Reviewed: December 24, 2007
Released: December 12, 2007
I love RPGs. World of Warcraft is easily one of the best games I’ve ever played. WoW, along with many other titles in this genre, has the uncanny ability to forge a sentimental bond between player and avatar. This is because, whether they admit it or not, everybody familiar with X-Men, Lord of the Rings, or Street Fighter has daydreamed about wielding the elements as weapons or facing impossible odds with naught but an enchanted blade and a bit of magic. RPGs let you do that. Unfortunately, Arkadian Warriors is only barely an RPG.
The game was developed by Wanako Studios. Wanako’s claim to fame is that they are the largest game development studio in Latin America. The studio is owned by Sierra Entertainment, which is probably why the game was published by Sierra Online.
Usually when heroes in RPGs go about their daily questing business, they start in the safety of a friendly city. They load up their quest log with tasks to be completed for the glory of their faction and they set out into the unknown world to undertake their fantastic adventures.
The player in Arkadian Warriors also starts in a friendly city and chooses one of three paths: warrior, archer, or sorcerer. They hear the bad news that their quant little hometown is under siege by an evil monster and his legion of smaller monsters. Bummer. The natural first reaction is “Whoo! Let’s grab our armaments and go smote some unsavory bad guys and save the day!”
Unfortunately, the city guards are confused about their purpose in life. One would expect a fully armed solder guarding the gateway into a city to be poised to deny entrance to potential invaders. However, these guards are stationed on the wrong side of the door and face the wrong way. The player soon realizes that he is trapped inside this city. Setting out on perilous a quest is as exciting as stepping through the magical portal that spawns upon acceptance of a quest. This is only the first of many irritating quirks in Arkadian Warriors.
Combat in Arkadian Warriors is thoroughly bland. Enemies will mindlessly charge at you until they reach a certain health threshold. Once they reach this point they will mindlessly run away from you. Slaying them is as complicated as spamming the attack button and as satisfying as defeating an infant in a game of chess. The strategy, timing, combos, and teamwork present in most respectable RPGs are all painfully absent.
There is a tiny mote of depth added to the mix when ego and mana abilities come into play. As the player defeats enemies, he is rewarded with XP and ego. When he collects enough XP, he gains a level. The higher his level, the more magical abilities he has access to. These abilities can be used as long as the player has enough mana (magical energy) to perform them. All the abilities I unlocked during my playtime were mostly useless. Much more enjoyable and effective is the ego bar. Once the player has collected a full bar of ego by slaying monsters, he can morph into a huge beast. My archer morphed into a dragon. These beasts are super powerful. They can sustain and deliver large amounts of damage. After a short time, the effect wears off and you return to normal. The other way to make yourself more powerful is to collect better armor and weapons. These upgrades are more permanent than the ego morph, but are obviously much less drastic.
The camera in Arkadian Warriors is an embarrassment to game developers everywhere. The only view available is looking straight down at your avatar. As much as I enjoy seeing the top of my head and the ground around my feet while I’m in combat, I would much rather see my surroundings and advancing foes. The camera also moves impossibly slow. It takes 7 full seconds to rotate the view 360 degrees. This may not seem like a long time, but it is an eternity when your life depends on seeing what is coming up behind you.
The visual presentation in Arkadian Warriors feels as though it was extracted from an N64 or PlayStation game. Everything from the scenery to the character models would have looked great in the early 90s, but this game does not belong on a 7th generation console. Every dungeon is comprised of a series of perfectly square rooms connected to each other by poorly animated doors.
On the bright side, the game runs smoothly with no excessive load times or jerky moments. However, I feel that a game as low quality as Arkadian Warriors would run just as smoothly on my cell phone or wristwatch.
The sound effects are as low quality and low budget as the video presentation they are attached to. They are cheap and don’t quite seem to fit with the in-game event they are supposed to represent. For example, the twang of my archer’s bow was way too loud and sounded only vaguely like an arrow being loosed. Since my survival depends on me hitting my attack button at least one hundred times per minute, that particular sound effect was exceptionally irritating before long.
Every level has the same background music. It is an appropriate little melody that would go well with an epic battle, but it is short and mercilessly played on a never-ending repeat cycle.
The entire game is a single quest chain. The chain is 19 quests long and a single quest will probably take the average player about 15-20 minutes to complete. Assuming a player can endure the game’s shortcomings, they could probably save the village in about 4-6 hours. When you consider that many RPGs (see: WoW) are still fun after several hundred days of playtime, this game has a downright pathetic replay value. The only multiplayer is a co-op mode of the same dungeon levels. There are online XBLA scoreboards, which can be accessed from the main menu.
I will say that it was fun to morph into a huge dragon and decimate the poorly animated monster mobs surrounding me. I felt like Trogdor burninating faces. The elation was short-lived, though. The excitement fades after you morph about a half-dozen times.
The main idea I want you all to take away from this review is that Arkadian Warriors is not really an RPG. A more accurate genre description would be “Almost-2D side-scrolling hack and slash.” If that sounds like fun to you, knock yourself out. I think I will use my $10 to help pay for another month of WoW.