a good thing if the educational purposes of younger audiences are your set goal. The lighting and coloring are all quite basic and the game is in that respect not heavy on the eyes, sort to speak, although it can get a bit too bright at times.

If you are looking for an app that will get your children and young ones entertained and immersed, while also giving them a constructive assignment to do, My Coloring: 3D Pixel Art Diorama offers that and more. It will make geometry and space orientation easy, enabling the youth to grasp such things more easily than when presented photos and pictures in school. It can be a great learning tool and it is also a fine pastime. Parents can use this one to their advantage quite successfully!

Categories: Mobile Review

YELLOW & YANGTZE -Not My Favourite Colour But I’ll Manage

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At the end of the last millennium, the board game market was dominated by a certain Dr Reiner Knizia. Within a brief three-year period, Reiner released such classics as Through the Desert (1998), Samurai (1998), Ra (1999), Lost Cities (1999) and Battle Line (2000). All of these games were massive hits and have since been converted to digital platforms. Kicking off this purple patch was the 1997 release of Tigris & Euphrates, for many, the apex of Mr Knizier’s creativity.

T&E is an abstract civ-building game with heaps of the kind of in-your-face conflict that you rarely see in modern-day euro games. Something else that you should know about Dr Knizia is that he likes nothing more than to tinker with his designs. Indeed, these variations on a theme can exasperate even the most diehard of his fans, who yearn for a return to the good old days of original, demanding games. So, twenty years after riding a tyre down river Euphrates, Knizia has seen fit to release a sister game entitled Yellow & Yangtze (brought to digital by the fine folks at Dire Wolf Digital, of Raiders of the North Sea fame).

Both games see players competing for points, in Y&Y the four areas of influence are; farming, trading, military strength and administration. However, each player’s final score will be the sphere with the lowest total. The twist is one seen in many of Knizia’s games and it prevents players from gunning for a lopsided strategy. It also makes thematic sense; there is no point having a massive military force if you haven’t got the resources to feed your soldiers. Players can also earn gold, which is allocated to improve their lowest scoring sphere at the end.

Each player begins the game with a set of different coloured leaders; Governor, Soldier, Farmer, Trader, and Artisan, and a random hand of tiles. The board shows the two eponymous rivers and seven warring cities, each with their own black governor tile. In a move away from T&E, this time the map is divided into hexagons rather than squares. On each turn players can perform up to two actions, a quick tap will toggle between your leaders and tiles, and the first thing that you will want to do is to drag a leader into play. Leaders must be placed next to a black tile, and doing so will create your first state, defined as a leader with one or more linked tiles. Now, that leader can start you on the path to victory. Place a tile matching the leader’s colour in the same state and you will earn a point in the corresponding area of influence. Some tiles have their own special rules, the blue farming tiles are limited to placement on rivers, but you can place all of them for just one action. Place a green commercial tile and you can choose a tile from the market, rather than drawing blindly.

One key difference from T&E is that the building of monuments has been replaced with pagodas. Pagodas are easier to build, just place a triangle of three tiles of the same colour and a pagoda will magically appear. The disadvantages are that they have a lower point-scoring potential and they are not permanent. There can only ever be a maximum of two pagodas of the same colour in play at any one time. As soon as someone builds a third then they must also remove one of the two previously placed form the map. There are also more direct ways of messing with your opponent, namely revolts and wars. A revolt is triggered when two like-coloured leaders end up in the same state. The winner is decided by how many black governor tiles each leader is adjacent to, this total can be boosted by playing extra black tiles directly from your hand. Wars are initiated when the placement of a tile causes two states to join together that have opposing leaders of the same colour. This time strength is determined by the use of red military tiles. Victory results in points for each opposition leader that was defeated. Losers have to remove their defeated leaders and tiles from the board.

Wars can be very chaotic affairs. A leader will put loyalty to the state before their allegiance to you, so you will sometimes have your leaders on different sides in the same battle. Then, you have the tricky decision of deciding which side to support. Even neutral players can add supporting tiles to the battle to try and manipulate the outcome. Overall, the stakes in Y&Y are lower, there are fewer points on offer, and losing doesn’t feel so harsh. This does mean that conflict is frequent, making the game feel more dynamic.

There are a couple of extra bonus actions to mention. Two green tiles can be discarded to build a new pagoda in an already prepared area. Whereas, two blue tiles can be discarded to initiate a peasant’s riot, leading to a tile being removed permanently from play. Even those leaders that are yet to be placed now have a use. They do not just sit on the sidelines, instead, lending their strength in conflicts or reducing the cost of bonus actions.

At first, distinguishing between symbols and colours feels a little counter-intuitive. The colours signify different things depending on the context. Red, for instance, could represent your military leader, soldiers or swords. In most games you select a colour to play, here you select a symbol such as a lion or an archer or, wait for it – a pot. Playing as the pot is the equivalent of being lumbered with the iron in Monopoly. Far more serious is that the solo game has an annoying tendency to freeze during wars. I’m sure that this is an issue that will be addressed shortly, but it may be worth holding back until the inevitable update hits the store.

The interface is simple and instinctive and the graphics bright and bold, although the map looks a little washed out. Watching your lavish pagoda spring into existence is a real feel good moment. There are plenty of options, too, including pass and play, online and a solo campaign mode. The nine-stage campaign is cleverly realised, with its own special rules and victory conditions. All the stages are linked in an overarching story, giving new players the chance to hone their skills against challenging AI opponents.

Y&Y is a clever, clever game. On the surface, it looks fairly straightforward and old-fashioned. The random tile draw may give the impression of a game with quite a large element of luck. The relentless conflict will have Care Bear gamers scurrying for The Kingdom of Caring. However, it is a design that has stood the test of time and offers just as much enjoyment today as the original game did over twenty years ago.

Categories: Mobile PC Review

Heroic – Magic Duel : Another PvP Battler

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I have played a lot of PvP auto-battlers, so I have a good idea of what is good and what to avoid. A lot of us want to see games reward players with the time they put in, rather than the amount of cash.

With that being said, does Heroic – Magic Duel do enough differently to avoid the predatory practices of most mobile games out there.

In short, no…

I think it’s a lot to wish for if you were hoping a PvP game would come out and there not be pay to win aspects. That seems to be a given nowadays, in pretty much any new mobile game.

What particularly annoys me about Heroic is the vast amount of “optional” extras to buy. There are your traditional two types of in-game currencies, gold and gems. Plus, there are individual chests and character cards to buy. To top it all off, why not buy a starter pack which has a mix of all the aforementioned?

This is not a criticism with Heroic, I have the same feelings for every single mobile game that offers such a silly amount of optional purchases.

One positive I can take with a pinch of salt is the referral system. If you refer friends and they play the game, you earn points which unlock chests immediately. This doesn’t fix all my gripes, but I like the idea!

Enough Gacha, what about the game!

Gameplay is your bog standard three-lane castle defence type of game. You and the enemy have a portal to protect, destroying the enemies’ portal will win you the game.

You can spawn in units which require different numbers of energy to spawn in. Plus, every thirty seconds you can call in tow god powers which have a whole range of different effects.

There is a wealth of cards to collect and then upgrade. You use runes to upgrade the cards basic stats like damage and health. But, you can also collect copies of the card to level it up, which also boosts the stats.

Is that it?

It seems so. I will confess, I only played Heroic – Magic Duel for two days or so, but combat did not change. Yes, new characters require you to try different units out to stop them, but the overall feeling was the same.

I either easily won by spamming more units down than my opponent could. Or the exact opposite happens, where my spawn is overrun and I can do nothing about it.

For a game that brags about being “strategy-driven”, you get little time to do any real strategy. In the early stages of a match, if you wait a few seconds to spawn in a strong unit, your opponent can immediately kill it.

This leaves a sour taste in my mouth as it feels cheap. Yes, you can try to bait and switch your opponent, but they seem to target the big strong guys.

Therefore, the ideal strategy is to spam cheap easy units at the start. Then when the game goes into double energy, spam loads of tank units. Having lots of cheap units all game is easy for the enemy to wipe them in one go. If you try to wait to save up for strong units at the start, they will overrun you in no time.

It’s hard to pinpoint exactly what I don’t like about this game because I enjoyed my time playing it. I just think the lanes are too small for any real strategy to take place.

Once you have a unit past halfway, you can spawn units from halfway in any lane, which allows very little time to react. I am sure with an update or two they will balance out the combat to include more strategy.

Will I wait for them to do so? Definitely not.

Categories: Mobile Review

Dungeon & Goddess – A CCG that Makes You Work for Every Victory

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Dungeon & Goddess, a manga-style card-collecting strategy game from developer Nadiasoft, is made up of familiar parts, and anybody who’s played a CCG on mobile will immediately know their way around its systems.

But even experienced players may find the difficulty curve bracing. Whereas most free-to-play mobile RPGs are content to let you cruise along for a couple of hours, accumulating XP and gear in copious quantities before eventually hitting a wall, Dungeon & Goddess is demanding from the outset.

In principle, that’s a good thing. Dungeon & Goddess is a lot less flabby than most of its rivals, and it forces you to think carefully about your decisions – and cross your fingers for certain summons – right out of the gate.

The setup is as familiar as they come. Set in a fantasy world full of gods and heroes (and dungeons, obviously), it sees you building up a collection of polished, convincingly animated manga heroes and sorting them into decks. 

Full spectrum warriors

These heroes belong to a wide range of traditions. There are numerous young women, of course, most (but not all) of them in refreshingly modest attire. But there’s also a dwarf, an old English knight, and dozens of other engaging and surprising characters. 

In battle, your heroes all have two skills to choose from per move. Fights are turn-based, with your heroes each getting an attack in before absorbing attacks from each of the monsters in front of you. 

Your skills can be offensive, such as magical storms, fire attacks, and that sort of thing. Or they can be defensive, healing your other party members to keep them in the fight. 

And there’s another variable to consider. Each hero has an elemental affinity, from Fire, Water, Earth, Wind, and Lightning. These elements act more powerfully on some elements and less powerfully on others, meaning your skills and heroes can be seriously limited when up against a mismatched opponent. You need to go into every battle with the right deck. 

As you’d expect, everything is upgradeable. You level up passively by gaining XP, but you can also tier up and level up your heroes using Soul Stones and EXP potions respectively. You can upgrade your gear, too, but for that you need Upgrade Stones. 

The trouble is, all of these resources are in short supply, as are the tickets you need to summon new heroes, equipment, accessories, and items. 

Grind for your supper

You get rewards for logging in, Soul Stones for fighting in the Tower of Infinity, and odds and ends for levelling up, completing the daily dungeons, completing boss battles, and so on. But it’s never enough for you to truly take flight. 

That means Dungeon & Goddess is a struggle, right from the start. You’ll find yourself tweaking your deck, going into battle, losing, and tweaking your deck again to chisel out any small advantage you can. At least you level up fairly rapidly.

The effect of all this is to make the little triumphs in Dungeon & Goddess – the level 9 Cerberus summon, the close call against the Lava Golem – all the more satisfying and meaningful. 

Collect them all

The world of Dungeon & Goddess features 150 brave heroes and monsters to collect, all with an array of attacks — and, of course, costumes — at their dfisposal. You have to choose your strongest line-up of characters to take into battle against the archangels and their minions.

Develop your strategy

Battles in Dungeon & Goddess are turn-based, and how effective your heroes are in any given fight is in part based upon the six hero types and four elemental types they belong to. The elemental types are Water, Fire, Wind and Electricity, and function in a rock-paper-scissors system. That means you’ll have to choose your party strategically, exploiting the elemental weaknesses of enemies to maximise your chance of victory. This can take some trial and error, but it’s satisfying when you finally crack the strategy needed to overcome a certain boss.

Take on the tower

As well as clearing stages in the main story mode, you can test your team in the Infinite Tower. This throws you into battle after battle, ranking your progress against the world. There is also a PvP mode if you want more direct competition. For a great way to gather must-have resources, dive into the dungeons daily — there’s a different dungeon for each day of the week, offering different rewards for victory. You can also join forces with your friends in co-op Boss Raids, sharing in the spoils.

Dungeon & Goddess isn’t for the faint-hearted, and if poor localisation is an issue for you then you probably won’t get on with the game. But if you consider yourself a serious CCG fan you’ll get a lot of play out of this good-looking, challenging new addition to the genre.

Categories: Mobile Review

Arena Allstars : Frantic Auto Chess with a Sense of Humor

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Arena Allstars doesn’t waste any time on formalities. No sooner have you installed it than you’re on the battlefield, watching a variety of detailed, slickly animated fantasy monsters scrapping it out.

The game is an auto-battler, an example of the burgeoning auto chess genre. Its battles take place on grid-based battlefields, with a team of heroes going up against another team in a series of brief rounds, and your combat input is limited to seeing how they fare.

It’s a slick, streamlined gaming experience, a far cry from the complex strategy games of yore, and perfect for mobile. 

Here’s how it all works. From the menu, you hop into a match by tapping the Play button, which promptly dumps you into the battlefield. 

To send a hero into battle you need to buy it first, using your reserve of gold displayed on the bottom-right. A timer counts down, and you’ve got to get your heroes onto the battlefield before it reaches zero, by simply dragging and dropping them onto any grid square you like.

Money money money

After each round you gain a bit of gold, and you spend this on more heroes. The more money you have, the better the heroes you can buy. Obviously, the more heroes you have in the fight, and the better they are, the greater your chance of victory, and the more gold you’ll earn.

The number of heroes you have in the battle is constrained not only by how many you have, but by your team size. The only way to increase your team size is to buy XP. 

The first couple of rounds in a match are fairly simple, since your options are very limited. But once the gold starts to flow the complexity increases.

Along the bottom of the battlefield you’ll see your Synergies. These are effects that you can take advantage of by getting a certain number of a certain class or race of hero into the fight. For example, if you activate the Homunculi Synergy with two eligible heroes you’ll get +20 regen. If you field three Dragonkin at once every Dragonkin will start with 100 mana. 

You can also get effects by picking up equipment randomly in battle. 

If you buy more than one of a particular hero, meanwhile, you can combine them to level them up.  

Naturally these considerations mean you’re often looking for specific heroes or classes. The game serves up a random assortment to buy, but you can refresh the selection by laying down a couple of gold coins. 

As well as your heroes on the battlefield you can have six more on the bench, giving your team some depth and allowing you to swap heroes in and out between rounds. You can also sell heroes that you don’t need. 

Scramble!

But because the interval between each round is on a strict timer, you need to do all of your team management – spending gold, making team selections, buying and selling heroes – in a shrinking window of time, giving the game a frantic feel. 

In the main solo free for all, you’ll play matches against eight other players online. There’s a team co-op mode, too, which is harder to organize, and a practice mode. 

The gameplay in Arena Allstars is fast, intuitive, and addictive. You’ll bellow with frustration one minutes as you fail to marshal your heroes in time to avoid a rout, but cheer with triumph the next. Naturally it’s tough to beat seven human opponents, but when you pull it off the satisfaction is immense, and your losses never feel unfair. 

While some of the presentation is fairly basic, Arena Allstars gets it right where it matters, in the character models and designs. There’s a strain of imaginative humor running through the game, too, evident in heroes like Regular Guy, a pot-bellied nerd, and Otto, a careworn teddy bear with the stage name “The Unhinged Abomination”.

Arena Allstars isn’t the most elaborate production you’ll find on mobile, and it feels a bit underdeveloped in places, but if you’ve yet to sample the joys of auto chess on mobile, this is a good place to start.

You can find Arena Allstars on Google Play and the App Store. 

Categories: Mobile Review

Queen’s Wish: The Conqueror – Your Wish is My Command

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Classic western RPGs have made a triumphant comeback this decade. Beamdog helped kickstart it with its remasters of Infinity Engine classics like Baldur’s Gate, Icewind Dale, and Planescape: Torment, while the ever-reliable Obsidian Entertainment went back to its roots with Pillars of Eternity. We also got new entries in classic franchises like Larian Studios with Divinity: Original Sin (Larian is also working on Baldur’s Gate 3) and inXile Entertainment with Wasteland 2.

Given the wealth of new classics on offer, it’s been all-too easy to neglect Spiderweb Software, a prolific developer of CRPGs since before the genre earned the C. Since 1995, the indie developer has almost released a CRPG every year, including the Exile, Avernum, Geneforge, Avadon, and Nethergate franchises. Most of these were released on PC, but mobile has been graced with the Avernum trilogy, the Avadon saga, and, as of this week, Queen’s Wish: The Conqueror.

Queen’s Wish: The Conqueror is the first in a planned new series of releases for Spiderweb Software. It doesn’t stray far from the Spiderweb template in many different areas, including the visual style, grid and turn-based combat, and an almost intense amount of reading required, which does a terrific job of activating your imagination, filling in the blanks in the rich tapestry of the unique game world and its characters.

However, the entire gameplay structure is a complete departure for Spiderweb. You play as the child of the eponymous queen, who’s lived a life of sheltered luxury due to being the thirdborn. The queen decides it’s time for you to earn your place though, so sends you off to the colony of Sacramentum, which has fallen to neglect and rebellion. Your role as ambassador is to reclaim the colony through diplomacy or force for Haven and the queen, or for your own gains.

Queens Wish: The Conqueror is a Departure for Spiderweb

Sacramentum is made up of three different kingdoms, which you’ll bring back into Haven rule (or not) one at a time. There’s a central hub, which serves as your home fortress. Here you can build a blacksmith, alchemist, weaver, and other useful buildings that can provide you with the equipment you’ll need on your adventure. You’ll have to explore the surrounding world and reclaim mines, farms, and more to earn the resources to build everything you need though.

You can also recruit party members while at your home base and spend any skill points you’ve earned from levelling up. We particularly appreciate that you can re-spend any earned skill points at any point, allowing you to change your build on the fly. You don’t even have to commit to a particular class, as that’s only determined by where you place your points. You can create a hybrid or commit to a certain archetype.

You can further customise your party with equipment you gather as you explore the world. There’s armour, weapons, and accessories and you can augment all of them further by placing runes on them. Just like with skill points, you can change your runes at any moment. It’s a highly customisable system that allows you to change up everything on the fly, and we really appreciate it coming from RPGs that arbitrarily force you to commit to a certain path even though you’re still learning.

If we have any complaints regarding the party system, it’s that your supporting cast don’t have any personalities of their own. You can’t communicate with them or learn their backstory. They’re just there to help you fight. It’s a shame but it’s easy to see why Spiderweb has ignored that side of the experience in favour of producing an insane amount of content elsewhere.

Our Only Complaint is Your Party’s Lack of Personality

Your adventure will take you across the entire continent of Sacramentum, which is made up of four separate kingdoms. There’s Haven, which is where your base camp is located, the Ukat, who dwell in the swamp, Ahriel, which is made up of forests and grasslands, and The Vol, which is all scorching deserts. Each kingdom is made up of fortresses, mines, farms, and cities to claim for your own, as well as its own group of citizens to please or force to submit to the cause.

There’s a real sense of adventure in Queen’s Wish: The Conqueror. The actual in-game map isn’t huge but it’s so densely populated that you won’t notice. There are loads of quests to complete, people to meet, and resources to gather. You’ll also get a real sense of accomplishment from conquering the various different locations, and you’ll witness it whenever you glance at the map and see loads of locations to fast travel to. You unlock fast travel whenever you visit a location for the first time.

Then there are the number of different options in terms of how you conquer. You can be diplomatic and talk to your people, learning their problems and dealing with them to gain trust. Or, you can simply force them to submit using force. You won’t be popular using this method, and you will need to ensure you have the resources necessary to win, but having the options is welcome.

What you do with your power is also your choice. You can win it back for the queen or rebel and claim the power for your own. It’s your choice, though you’ll have to deal with the consequences of your actions.

Overall, we’re thoroughly impressed with Queen’s Wish: The Conqueror. Spiderweb has clearly poured a lot of love into the project and it’s heartening to see such a genuine effort to innovate 25 years into the developer’s career. If there are any shortcomings, it’s more due to a lack of budget than ambition. We’d love to recruit party members with more personality next time but that’s our sole complaint. If you’re a fan of CRPGs, pick this up right away.

Categories: Mobile Review

Black Desert Mobile : Barren Wasteland

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When we first learned that Black Desert was coming to mobile, we were pretty excited. It didn’t really matter that it wasn’t a direct port, as Pearl Abyss made it clear that it would be Black Desert as we know and love it, just redesigned for the tiny touchscreen.

And for all extents and purposes, that’s pretty much what we’ve got. While I haven’t put that many hours into the PC and console version of Black Desert, I’ve played enough to recognise that the major features are here: action-packed combat, wide variety of classes, combat progression revolving around world boss fights, PvP, and loads of non-combat skills like gathering resources, taming horses, farming crops, and fishing.

However, it isn’t long before you start to notice the mobile version’s shortcomings. All of the classes are gender-locked, questing borrows from Lineage 2: Revolution in that it’s almost entirely automated, and the touchscreen controls are a lot more fiddly than its PC and console counterpart. Playing with a controller does mitigate this somewhat but everything outside of combat still requires a tap or two, so it’s not really a genuine solution.

So what do we like about Black Desert Mobile? Well, the combat is the initial highlight. It’s basically identical to the main version of Black Desert, with a wide variety of skills to unlock and chain together to create massive, action-packed combos. We played as a Warrior, and were surprised to see many returning skills and animations – it genuinely felt like a miniature version of Black Desert.

Black Desert Mobile Promised to be a Familiar Experience to the Original, but it Isn’t Long Until You Experience its Shortcomings

Also, despite the sheer amount of automation we do like the progression system. As you complete quests, battle monsters, and greet new NPCs you’ll fill up a region completion percentage bar. At any moment you can pop into the ‘Knowledge’ section of the menu and see how far you’ve come, or find a few new things to tick off and bring you closer to 100%. It really pleases our inner completionist, which gets a kick out of ticking things off a list.

Building your base camp also gives us similar kicks. You can build a variety of buildings out of the resources you gather while wandering the world, which, in turn, produce even more resources for you. You can also send your workers, which you’ll hire as you quest, to gather resources for you, you can plant crops in your farm, or fish on your pier – there’s loads to do in your base camp that doesn’t involve fighting, and it’s a nice change of pace.

Unfortunately though, the amount we dislike about Black Desert Mobile far outweighs the good. Our biggest red flag is just how ugly it is, which is unforgivable when you consider how poorly it performs on a technical level. For reference, we’re playing on a third generation iPad Pro 12.9inch, which is one of the more powerful mobile devices currently out there, so if it’s struggling this much on this, we’d hate to experience it on lower end devices.

But why is it so ugly? Well, for one, the resolution is very low – even when set to maximum in the settings. The result is a very blurry experience, which, when combined with the weird shiny effect on everything, gives off the impression that you’ve smeared Vasoline over your phone or tablet. Couple that with texture pop-in, that poor frame rate, and jagged edges literally everywhere and the result is a hideously ugly mobile game that plays worse.

It’s a Hideously Ugly Experience Too, With a Low Resolution, Low Frame Rate, and Nasty Texture Pop-in

When we say play, we mean it in the loosest sense of the term too. While the combat is terrific, the rest of the experience generally involves watching your character automatically move between quest markers, chatting to NPCs that bombard you with painfully written dialogue and even worse voice acting. When you do get into a fight, it’s often over as soon as it began too, with very little challenge ever truly on offer.

However, when the challenge is there – when you fight bosses, for example – the screen is usually such a mess of blurry colours that you can barely make out what’s going on. Good luck dodging powerful enemy attacks that can eat half of your health pool – it’s basically impossible to spot them.

Then there’s the pay to win, which is sprinkled liberally on top of the experience. The cash shop is full of cosmetics, granted, but there are loads of ways to buy power, including skill and gear enhancements. On top of that, there are two different bi-weekly subscriptions that drastically speed up your progress. To grab both, you’ll be spending on average about $20 per month, and that’s without buying any of the other potentially necessary upgrade items.

Overall, we’re thoroughly disappointed in Black Desert Mobile. It’s a hideously ugly experience that runs even worse than it looks, is full of pay to win and autoplay, and features a bunch of frustrating decisions like gender-locked classes. It’s 2019 – that should not be happening in this day and age.

Old School RuneScape Need Not Worry

Old School RuneScape is under no threat whatsoever from losing its crown as best mobile MMORPG, and those that actually don’t mind autoplay experiences are far better off playing Lineage 2: Revolution, which is simply a better version of this garbage in every single way.

Categories: Mobile Review