by Ben Jones0
Ark of the Ages Review
A Design for Boring, with IAPs.
It’s the same old song and dance: you’re a nameless hero sent out to face dungeons and monsters, in the name of the king or whatever. Ark of the Ages does little to impress, let alone stand out against the score of sub-par RPG’s that flood the Android market.
You are a knight sent out by the Royal Order to answer the troubles of the village Emile, and investigate the ancient wizard tower Solientes. Built by Japanese developer Meteorise and released onto the Play Store on March 1st by independent game publisher XSEED, this dungeon-crawl RPG is quite frankly disappointing, and will more than likely make you regret you hadn’t spent your $2 elsewhere.
At first glance Ark of the Ages looks decent graphically, considering the limitations of mobile devices, but after a few minutes in you come to realize the lack of effort the developers put into this game. For instance, Emile Village, the place where you spend time prepping for dungeon runs, isn’t much more than a collection of poorly done drawings that don’t add any sort of depth to the game. Considering it’s the centerpiece of Ark’s story, I can’t imagine why the developers didn’t spend a little more time fleshing out the town.
Dungeon gameplay is a little different from Emile Village as you’re dropped into a three-dimension environment that looks nice at first, but once things start moving pixels get grainy, and animations are revealed to be stiff and unrealistic. Controlling your character is surprisingly simple, but once your character starts gliding down corridors that positive mark is quite quickly forgotten. The soundtrack in the game is done well, although there isn’t much variety in the soundtrack itself, the music is catchy and adequately sets the tone of the environment. Combat sound effects are limited, but what’s there goes relatively unnoticed during gameplay. If Meteorise had spent maybe another year or so on Ark of the Ages it might actually have been an impressive RPG.
To put it bluntly the game’s story is flat. You are sent into dungeon after dungeon dodging encounters and booby traps, for reasons that aren’t always clear. The quests work more like chores: kill x amount of boars or gather x amount of boar meat. To make matters worse, there’s little to no character customization. The most you can do in the way of making your character in fact yours is buying gear, but even then the assortment of weapons and armor is pretty limited, and what is there is nearly unattainable considering how difficult it is to get currency. When I mentioned above that you are a nameless hero, you are literally nameless. In my game my character was given the name: 696296153. How does the developer expect the player to become immersed in their game if your character isn’t named, but numbered? RPG stands for Role Playing Game, and Ark of the Ages very loosely is able to hold that title, if at all.
The combat in Ark of the Ages isn’t half-bad. It’s all real-time, which keeps you on your toes. Fighting encounters takes a while to get tedious and the variety of mobs adds to the combat diversity of the game. Wandering through Ark’s dungeons’ littered booby traps, treasure chests, and poisoned hall-ways make the grind less of…well, a grind, which is admittedly uncommon in the world of Android RPGs. If you don’t block your opponent’s attacks in combat you may find yourself low on health, and with an ability called a “spark,” you can deal some last bits of damage if you’re cornered without any potions. When you want to strike an enemy you slash the boar, scorpion, or whatever fantasy styled beast you encounter with the touch screen of your phone. The quicker your fingers, the more damage you can deal. The element is simple, yet effective, keeping the combat full and lively. If Meteorise managed to get one thing right on this, it is that they managed to create an easy to use and entertaining combat mechanic.
The thing that instantly sucks the fun out of Ark of the Ages is the Gree Store. With its Gree Store in play, Ark of the Ages becomes the type of freemium game where buying items with real cash to make the game less boring is nearly unavoidable. As most Android gamers know, in the better freemium games IAPs (in-app purchases for the uninitiated) aren’t quite a necessity, but unfortunately if you want to get the full $2 out of Ark of the Ages, then you have to spend some real currency on fake currency. Gathering in-game currency is hard enough at the beginning, but having to spit out actual cash in order to buy an item that allows you to warp back to Emile from the dungeon is quite an annoyance. What adds to this annoyance is the fact that Meteoriseseem to have misnamed things. This may be a little nit-picky on my part, but when I purchase a staff, I want it to look like a staff, not a mace, and when I wear cloth armor I don’t want to look like I’ve got a suit of plate-mail on. But maybe that’s just me.
Altogether Ark of the Ages adds up to a sub-par RPG that doesn’t really do much to separate itself from the rest of the basic RPGs out there. The graphics are okay, but the animations behind them are weak and seem to be rushed. The gameplay is entertaining, but the story, an element that would normally immerse a player into a game world, is almost non-existent. If I had to pin-point the most annoying problem with this game however it would be the Gree Store. Because it’s part and parcel of a built-to-bore approach to game design, it comes off as a greedy attempt at scraping in more money from players who, considering the game’s unfinished state, probably won’t even consider browsing the store in the first place. Considering that this is XSEED’s first mobile title, it could be argued that they were just testing the waters with this one. That said, it is not in the end worth the $2 charge, and I cannot recommend it, unless of course you want to pay to be frustrated.
Is it hardcore?
Summary: Engaging combat aside, Ark of the Ages unfinished state and pay-to-avoid-boredom IAPs render the game a boring chore of an RPG.