The App Store’s Best RPG

The face of the best yet…

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I love RPG’s and fantasy adventure games. My first love was the simple, but action-riddled 8-bit Zelda. Later, my love for digital fantasy ( … ) grew to encompass games that more accurately reflected role playing: Ultima, Might and Magic and The Elder Scrolls. After completing several large games, I turned to the Super Nintendo (SNES) and some classic Japanese-style RPG’s: Final Fantasy, Gaia, Secret of Mana and Dragon Quest.

Which is best? Well, they all are good, but you have to be right for the game. For the light-hearted adventurer, we have a sub-genre headed up by Zenonia and for the seemy-action slayer, Raven Sword, Aralon, and Dungeon Hunter. For the more callous adventurer role-player, there is The Quest.

Light-Hearted Levelers
This category is loved by people who grew up on consoles where a game’s story is king. These RPG’s are full of the slaughter of enemies and some side quests, but overall, reach into their plot rather than their game mechanics to keep players interested. The system is a general character scheme where weapons, character stats and enemies collude in simultaneous evolution. Your character will race through the gamut of levels, weapons, armour and items at breakneck speeds and appeal to all ages and genders. There are usually many small towns with basic necessities that advance you, the adventurer toward the plot. In this vein, there are:

Action Hackers
For fans of Blizzard and hack n’ slash adventures that bridge the gap between light-hearted role-play and the more hard-core variety are the Diablo clones. While not always, they are often darker, bloody brawls through dungeons or other dreary scenery. While not child-friendly like the above games, they are simple, involve very little role playing, but have a kicking foot in the action. These games are the dark horse of the RPG world as they are more difficult to pin to a system. Often however, their attention to action means that characters will level faster and go through items much faster than hard-core RPG’s, however not at the supersonic speed of their light-hearted siblings. Of course, this isn’t always the case. The recent Ravensword: The Fallen King, proves that an action hacker can be beautiful and at times, light-hearted.

Classic and Hard-Core Role-Players
Fans of Dungeons and Dragons, GURPS and Rifts will probably be more inclined to play games that seriously try to emulate a role-playing environment. Sadly, their is a dearth of options in the App Store. The iDevice is a console of sorts and will more likely than not, appeal to console gamers who encounter light-hearted RPG’s more often than not. In evaluating the options, a simple bit of number crunching will suss out who the majority of gamers are. However, these rare hard-core games feature real character specialisation and customisation, deeper connections between NPC’s and the environment and a lot more frustration. Character evaluation and evolution takes the entire game, levels come much more slowly and there is a deep connection between the environment and the player.

The Strategy Role Player
This twist on the genre was popularised with Heroes of Might and Magic, a brilliant, but simple game from 3D0 back in the mid 90′s. It combines role playing elements such as leveling, items, and quests, but adds brilliant strategy elements into the gameplay. This game is for the RPG fan who loves to micromanage and direct armies.

The Mutton
Now, as to which game is the best – that is a personal matter, however, which may appeal to a greater number of people is an easy thing to suss out. Among the light-hearted genre, the port Zenonia has stirred up more enthusiasm than any game in the last few weeks and for good reason: it is fun. Though its enthusiastic following belies jagged edges, Zenonia is fun and features a solid leveling system. Music and animations are cute and Gamevil added a great item-based upgrade system for weapons and armour. It is a best-in-its-category at the App Store, but does not have the spark to compete at the level of its console brothers and sisters. Is it for everyone? No. But it comes at the RPG genre with a veritable arsenal of features that has wide appeal.

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Dungeon Hunter recently dethroned Underworlds as TMA’s favourite hack’n slash adventure RPG. Why? How ’bout more items, better inventory, sharper graphics and an even better navigation engine. Of course, all this gory goodness comes at a price; Dungeon Hunter is 6.99$, but to be honest, is worth all of its pennies. This sort of game would be wonderful as a stage for multiplayer LAN WiFi games and Co-op deathmatches. We are also looking forward to Legion of Amon which may give Dungeon Hunter a run for our money.

The classic and Hardcore RPG niche is expanding. Its first and certainly one of its best entrants is The Quest, another ported game that fits the iPhone very well. It features pixel-perfect graphics (though very little creativity in NPC design), a detailed environment system complete with harvesting of fauna and realistic day-to-night transitions. But, as a hard-core RPG, it is deep. And frustrating. Your character can really be developed to fulfill a role rather than a preferred means to beat the game, but you really need to know how to play that character, or else you will not be able to progress. The spawn system is slower and the game is not completely action-driven. The Quest is a gem not only in the App Store, but among turn-based RPG’s. Is it an Elder Scrolls or Ultima killer? No, but it can stand toe-to-toe with some of the more established PC RPG’s like Might and Magic.

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So, what is the best option now? It is your decision. I have bought and played the major debuts at the App Store and once again confirmed with myself that though I enjoy all RPG’s, I prefer games that back up stories with true character-based role playing. For that reason, I will have to reiterate that my preference falls with The Quest. However, for you to enjoy an RPG, you need to know which sort of gamer you are. If you enjoy Final Fantasy, The Quest is probably not for you. Likewise if you crave hard action and seemy scenery, then look for Dungeon Hunter and the upcoming Legion of Amon.

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