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Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Review: Warhammer Quest for iOS (and my 100th post! Woo!)

Warhammer Quest is f%&#ing awesome. I'll keep going, but really I could stop there. I bought it just to review it for 2d6D, but I am hopelessly addicted at this point. It's worth the five bucks I paid for sure and I think that's saying a lot because I consider anything over 1-2 pricey for iOS games. Unfortunately WHQ was one of those games I always saw people playing at the LGS, but could never afford myself. As a result I'll be looking at this purely from the stand point of video games. Feel free to chime in if there are things that should be said about the board game original and where the devs were coming from with this iteration.

You start out with four classes unlocked: the Grey Wizard, the Marauder, the Dwarf Ironbreaker and the Wood Elf Wayfarer. They're exactly what you might expect from fantasy game classes. The basic game play is tactical turn-based combat. You cannot move after attacking, so positioning gets satisfyingly complex. It's really easy to get yourself into a situation where warriors you need combating certain enemies simply can't get there and your team gets picked apart one-by-one.

Each of the different characters has a number of special abilities and character-specific equipment types. I actually feel that the classes are sufficiently differentiated. That is something that really matters to me in dungeon crawlers as it is something that is rarely done right. The Grey Wizard, for example, is very flexible and can attack, support and move in a number of useful ways, but doesn't do the raw damage that a Marauder does. The Marauder on the other hand can put out ridiculous volume of attacks but doesn't take hits like a Dwarf Ironbreaker. And the Wayfarer is nigh useless in melee, but once he has a good number of ranged attacks, he can kill distant enemies very well. The interplay between these classes makes for a fascinating, strategic game with lots of opportunities for tactical optimization.

The game does fall short in a few areas. First is the downloadable content. It is pretty expensive to unlock everything for the game. It already starts off at 5 bucks. Then the three unlockable characters are 2.50 each and the unlockable area with new monsters is another 5. So to have all of the content you're looking at a game that is really 17.50, much more than I'd pay up front if that were the base price to get all the content. Then there are also in-game pay-to-win options like buying gold, but luckily the game design isn't skewed toward driving you at their store the way Diablo 3 was. So far I have unlocked the Archmage and he's pretty fun to use. I was worried at first that he would end up being way too good (as a way of getting more buyers) and that he'd unbalance my party, but that hasn't been the case at all. If anything, I think the Ironbreaker may be more useful.

Second, the story is terribly dull and has no bearing on the player's experience. I never see my characters outside of the dungeons and my choices seem to have little in the way of meaningful consequences. Characters that you meet are likewise text-box entities and the text does little to give me an idea of these throw-away characters' personalities. As a result, I have no interest in what is happening or why. The background and story are there if you want to read them, but it doesn't build a believable world for me to get lost in the way good story-based games should. The fluff is a sauce for me to pour on a steak that doesn't exist. You might say "It's not really that kind of game, so why not let it go? The writer isn't trying to be the R.R. Martin of the iPhone." That is true and totally fair. I honestly can't tell if I'd rather they left all this out so I don't have to skip it. Knowing it is there is probably satisfying at some base level, maybe simply because I have been skipping bad story in games for many years (what? They can't all be as great as FF6 or Bioshock =P).

Thirdly, there are a LOT of random rolls made in the game. There are tons in combat, but that's where it matters least to me. Sometimes when traveling and ending turns in dungeons, random events occur that do nothing more than debuff you for no reason. It interrupts gameplay and has almost no noticeable bearing on the game. Generating a random number of magic points to use for casters can be irritating too. This gets especially bad when you are randomly ambushed in dungeons and have are given no magic at all. When that happens a few turns in a row you quickly run out of reserve power (that doesn't regenerate in dungeons) and find yourself dead due to no particular fault of your own. I'm not playing on Hardcore mode yet where your characters die permanently, but I can tell I will be very frustrated to lose a whole save due to some silly bad luck.

In closing, I want to remind you that I was sort of stretching to find some flaws in the game. The in-app purchases aren't necessary for the game to be a very good time. The story is so minimal and meaningless that skipping it doesn't get in the way of having fun in the slightest. The randomness probably comes from the board game, so if you played that you might be nostalgic for it in the first place. Losing a save would stink, but really without that most of the fights are so easy that there wouldn't be enough challenge without it. I've had a great time with the game so far and I expect to keep playing it for some time to come. I don't know whether or not I can recommend the additional content, but the base product is more than worth the few dollars it costs.

Edit: Something I forgot to mention before is that there is no multi-player. Where I was really disappointed in Talisman HD for that, I really don't think it takes anything away from the WHQ experience. Having more than one person playing might make the game cumbersome and slow. Playing a whole party is fun and works very well, just as it does in other RPG dungeon crawlers.

Given the game a try? What did you think? Got a favorite class?