Friday, June 28, 2013
Friday, June 28, 2013 Syntheticvoid No comments
Since Plants Vs. Zombies hit the AppStore there’s been a whole slew of lane based defense games. There are a few that have stood out among the crowd, Total War Battles: Shogun, Defense Of Fortune: The Savior, Hero TacTics and others are pretty good examples of this. Well, last week another title hit the store, and it’s mechanics and the strategy involved make it another Lane Defense game that’s definitely worth checking out if you’re a fan of the genre; Evilot, from the development team Syrenaica.
Evilot puts you in the shoes of the ‘evil’ mastermind, Count Dolfus. With adventurers and knights trying to come and steal away his gold and treasures, he’s forced to use whatever methods he can in order to keep from succeeding. Now, what really makes Evilot interesting is the way that you can combine your defenses in order to level them up. Placing 3 like-defenses on the gameplay area will make them all merge onto the area where your last piece was set. This can be done horizontally as well as vertically and while that in-itself is a pretty cool mechanic, if you’re not careful, you could wind up accidentally placing a defensive piece next to two others in the heat of the moment and wind up letting a group of knights through your barricade. However, once you get use to it, it’s something that definitely winds up setting Evilot apart from most of the games within the genre.
As you progress through the game, you’ll be given more and more defensive pieces to work with. Starting off you’ll only have rats, but as you move on you’ll be given wooden barriers, skeletons, frogs, green blob things and more. While you’re not able to choose which pieces to use in each stage, they are mixed up from stage to stage, and depending on what you’re given, the strategy for each stage changes as well.
The game contains 50 stages spread across 5 different areas with a boss battle at the end of each area. The graphics, while at first kind of seeming a bit dull when compared to other titles within the genre, have really grown on me. The gothic type look and feel of everything is something that’s not seen too often in the gaming world, and here, Syrenaica has done a great job of not going overboard with it, but still keeping it graphically appealing throughout the game. The comic-book type cut-scenes between each territory are very polished and well done, helping to add to the overall feel of the game while also injecting a bit of humor.
The user interface is simple to use as well. Placement is done by tapping on the piece you want to place on the bottom of the screen and then selecting the tile you want to place it. When a piece is selected, it’s icon at the bottom of the screen will be highlighted in green, making it easy to quickly glance down and know what piece you have selected. Defeating an enemy or having one of your own pieces defeated will drop a ‘card’ which you can pick up by tapping on it and then use again by placing it anywhere in the gameplay area.
Unfortunately, there is no GameCenter support, so there are no leaderboards or achievements to go after. There are also no in-game achievements, all of which kind of takes away some of the replay value that can be found with other titles that do incorporate these features. But, with the difficulty of the last 30 or so levels, there’s always a nice sense of accomplishment once you do complete a stage and area and this does help drive the game along. It would also be nice to see some sort of additional gameplay mode, maybe something where you control the knights and adventurers and try and steal the treasures, or an endless mode, maybe even a hardcore mode where you can just jump straight in to some insanely hectic gameplay. With these things not found here, Evilot can, at times, feel like it’s lacking the overall fullness that would make it totally stand out within the genre, but the core gameplay is solid and the main campaign that can be found here is definitely worth the $0.99 entry fee. Even if more modes were only made available through IAP, I’d love to see this game grow in the future, and sincerely hope that it does. If you’re still on the fence about purchasing it, there is a lite version available for free in the AppStore.
Thursday, June 27, 2013
Thursday, June 27, 2013 Syntheticvoid No comments
There’s not too many games that can match the pure enjoyment and type of gameplay that Sonic brought the platforming scene back in the day. Cordy did a great job with the acrobatic mechanics, but as far as level memorization, speedy gameplay and the drive to keep playing after you’ve completed the game, it fell a bit short. Rayman Jungle Run was close, but the speedy aspect of it could have been a bit better. Now, as gamers, we’re incredibly lucky when the influence of old-school games is met with some borderline obsession and the talent needed to pull off one hell of a gameplay experience that comes very close to matching the feeling of the game that the influence came from. Enter Whirl The Squirrel, a new platformer/racing game from the minds of Dioxis Mining. And believe me when I say, it’s like the little brother that Sonic always wanted but couldn’t seem to find throughout the years.
Starting up the game, you’re greeted with a charming intro where Whirl goes to check on his things before bedtime. After hugging them all goodnight a huge tornado came barreling towards his home. For some reason, he locks the doors and goes to bed, pretty much without a care in the world. Waking up, he finds his things strung about outside and realizes that the tornado had partnered up with his ‘nenemies’ and that they were outside trying to collect all of his things. So begins the race to collect all of Whirl’s treasured things.
Now, while it may not sound like much content, there are 18 levels split up between 3 different environments. However, you’ll quickly realize that there’s an incredible amount of replay value, especially if you’re going to try and find all of the ‘hidden areas’ and get a gold time in every stage. Right off the bat, you’ll need to realize that Whirl is not your typical speed-run platformer. Like playing Sonic and trying to get the best time you can, you’ll need to play thorough levels a few times before actually trying to go and beat them. Memorization is a key element here along with quick reflexes and the willingness to play a level more than a couple times. If you go into it treating the game like your typical League Of Evil type game, chances are you’ll get incredibly frustrated and in fact, you might not even give the game the chance it deserves.
In each stage there is an objective that you’ll need to accomplish in order to beat the level. Most of the time, you just need to beat the nenemy who’s trying to collect a thing before you, but in some stages, you’ll need to run multiple laps or even just collect a certain number of flowers in a given time-limit. While the screen-shots make the game look like an ‘auto-run’ platformer, you are given virtual buttons for left and right movement as well as a jump button and while the first couple of stages will have you pretty much just mashing down on the directional buttons once you get further into the game, delicately maneuvering your character while in mid-air will become a huge part of beating the nenemies and flower collecting.
The hazards and obstacles which you’ll need to maneuver around and through aren’t, by themselves, too original, but the way that they’re incorporated and laid out in the hand-made levels makes them feel fresh and interesting. While collecting flowers, if you collect enough you’ll get a rocket pack on your back which helps you speed up through the levels. Then some enemies will zap you, slowing you down, others will freeze you and you’ll need to press the jump button multiple times to break free while others come at you in specific patterns and you‘ll need to figure out the timing of your jumps perfectly in order to avoid them. Some hazards will cause your directional buttons to reverse, other objects will send you skyrocketing into the air if you jump while on them and combined with some pretty malicious hazard placement can really ruin your run if you’re not careful. There’s also orangy blob things that take collected flowers away and slow you down and pink crystals which, if you hold down the jump button while racing through them, will send you on a super jump which usually involves you jumping over or through a bunch of hazards, enemies and obstacles.
On top of the racing aspect, all of the hazards, the obstacles and the enemies, there are also secret hidden areas which you can try and find in each stage. Little pink crystals will usually help you find these hidden areas, and they’ll either contain time stopping pick-ups or just take you on a precious time saving shortcut. All-n-all, with all of this combined together, it makes for some hectic, incredibly fast-paced, challenging gameplay that gamers looking for a hardcore gaming experience will just eat up.
The framerate is solid and everything runs incredibly smooth, with no skips or jumps, which is essential in a game like this, and with the 3 leaderboards on top of the gold-times, there’s almost an infinite amount of replay value here. Not to mention the 21 hard to snag achievements. With Whirl The Squirrel priced at a measly $0.99 and containing NO IAPs (!), it’s a game that’s insanely easy to recommend, especially for fans of Sonic who have been looking for another speedy challenge to take on throughout the years. There’s also a 4th world that’s in the works and soon to be fully customizable controls to look forward to in the future. Right now, the only negative things that I can say about the game are that the difficulty level might put some gamers off, and with only 18 stages, even though it will take you quite some time to complete them all, it still might feel a little light in the content department. But aside from that, there’s really not much more that I can say other than PICK. THIS. GAME. UP. NOW. You won’t regret it.
Tuesday, June 25, 2013
Tuesday, June 25, 2013 Syntheticvoid No comments
We have a handful of favorite developers here at The App Shack. One of them is the insanely talented studio of RadianGames. With their previous titles; Super Crossfire, Ballistic SE, Fireball SE, Inferno+, Slydris, Bombcats and Gobs Of Fun reaching quite a few iOS gamers with some of which being named as the best of best in their respective genres, RadianGames seems to have decided to go more towards the puzzle genre as of late. Their most recent title, Crush!, fits in the same category as Slydris and their title before Crush!, Bombcats, is another puzzler, focusing more on physics than quick addictive gameplay. But even if you’re not into the puzzling genre, you should keep in mind how amazingly polished RadianGames previous shooter titles have been and know that that professionalism and same production value has been carried over to their puzzle titles. And Crush! is yet another prime example of this.
Crush!, like Slydris, is a block based puzzler, but of a different nature. Instead of trying to clear multiple lines by moving blocks around one at a time, you’re tasked with removing one of three different colored chunks of blocks from the full ‘stack‘. While the mechanics are far from original, RadianGames have taken the type of gameplay found in titles like Collapse, reMovem, Block Fall and others, and expanded on it quite a bit giving players 3 different game modes and 5 different power-ups as well as some other nifty little mechanics that keep the gameplay fresh and feeling original in an otherwise stale genre.
While playing and clearing out groups of blocks each tap that you make moves the whole stack of blocks down further. This, on top of the stack moves down at a constant rate. Both of these speeds increase as you get further into the game, with the speeds displayed on the bottom of the screen. So while you may start out with the stack moving down a couple of spaces every time you remove a group of blocks, it will quickly start moving down to 2 and a half spaces, then 3, and so on, also while speeding up the constant movement.
This comes into play with each one of the 3 different gameplay modes. Think has a very slow constant drop speed while having the stack move down large distances with each tap that takes out a group of blocks. This gives you the time to actually think about which group of blocks you want to take out, but penalizes you for not making good decisions on a regular basis. With the next mode, React, the constant drop speed is fast, but the burst when removing a group of blocks is a lot shorter so that you can make a lot of quick decisions without pushing the stack of blocks into the bottom of the screen right away. Lastly, there’s Crush mode, which is a sort of mixture of the two with the stack moving at a medium constant speed and having a medium drop distance. All of this makes for some pretty varied gameplay across the modes.
At the beginning of each game you’ll also be able to choose one of five power-ups. Remix mixes up every row of blocks and drops the whole stack of bricks down a bit. Slow briefly slows the stack down, Chop removes the lowest 25 blocks, Solo sets 3 rainbow blocks onto the stack. Rainbow blocks are blocks that can connect groups of blocks. Say you have a group of black blocks touching a rainbow block and on the other side of the rainbow block, a group of white blocks. Touching either the black or white group of blocks will remove all of the colors that are touching the rainbow block. Getting these pieces into the right position is a game opening skill that definitely comes in handy once you learn to work with them. The last two power=ups are Blast and Duet. Blast removes 1 color from the stack and Duet turns the most common color in the stack into the other two. Each power-up is activated once you reach a certain score and if you have a power-up stored, you can use it as a sort of ‘extra life’ that will clear the last couple rows off the stack if it hit’s the bottom. However, this also makes it so that you can not charge up the power-up again for the rest of your game. This is all made even more complex by having a unique ‘wrapping’ feature. This connects both edges of the stack to each other, allowing for more thought out and challenging gameplay.
GameCenter support drives the gameplay with 5 leaderboards, one for the amount of blocks you can remove in Think Mode, another for how long you can survive in React Mode, both how long you can survive and how many blocks you can remove in Crush Mode and an experience board for how much experience you’ve earned throughout the whole time you’ve played the game. There are also 10 hard to unlock achievements for you achievement hunters out there. RadianGames have always put out quality games, and Crush! is no exception. Priced at $0.99, if you’re into the genre, this is definitely a game that will have a long life-span on your device. I can only hope that RadianGames will wind up putting out more of these addictive action puzzlers in the future.
Friday, June 21, 2013
Friday, June 21, 2013 Syntheticvoid No comments
If you’re a fan of board or card games, there’s really nothing like playing them on the touch screen. Having everything organized perfectly, wonderful interface, no mess to set up or clean up and, sometimes, even some enhancements to the original games. There are a couple of fantastic development teams creating some wonderful card game experiences on the iOS, but one of our favorites here at The App Shack is Playdek. Their previous titles; Nightfall, Summoner Wars, Fluxx and others are games that will never leave our iDevices. Most recently, working with Look Out Games, they’ve expanded on the card game formula to bring us an interesting and addictive new game; Agricola.
The background for the gameplay is this: Europe is trying to recover from hard times and you’re placed in the middle of a farming community with your wife. You’ve got to try and build up your land to make a productive farm by growing and harvesting crops, breeding livestock and helping your family to grow. You’re given 14 stages to build up your house, crops, livestock and family as much as you can, earning points for each. While the game sounds pretty simple, there is quite a bit of depth in the gameplay. Starting off with the incredibly well done tutorial is highly recommended.
First off, the number of actions you’re given in each round is dependant on how many family members you have, so it’s always a good idea to try and grow your family right off the bat. To do this, you’ll need to collect the materials required to build another room onto your farmhouse. To acquiring wood, you’ll need to assign one family member to pick up wood from in town. You’ll also need reed to build your room, so using another family member to pick that up from town, you’ll have enough resources to build a room by the end of your second turn. To finally build the room, you’ll need to use a family member to select the ‘Build Room’ option in town. From here, you can get that room build and ready for another family member. However, you should keep in mind that the more family members you have, the more food you’ll need to feed them, but the resources in town also stack upon one another, so say you don’t select an extra food option for a couple of rounds, you’ll be able to select it and receive 2, 3, or more rounds worth of extra food to help you out.
Also, more food can be cooked/produced by upgrading your fireplaces and stoves, as well as other features in your house. The same goes for other aspects of your home, which you’ll get into while going through the tutorial and just experimenting while playing the game. While it all might sound a bit confusing, the tutorial being split up into different sections makes it very easy to go back and revisit some of the more complicated mechanics in the game, and once you play a couple games you’ll have a pretty decent handle on what’s going on.
The user interface for Agricola is very easy to use and is surprisingly accurate, even on the smaller iPhone/iPod screens. While it can be kind of hard to see exactly what you’re hovering over in town when trying to place a family member on a resource, you can always use the question mark in the top left corner to show you what each resource is, making the selection process a whole lot easier. Graphically, Agricola is pretty basic, though with a card/resource game like this being able to clearly see what you’re doing and what different stats and cards do is of utmost importance, and Playdek has nailed it here. Graphics are crisp, clean and clear and text is very easy to read.
As for gameplay modes, you can either play a single player game or play on one device with up to 5 players. You are able to change each of the other 4 players to either an actual person or the game’s AI. Alongside this, you’re also able to play online, through Playdek’s servers, choosing either a Quick Match, where you can select the gameplay settings you’d like and be notified when another player joins, Create Game, where you can invite a friend to play or join up in one of the already created games on the server. This expanded amount of gameplay options gives players quite a bit to explore and will hopefully keep the online gameplay active for some time.
With Agricola priced at $6.99, it might be a bit steep for the casual iOS gamer, but those who know the depth of mechanics and great support that comes along with any Playdek title or know how much an online component can add to a card/resource game like Agricola, know that the price is beyond justified. GameCenter is also supported with 11 achievements helping to push the gameplay along and give players more than just points to aim for. And while some gamers might not see it, we here at The App Shack can’t help but love this game so much that the chances of it winding up on our end of the year GOTY list are fairly high. We really can not recommend this one enough.
Sunday, June 16, 2013
Sunday, June 16, 2013 Syntheticvoid No comments
Fighting games on the touch screen are a bit of a niche genre. While there are tons (and I do mean TONS) of fighting game mongers out there, it’s hard to really get the same feeling of playing a console fighter when you have no tactile feedback from your controller. Because of this, most fighting games have been ‘dumbed down’ so that they are easily playable on the touch screen, usually giving us single buttons that can pull off massive combos instead of having to input a series of moves on a flat surface to achieve the same effect. While this option can also be turned off, the touch screen’s lack of any raised surface so that players can tell where their thumbs are, or give players that sense of total control over their character definitely makes it near impossible to get the same type of gameplay experience on the iOS as with an actual controller. Though this is becoming less and less of an issue with more and more Bluetooth controls hitting the market, it’s still a problem that developers of these games have to struggle with and gamers have to adjust to.
While some brawlers have done a very good job of developing the gameplay around the touch screen (Mutant Fridge Mayhem will always be a very good example of this and more recently, Combo Crew and Best Park In The Universe have done a great job as well), the first fighting game that I’ve personally felt completely comfortable with while using the touch screen and not an iCade is Benjamin Marchand’s Kinetic Damage, an incredibly deep and insanely impressive title, especially considering that it’s all been created by the hands of one man, and when you get into the game you’ll see why development of this amazing title took a whopping 4 years to complete.
Once you start out, you’ll quickly realize how deep the gameplay actually is. You’ll be able to create your own character, selecting how they look, what clothes they’ll wear as well as what color you want everything to be. Along with these purely cosmetic features you’re also able to choose which fighting style you’ll like to use; Jeet Kun Do, Tai Chi Chuan, Shaolin Kung Fu, Ninjutsu, Krav Maga, Taekwondo, Muay Thai or Break. Each of these styles have different stats for Speed, Strength, Range, Critical Hit, Combo, Health, Recovery, Precision, Endurance and Energy. Yeah, pretty intense already, wouldn’t you say? And we haven’t even gotten into the different modes, combos, or incredibly deep AI yet.
Once you choose your character and fighting style, you’ll be taken to the main area where you’ll choose your fights. There are 4 options here, Fight Lab, Olympic Resort, Grand Strike Casino and the Dojo. Now, you will need to start off in either the Dojo or Fight Lab as these are the only two areas where you can enter fights without an admission fee. In the Dojo, you’ll be able to hire a partner, which gives you the chance to train another fighter, create an event where you can select the difficulty and type of fighting mode (Tournament - you compete against 7 fighters, Team Spirit - ‘regular fight, where enemies can become friends’, Team Survival, King Of The Hill and a whole lot more [24 different options to be exact]), sparring, where you’ll be able to slowly earn some easy money with no penalties for loosing and the special shop, where you’ll be able to customize and evolve your fighter with the credits that you’ll earn by winning fights, but we’ll come back to that a little later.
The Fight Lab area will give you 3 random battles to enter each with a different gameplay style, like Dance, where your character will loose 5% of their HP if they’re not in a randomized stance that changes every 5 seconds, Weak Spots, where each character stars with 30% of their normal HP, Breath Cutter, where attacks reduce the enemies energy regeneration by 18% for 3 seconds and many, many more. Here, you’ll earn money for a win as well as some enhanced stats for your next fight, like +25% precision, +15% critical, ect. But if you loose, you’ll also get the opposite stats for the next fight, like -25% precision or -15% critical. Each of the 3 fights is also set at a random difficulty level with the winnings directly reflecting the difficulty, which means that you’ll earn more currency for harder fights. In Olympic Resort you’ll also have the option of 3 randomized fights to choose from, also varying in difficulty, but here you’ll have the chance to earn quite a bit of coinage or extra boosts, like a random implant (which we’ll talk about when we bring up the shop). Grand Strike Casino has the potential to earn you loads of currency though, with prizes bringing money multipliers to the table it’s probably the best way to earn loads of cash once you’ve got a decent handle on the game.
The Special Shop. Something that I’ve been hoping to see in more fighting games since playing Mortal Kombat Mythologies: Sub-Zero. Kinetic Damage has taken this, like most everything else in the game, to the next level. You’re able to purchase 6 combos ranging in price from 500 to 1,500 credits, 8 different implants which permanently upgrade your speed, strength, vitality, endurance, prevision, energy regeneration, recovery and critical. You’re also able to purchase up to 4 special moves (though you’re given one random special right off the bat for free when you create your character). You can also change your characters look, outfit or fighting style here as well. Needless to say, this is where the majority of your currency will be spent.
The controls are pretty much what you would expect in a fighting game. A movement joystick on the left side of the screen with 4 buttons on the right, 2 for punches, 2 for kicks. There’s also a special button right next to the movement joystick which, when pressed, changes the punch/kick buttons into special buttons. While Kinetic Damage does incorporate the one touch special moves that other fighter games on the touch screen use, to pull off combos you’ll need to memorize a series of punch/kick inputs. This mix of ‘easy’ and ‘hardcore’ controls works incredibly well within the game. Movements are not needed for combo inputs, however, you will need to time the button taps perfectly in order to pull them off. For this to work as intended, the controls need to be incredibly responsive, and Kinetic Damage nails it.
As for the opponent AI, it’s got to be one of the most impressive systems I’ve ever come across in a fighting game (note, this is not explained in the game, rather it was explained by the developer on the Touch Arcade forums). Enemies and how they fight are determined by 3 different stats; Aggressivity, Reactivity and Analysis. Each character is crafted from a pool of 6 to 25 personality points which are distributed to their stats using 3 random ‘dice rolls‘. Because of this, the game is able to have multiple behaviors for fighters in the same difficulty and even in the same fighting style. On top of this, the opponents are also able to ‘learn’ mid-fight, able to redistribute their stat points depending on their ‘mind type’ and how you are playing. The end result? There’s between 4,000 and 16,000 different opponents in the game, depending on the difficulty levels that you choose. Impressive, no?
Combine all of this with incredibly precise and responsive controls, top notch animations, smooth gameplay that’s focused more on blocking, timing and skill than button mashing, pinpoint hitbox areas and not one little bit of IAP in sight, and what you’ve got could easily be considered the best fighting game on the iOS and arguably one of the best fighting games on any gaming platform to date. Put an insane price of $2.99 on it, and you’ve got a game that fans of the genre would be crazy to pass up. Scratch that, that all gamers would be crazy to pass up. With Multiplayer on the horizon, Kinetic Damage could replace every single fighting game on your device very soon. I really can not recommend this one enough, but if you’re still weary, there’s a lite version that you can check out which contains 2 of the 8 fighting styles and access to the ‘Match’ gameplay mode where you choose between 2 of the 8 areas that are in the full version, and be given 2 random specials for each fight. It’s a great way to get a feel for the game, and since it’s free to try, there’s no sense in not checking it out if you’re still on the fence. My advice? Skip the lite version and get the full. Now. You will not regret it one little bit.
Thursday, June 13, 2013
Thursday, June 13, 2013 Syntheticvoid No comments
Last year the Tower Defense game Kingdom Rush took the iOS strategy gaming world by storm. Fans of the genre couldn’t get enough of it and many consider it the best TD game on the iOS, some even consider it the best on any gaming platform. That’s some insanely high praise right there, especially considering the high number of quality Tower Defense titles that are out there. Now fans of the very well received original can experience the sequel and it’s everything you’d expect a sequel to be. Kingdom Rush Frontiers takes the original’s gameplay and adds quite a bit to it while keeping the basic mechanics and gameplay in-tact.
If you’re not familiar with the original Kingdom Rush, it’s a cartoonish/comic looking hardcore Tower-Defense title that strives to put strategy and player involvement over anything else, unlike most TD titles where it’s basically ‘place your towers and watch the level for the outcome’. You’re given 4 types of towers, Archers, Knights, Mages and Cannons, each of which can eventually be upgraded and turned into a ‘super’ tower; Knights can become Assassins, Archers can create a Crossbow Fort, Cannons can become a DWAARP, a Dwarven supertower that slows all enemies down and the Mage tower can be upgraded to an Archmage tower with charged bolts. Each of these ‘super’ towers also has special abilities which can have devastating effects on the opposition.
For each of the levels there are 3 different gameplay modes to try and tackle, each also having 3 difficulty levels to choose from. Classic Mode puts you up against the enemies with all of your towers in-tact and the ability to upgrade them to their full potential. You’ll also be able to employ your Hero who can run freely throughout the stage helping you take out baddies whenever needed. This is the main mode, and includes a great storyline along with it. Heroic Mode gives you 1 life (if one enemy breaks through the barrier, you loose) and puts you up against 6 waves of elite enemies while maxing out your towers at a lower level and no hero. The last mode is Iron Mode, putting you through 1 super wave of enemies with 1 life, a set limit to the max level of your towers, no hero and also only gives you 2 towers to work with. With all of this, including Casual, Normal and Veteran difficulties, there’s quite a challenge to be had by gamers of all skill-sets.
Frontiers contains all of this along with new enemies, new terrains and environments, new heroes, new abilities and new super towers. Like the original, you’ll earn gems alongside hero and upgrade points which can be distributed among your towers and to make your hero an even stronger force to be reckoned with. Gems can be spent in the shop to purchase special items like extra health points, dynamite that can take out a very small grouping of enemies, a frozotov which can freeze a small group of enemies, a super bomb that can wipe out every enemy on the screen, a gold bag which gives you more gold for a stage and a chill wand which freezes all the enemies on the screen for a short period of time. You are able to purchase more gems from the game’s IAP shop, but this is not necessary to complete the game. The game is also not directly pushed towards purchasing these gems even though it might feel that way with the heightened difficulty of the gameplay, each stage can be completed without using any extra items. You can also purchase extra heroes from the shop with prices ranging from $2.99 to $4.99 and even a $6.99 hero. Just like gems, these are not required to complete the game, and you are given 3 free heroes to choose from while playing, but they are there if you’re interested in supporting the developers or just getting a stronger hero to help you through the game.
While there will be some that are turned off the by inclusion of IAPs I feel that I should say this. There still is a lot of strategy involved. Going through a stage and getting your butt kicked and then changing your strategy and playing through the stage again and again is something that’s still here in KR Frontiers, especially if you’re striving to complete the game on Veteran difficulty with a 3 star rating on each stage and completing the extra modes. There’s a crazy amount of gameplay here for the entry price of $2.99 ($4.99 if you want the HD/iPad only version), and that feeling of completing the game perfectly is still a great reward within itself, especially if you do not drop extra money into the game to make it easier. The only reason you should feel the need to purchase any of the IAPs is to support the developer, to make the game easier (which is a tough one to say here, especially since Casual Difficulty is meant for first-timer TD players) or to experience playing the game in a new light with a new hero, kind of like a modified version (which it basically is when you unlock an IAP hero). So unless you’re totally against IAPs in your video games, it shouldn’t be an issue at all here.
On top of all of this, there is GameCenter integration with a whopping 72 achievements to try and unlock, and believe me when I say that this will take a while and require some replaying of stages. KR Frontiers has definitely raised the bar for Tower Defense games and is easily one of the best in the genre. Even if you’re not a fan of TD games, this is still one that you should check out, as it might very well make you a fan, or bring you back into the TD gaming scene. I really can’t recommend it enough.
Thursday, June 13, 2013 Syntheticvoid No comments
It’s kind of surprising that as popular and loved as Ultima is, that there’s not more iOS games influenced by this genre defining old-school RPG. However this does make finding one all the more special. This is something we’ve just recently had the pleasure of experiencing while diving into Valorware’s 9th Dawn, published by Made With Marmalade. And while some players have already completed the game, others are finding out that taking your time and exploring every single nook and cranny within the game is an incredibly rewarding experience. Especially since the world is so vast and is a complete joy to roam around in.
9th Dawn gives you the option of playing with 1 of 3 classes; Knight, Archer or Mage, each having drastically different ways of playing as well as different quests, different NPC interactions and loads of loot for all 3. The knight has heavy armor and strong attacks but is pretty slow and pretty inept when it comes to magic. The archer is great for quick movement and medium range attacks while the mage is pretty week when it comes to defense but can dish out a whole slew of magical spells and abilities and is probably the one character with the most depth when it comes to the customization of spells and stats, as well as the most difficult to complete the game with.
Starting off, you awake on the continent of Montelorne with no idea how you got there or where to go. Luckily, there’s an NPC right outside of where you wake up and he gives you some basic directions as well as warnings. Then off you go to explore the world, learn about the lay of the land, the empires, the characters, what makes everyone tick, ect. The one thing that wasn’t really explained too well in the beginning was how to interact with objects. When it comes to characters, a hand icon usually appears right above your attack stick which you can tap to talk to them but, as you’ll soon find out, this icon does not always appear. Going into the first shops, you can’t get close enough to the shopkeepers to trigger the hand icon from appearing and here is where you’ll either figure out on your own, or just avoid the shops for now, that you can tap directly on the NPCs to interact with them. The same goes for everything else in the world of 9th Dawn. Tapping on barrels, enemy’s dropped items/silver, buckets, chests, ect, all of these can be tapped on while some of these things, like dropped items and silver, will trigger the hand icon above your attack button, but that’s about it. I wound up dying 4 times before finding out that I could search through barrels for loot and items because of this.
But once all of that becomes apparent, the gameplay really opens up and 9th Dawn turns into the huge, exciting, exploration RPG beast that it’s meant to be. The controls are flawless, using dual sticks for movement and attacking in 360 degree fashion is a huge plus, giving you great control over what your character does and how he does it. The attacking stick can take a little fiddling around to get comfortable with if you’re using the Mage or Archer, as you’ll need to pull the stick in the opposite direction of your enemy. After getting use to it, it does play very nicely but if you’re still having troubles with it, you can switch this in the options menu so that your character fires in the same direction of your stick movement as well. You can also enable aim assist if you’re still having troubles, which is a nice little addition. There are also options for ‘tablet mode’, ‘large thumb pads’, ‘floating stick’ and you can re-position the sticks as well, which makes the gameplay comfortable on any device no matter how you might hold it.
This, combined with the depth of customization makes for one hell of a gameplay experience. Leveling up, like most RPGs, is done by defeating enemies. Once you level up, you're awarded 5 stat points which you can distribute how you see fit to either Strength, Dexterity, Constitution, Intelligence or Wisdom. You'll also unlock more skills and spells as you level up and progress throughout the game. Being able to assign these to hotslots at either the bottom of the screen, or 'fold-out' slots above the attack stick allows for quick integration of skills and items to the heat of the action while in the midst of gameplay. It all really comes together quite nicely with a fluid and easy to navigate user interface. Quests can also be called up from your Quest Log, found in your inventory, which can also be assigned to a quick-slot for easy reference.
Aside from the slight tutorial issue, 9th Dawn has been a pure joy to play. There’s always a new place to explore and the graphics and gameplay will take you back to the days of playing Ultima while reminding you how much gaming has grown with the super smooth animations, gameplay and huge open world. Priced at $2.99, 9th Dawn is a steal, especially considering how much gameplay you’ll get out of it and how enjoyable your gameplay experience will be. The few issues I might have with the game are extremely easy to overlook when presented with so much greatness. And considering this is only version 1.0.0, there’s plenty of hope that the game will only get better. If you’re a fan of the genre, I really can’t recommend this one enough, and even if you’re not, 9th Dawn might just make you a fan.
We did originally state that there was no quest log. Thankfully, PSJ3809 over at TouchArcade clued us in as to where the Questlog could be found. We apologize for any mis-understanding.