Sunday, October 21, 2012

Dark Gate [Kemco/Hit-Point] - $6.99

Kemco is very easily one of our favorite RPG developers/publishers here at The App Shack. Their previous games; Symphony of Eternity, Alphadia, Eve of the Genesis, Fantasy Chronicle and Grinsia have all received glowing 5 star reviews. So you can imagine our excitement when we got an e-mail earlier in the week letting us know that their newest English translated title had hit the US AppStore; Dark Gate. Not only did it have the potential for fantastic translation, an incredibly immersive storyline, lovable characters and depthy gameplay, but, because it’s from Hit-Point, the studio that brought us Fantasy Chronicle, arguably one of the best classic Turn-Based RPGs available in the AppStore, also had the potential to completely blow us away. 

Now, before we get knee deep in gameplay mechanics; the story. Dark Gate tells the story of Leo, a young man who’s been chosen to lead a group of warriors, from high ranking generals kin down to old drunks, on a mission to find and destroy the Dark Gates, and find out why they‘re popping up, as they’re the cause of the onslaught of monsters appearing throughout the land. 

There is a pretty large cast of characters to be found in Dark Gate, and you‘re able to switch these characters out at the Guild‘s HQ in Polaris, the land‘s centermost city. The story unfolds and expands depending on who you’ve got in your 4 member group. You’re also able to choose, level up, and master over 70 different job classes. Along with the job classes, you’re given equipable perks which allow you to have one job class, but use skills that you’ve learned while leveling up another. In essence, you could be a warrior, but be able to cast ice, wind and fire magic, so long as you’ve leveled up those job classes and have those perks equipped. This makes for an incredibly deep customization system that doesn’t only result in sword wielding magicians. You can also level up jobs for other warrior types, and have a spear warrior that’s proficient with using bows, and large shields, or a healer that’s skilled with hand to hand combat. 

On top of this, there are spell orbs that fill up during battle, with each character able to have 3 orbs full at one time. These orbs are used to cast spells and, if you have more than one orb full and have a character that’s learned two different elemental skills, you can combine these spells in one attack. For instance, if a character has 2 spell orbs filled, and has wind and ice spells active, you can cast an ice attack, and then tap on a wind spell, merging the two, and using up your two spell orbs for one incredibly strong attack. The same applies for warrior skills as well, merging a fire spell with a special sword attack will combine the two and give you an incredibly strong, fire-based elemental sword attack. 

 All of this did throw me for a loop when I first started the game, and if you’re not consistently leveling up job classes, and fleshing out the members of your team, chances are you won’t get very far, and a lot of enemies, even enemies in the beginning of the game, will be able to cause one hit kills and will take no damage. Learning what elemental types the enemies are in each area is essential, and if you’re having problems with a certain monster, you can almost always find something out if you exit the area (which can be done very quickly in the pause menu so long as you‘re not in battle, which is great if you‘re in real trouble) and go back into town, stopping in at bars and civilian houses. 

With all of this depth in skills and job classes, it is pretty surprising that each of the 4 areas you’ll be making your way through all have the same set of quests; Defeat X number of a specific enemy, take lunch to the soldier, deliver this weapon to a soldier, collect X number of coins, destroy the dark gate, ect. This is really my only complaint. I will say that a deeper help section would have been great, but it’s not required, and the quest variety is really the only aspect of the game that seems to be lacking. 

The graphics and animations are all very familiar, and there’s a good reason why. Dark Gate was developed by Hit-Point, the developers who also created Fantasy Chronicle. The extremely polished and old-school graphics have been carried over to Dark Gate while still having their own flavor and look. Each area is designed very well, with winding pathways, dead ends and semi-hidden areas all with the classic top-down viewpoint. Towns, on the other hand, are set up horizontally, like a side-scroller, with the Inn to the far left, followed by the towns Guild, Weapon+Armor shop, Potion shop, bar, Guild leader’s home and then two civilian homes. Moving throughout the town is done by tapping on the building you want to move to, and then tapping again once you reach it. It does take a little time to get comfortable with and there are some times you’ll want to exit the town, which is right next to the Inn, and instead, be asked if you want to stay at the Inn, but it does help to distinguish the game apart from Fantasy Chronicle even more. 

Like Kemco’s other releases, you are able to have these touch to move controls in areas/dungeons as well, but can also select to use virtual controls if you’re more familiar with that set-up. The touch to move controls do a very good job of pathfinding, and avoiding objects within the world, which is essential for making the control scheme comfortable.
The dialogue is, as you would expect if you’re familiar with Kemco’s previous releases, very well done, with only minor grammatical errors throughout the game. The words are also never cut off, or wrapped around to another line, so understanding what’s going on is never a problem. I know that this may sound trivial, but after you’ve played RPG after RPG with words that are cut in half, or wrapped around to another line or dialogue bar, you really do notice when it’s done right, and have a hard time taking it for granted. 

Now, there is a new addition to Dark Gate, something that’s never been added to a Kemco game in the past, and that I was actually very surprised to see. IAPs. That’s right, premium currency, known as Dark Gate Points. There is a premium shop in Polaris that lets you purchase and spend these points for premium items like increased experience gain, increase job point gain, gold gain, heightened item drop percentage, movement speed increase, hard difficulty, and more, including quite a few premium weapons and armor items. Dark Gate Points can not be earned in-game, so the only way to get these is to shell out some extra cash. The items in the premium shop are priced reasonably when compared to how many DGP you get should you decide to purchase any (400 for $0.99, 1250 for $2.99, 2100 for $4.99, 4500 for $9.99), but none of them are required to progress through the game. With the IAPs, it seems that Kemco has gone ahead and lowered the original pricing for Dark Gate as well. Instead of being priced at $8.99 like their other titles, Dark Gate’s original price will be set at $6.99.

You can pick up Dark Gate now for $0.99, as it’s on sale for launch. Unfortunately, like all Kemco titles, it’s not Universal, so if you’re a graphics fanatic, you might be disappointed, but when it comes to old-school influenced RPGs, graphics aren’t really too important. Dark Gate is easily the deepest Kemco title released to date, and if you’re looking for an RPG with an incredible amount of customization and variety with perks and skills, Dark Gate should be right up your ally. There is a pretty steep learning curve, and if you don’t go into the game knowing that constantly upgrading jobs and switching perks are critical in progressing, you’ll have a hard road ahead of you, and might even become frustrated enough to quit the game. But if you’re ready for a challenge, and willing to take the time to learn, experiment and are not opposed to teaching your sword master how to cast fire spells, it’s well worth the purchase, effort and time, giving you one of the deepest RPG games available for the iOS. 


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