There's a ton to play on the iPhone when it comes to bite-sized gaming experiences, in every genre from puzzle to platforming. However, if you have a taste for RPGs, it may be that what you're looking for on the iPhone or iPad is not a quick experience, but something you can really sink your teeth into. There's a decent selection of RPGs on the App store, but very few offer more than then eight to ten hours of adventure. If you’re in search of something bigger and deeper, try Aralon Sword and Shadow HD, which promises 30 hours of gameplay, three races to play and a tremendous world to explore, and you may just find you've stumbled into just the experience you're looking for.
To begin your Aralon experience, you'll go through a basic character creation process. You can choose to be a human, and elf or a troll, and you can also make small choices such as hairstyle and wardrobe. After that, you can choose to be a warrior, mage, rogue or ranger. Pretty standard fare for RPG fans, so you may find this very comfortable if that is the case.
After you've created a character of your liking, you'll find yourself quickly embroiled in -- you guessed it -- an epic story about defending your kingdom from the forces of evil. The controls in Aralon are fairly comfortable and easy to use, and considering how much more stuff you have to manage than in your typical iOS game, this control scheme is executed quite well. You'll begin in third person, but the option of switching to first is available also. You can swipe a finger across the screen to adjust your view, which isn't always the most comfortable at first if you are used to playing these types of games with a controller and having an analog stick dedicated to that movement, but after a bit of play we got used to it.
Management of your inventory is smooth and easy to use as well. A knapsack icon allows you access to a large bag (three pages worth of storage). If you've paced back and forth between field and town selling your loot burden in other games of this type, you'll appreciate this. In addition to this advantage, there are also chests in the world where you can store things. Beware - one design weakness is that these chests are not connected to one another, so you need to remember where you placed items and will have to go back for them if needed.
The world of Aralon is tremendous, and you could spend hours walking around on foot within it. Luckily, you learn to ride a horse in the very early hours of the game, and later down the line you will have the chance to mount mythical creatures such as dragons for transport. There are also a wide variety of horses to be found, and once you acquire the deed for one, you can summon a horse to any outdoor location to meet you, which certainly comes in handy.
Much of your time in the fields will be spent in combat. This will either be hand to hand or long range depending on what class you chose. The former tends to keep you mashing buttons, but you also have access to a shield and a parry option if you have a secondary weapon equipped. Like most RPGs, these fights will earn you experience and level up your character as you gain stat and skill points. These will be used to level up abilities such as strength, agility, intellect, spirit and endurance. These are distributed as you choose, so the balance of your character is up to you.
Each character also possesses special moves, such as summoning spirits to help in battle. These will come in handy later as your enemies become more powerful, and they help to dice up the battle system a bit so you don't find yourself pounding the same attack over and over.
In the spirit of classic RPGS, there is a main quest and plenty of side quests to seek out if you want to put in some extra gamete. Aralon doesn't give us anything groundbreaking here as far as format goes, but it does give the player a chance to further explore the massive world and earn some extra cash. In the main quest, you'll do a lot of hunting for artifacts and will have to take out the baddies that get in your way. There's lots of fighting to do as you explore the lairs that contain these sought-after items, so don't worry -- you'll stay busy.
Aralon's story and characters are what we'd describe as straightforward RPG fare, but it shines in its ease of play and the size of the world it offers. It's an ambitious title, and it will surely lead to more developers pushing the envelope of what RPGs can do on the iOS. It won't be a fit for gamers looking for something off the cuff, but if you love a deep, well-polished experience with classic themes, Aralon won't let you down.
May 13, 2011