Hardcore Droid http://www.hardcoredroid.com Hardcore Gaming on the Android OS Fri, 28 Aug 2015 13:02:39 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.2.4 The Best Android RPGs of 2015, So Far… http://www.hardcoredroid.com/the-best-android-rpgs-of-2015-q3/ http://www.hardcoredroid.com/the-best-android-rpgs-of-2015-q3/#comments Fri, 28 Aug 2015 12:29:05 +0000 http://www.hardcoredroid.com/?p=35529 So far 2015 has been a banner year for Android RPGs. While, unfortunately, we haven’t exactly seen a straight Western RPG lately, Android has, on the other hand, in this third quarter of 2015, developed a potpourri of new digital role-playing games. This year’s best include Action RPGs, Puzzle RPGs,  ports of classic JRPGs, as well as a contemporary JRPG, and finally  a couple of indies inspired, in part, by Western RPGs. Among these there are, thankfully, a decent-sized contingent of mobile-only titles. Regardless of the intended audience or sub-genre, however, each and every title below is deserving of its spot on this list in spades. What we have, considered as a whole, is a solid and eclectic spread, one that is reflective of the veritable smorgasbord of delights that Android gaming is becoming.

 

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10. The Last Warlock

Lately anything with voxel graphics is kicked in the ole kiester, deemed crapola, tossed into the trash, clotheslined on a return trip from the water cooler, or uninstalled at our earliest convenience. Somehow in spite of our extreme and likely unfair prejudice, The Last Warlock became a sleeper hit around HD’s offices, as it did among a decent sized pool of Android critics and gamers. Warlock possesses a certain winning sandbox quality. In it you play as magic user who can learn an abundance of spells, many of which can be used to alter the trappings of the gameworld, including a bevy of conjurable creatures. Your avatar can also craft all kinds of weapons and stuff, and all of this making and unmaking becomes the nuts and bolts of the game, as the title’s missions boil down to you duking it out with other mages, many of whom are locked up tight in their strongholds. More than a good voxel-based game, Warlock was an easy pick for this list due to the simple fact that it is abundantly fun to play.

 

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9. Dungeon Crawlers HD

Dungeon Crawlers HD is an exact remake of 2014’s Dungeon Crawlers, but guess what? They added high definition graphics. Who knew? We’re glad they did because we love the game overall even though we find the game’s premise a little dopey. (Its story is that of the first Ghost Busters movie reimagined in a high fantasy world). But while the Ghostbuster’s angle is good for an occasional smile—maybe more like a smirk—the gameplay is top-notch. While it is a slightly bite-sized and watered down tactical game, there is still enough detail in Crawler’s turn-based game to satisfy tactical strategy aficionados. The mobile bite-sized angle also works because the breadth of its battles are such that a player can get in, engage in a tactical melee and get out again in the span of five or ten minutes. There really are not many quality mobile games that are offering that package. If you’re an RPOG fan who’s into turn-based tactical strategy and/or demented scripts that will occasionally make your eyes roll, Dungeon Crawlers HD is your game.

 

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8. Dragon Quest VI

Square Enix has been porting game after game onto mobile over the last few years. Although they’ve done this with mixed results—the Chrono Trigger port, for example, was a mess of a translation—most of their offerings, like the Final Fantasy games and the more recent Chaos Rings titles, have made for stellar mobile games. The Dragon Quest games fall into the latter category, and while some RPG fans may find the earlier Dragon Quest titles too simple, Dragon Quest VI, like its direct predecessor (Dragon Quest V), should satisfy the most demanding of RPG fans as it boasts a vast gameworld held together by a veritable throng of characters and a wonderfully well-written overarching narrative that spans two parallel worlds. The game also features Dragon Quest’s beautiful signature graphics and sound. While it is decidedly an old school JRPG, we submit that most RPG fans will find themselves enthralled by this very rich and satisfying RPG.

 

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7. Knights of Pen and Paper 2

We love the Knights of Pen and Paper franchise. Like Dungeon Crawlers, Knights takes a tongue and cheek approach to role playing, but like the best satirical material, it’s very clear that the satirists love the subject matter they’re mocking. Instead of playing an avatar or a party of avatars fighting away against the local baddies, you play as a party of role players pitted against a DM and his dice. The game blatantly breaks down the fourth wall and you see both the DM and his monster on screen. Meanwhile, your party is depicted as a bunch of guys sitting around a table dressed up as the characters they are playing, like vast cosplay nerds. To top it off, the simple D&D mechanics are finely balanced. This game is as consistently amusing as it is continuously engaging to play.

 

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6. Always Sometimes Monsters

While moral ambiguity is not exactly ground-breaking material for an RPG, a fun and functional game set in modern times and concerned with the trappings of real life certainly does set Always Sometimes Monsters apart from just about every RPG that we are aware of. Always is also a game in which the sexual preference, gender and race of your character are all seen as incidental matters, which is also a rather cool and forward thinking aspect of Always Sometimes Monsters. What we liked best about the game, however, was how malleable and dynamic the story could be and how much fun was to be had by just playing with the game’s various choices and plot points. We also enjoyed trying to lure little Final-Fantasy-III-looking characters into the sack, or maybe that’s just me.

 

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5. Desktop Dungeons

Half of this smart and challenging PC port is dungeon crawling via the dungeon-as-a-big-puzzle. The other half is building up the adventurer’s town that supports your efforts. Building the town is simple basic fun that adds a welcome respite from the game’s dungeon-puzzles. The dungeons themselves are rife with detail and charm and the puzzle aspect will provide delvers with some of the most formidable brain teasers to be found in RPG land.

And mobile gaming could easily rattle off half a dozen puzzle/dungeon crawler hybrids that have found their way onto smart devices over the last few years, some more successful than others, Desktop Dungeons, however, is easily one of the most detailed, challenging and rewarding puzzle/RPGs you will find anywhere. We highly recommend it.

 

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4. Y’s Chronicles 1

If you never played the original Y’s Chronicles on the TurboGraphx-16, the Sega Master System, or later ports on Windows 98, the Nintendo DS, the PSP or the most recent iteration, available on Steam for the PC, then you are in for a treat. There’s a reason this game has been passed around and ported to anything that will hold a charge. It is a singularly beautiful and well-crafted action RPG. The graphics for the recent mobile version are likely from the recent PC port and are beautifully rendered. The music by legendary video game sound men, Yuzo Koshiro and Mieko Ishikawa, is sumptuous and fitting. And the story, told via gorgeous animations, is the stuff of video game classics. That is fitting because Y’s Chronicles 1 is, in fact, truly a classic.

 

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3. Chaos Rings III

Fans of mobile RPGs definitely owe some love to the folks over at Square Enix. Square is the only big gaming house to build several deep, storied original AAA mobile games that you pay for only once. While the asking price for a Square RPG can be about 5 to as much as 10 times the price of most gaming apps, you invariably get about 10 times as much game for your money as well as about 10 times the quality. Of all of Square’s wonderful contributions to mobile RPGs, the Chaos Rings series are particularly special. Not only are they in terms of theme and art direction decidedly their own thing, but they are also the only ones that were designed from the ground up to be played on smart devices.

While thematically lighter and visually brighter than its predecessors, Chaos Rings III is a game designed firmly in the tradition of the Chaos Rings series due to its distant world setting, time hopping plot and sharp RPG combat mechanics. While some fans were torn over this shift in tone, there’s no denying that Chaos Rings III represents Android gaming at its best. In other words: It’s big, deep, fun and utterly free of IAPS.

 

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2. Final Fantasy Tactics: War of the Lions

Often, when you tell people that you’re not a fan of Japanese Role Playing Gamers, they’ll reply: “Oh, but have you tried Final Fantasy Tactics?” One reason might be the turn-based tactical battles resemble those found in certain Western RPGs. The other reason might be the jobs system in Final Fantasy Tactics. As someone who was converted to JRPGs via Final Fantasy Tactics, I will say that the Tactics leveling system is as elegant as it is brilliant, and is hands down one of the finest leveling systems I have ever  encountered in an RPG.

The story is generic in some respects but chances are you won’t care because you’ll be completely entranced by the way the story is conveyed through animations that are as beautiful as anything you’ll find in cinema, much less gaming.

In terms of gameplay, Tactics provides a ton of thoroughly engaging turn-based battles, but they are by no means perfect. The game’s set piece battles are occasionally too easy. However, the frequent random battles and occasionally tough pre-set battles make all the preparation you will do outfitting and training your team worth the effort. (And the exercise is itself a lot of fun if you are a certain type of nut job).

Tactics was, amazingly, developed 17 years ago—and this is amazing because, in spite of the strides the tech industry has made over the past 17 years, there are very few mobile games that come close to the quality of this incredibly well-crafted video game.

 

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 1. Illyria: Destinies

We became a fan of indie developers Little Killerz when we first played Tales of Illyria I: Fallen Knight. Last year’s release of the sequel, Tales of Illyria II: Beyond the Iron Wall further cemented the high regard we have for them. With this year’s release of Illyria: Destinies we have become convinced that Chad Mannicia and his superb team can do no wrong.

The recently released Illyria: Destinies kept all the things that made the first two Illyria games great:  a high fantasy adventure played out via an Oregon Trail travel mechanic fueled by a ton of smart randomly generated encounters. Woven into this mix are excellent combat and loot systems and a compelling overarching story.

Now, with Destinies, which is ostensibly Tales of Illyria 3, Little Killerz has decided to push the envelope further than they ever have before. Not only is Destinies larger and more comprehensive than the previous Illyria titles, bu, the lands of Illyria are for the first time an open world. You create your character from scratch, set out on your adventure and do whatever and go wherever you want as you engage in the game’s central missions in whatever order floats you boat. The end result of these changes is that Little Killerz has considerably improved an already superb gaming experience. A superior mobile RPG by any measure, Illyria: Destinies is quite easily the Best Android RPG of 2015.

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Slugterra: Dark Waters Review http://www.hardcoredroid.com/slugterra-dark-waters-review/ http://www.hardcoredroid.com/slugterra-dark-waters-review/#comments Thu, 27 Aug 2015 19:44:15 +0000 http://www.hardcoredroid.com/?p=35509 SlugterraWhen it comes to game adaptations of well-known movies and cartoons, I often approach with caution. The transition from the big screen to gaming can be a disastrous affair for many licensed franchises. However, with the release of games such as South Park’s The Stick Of Truth and Batman’s Arkham series, expectations for franchised game releases are on he rise. Fortunately, action-platformer Slugterra: Dark Waters manages to meet these expectations head on.

Having never heard of the cartoon series before downloading this game, I must say the underground world of Slugterra is an odd one. Our protagonist Eli Shane must defend his subterranean home from Dr. Blakk, using cute slugs that are both loving pets and deadly ammunition. Throughout Dark Waters, you will brawl with Dr Blakk’s minions by blasting them with these weaponized slugs and dodging the ones they shoot in return, all to ensure Dr. Blakk doesn’t turn the native slugs evil using “Dark Water”.

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Slugterra: Dark Waters appears similair to its original material, as the characters resemble their TV counterparts in every way. For instance, your default companion is Pronto, a fat squirrel-esque bloke, and your starter slug is an incredibly rare and powerful Infernus slug – just like in the show. However, it’s not necessary to have watched the cartoon to enjoy this game, as they appear to have little impact on each other. In fact, I get the impression that the developers at Apps Ministry were fully aware that many players wouldn’t be fans of the series and so tailored the game to suit them.

Overall, Apps Ministry has managed to create a fun game with a lot of variety. Within the tutorial alone, play switches between third-person and first person, and the latter is where gameplay truly becomes impressive. When battling bosses in arenas, you control your critters as they hurtle out of your blaster towards the enemy. You must maneuver your slug to the enemy in order to damage them and continue the game. Also, if an enemy slug is racing towards you at the same time as you shoot, you enter a mini-game where the slugs will fight it out. This feature is extremely refreshing and adds significant depth to the game overall.

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Where many mobile games only allow you a certain amount of control, Slugterra: Dark Waters is entirely hands on. Eli will not do anything unless you instruct him to do so, whether it be shooting foes, smashing boxes or even moving. While refreshing at first, this feature soon became a little irritating. Although the controls are simple – mostly you’re required to tap and swipe – I was constantly being pulled out the gaming experience because the tiny graphics and touch-screen made it hard to get Eli to run to the correct locations or fire at the right opponent with any sort of precision. If you have the choice, you may want to play the game on a tablet rather than on your phone.

As you progress through Slugterra, you collect coins, which you must use to build your character’s strength and upgrade your weaponry if you want to succeed. Surprisingly, this was my favorite part of Slugterra: Dark Waters, because this makes exploration critical to your advancement.

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If you aren’t a fan of exploring maps for hidden coins you can also watch video advertisements, each worth a hundred coins. Apps Ministry has been very crafty with their monetary system, as the daily amount of coins you can receive from watching these ads will only enable you to buy one new item or make one significant upgrade. It is completely possible to progress through the game through exploration and watching ads; however, if you want to get through the game quickly there are IAPs in the form of coin packages, the most expensive of which is £39.99. Yes, this is a big investment for a mobile game, but it’s unlikely that you’ll feel the need to spend any real money whilst playing.

Whether you’re a longtime fan of Slugterra or a newcomer, chances are you’ll find Slugterra: Dark Waters enjoyable. There are a variety of fantastic features, while the freemium model is well implemented and rarely interferes with your gameplay. However, although it’s clear the game was made with a lot of love and optimized for mobile devices, there are still a few holes, particularly when it comes to responsiveness and user interface.

 

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Dragon Ball Z Dokkan Battle Review http://www.hardcoredroid.com/dragon-ball-z-dokkan-battle-review/ http://www.hardcoredroid.com/dragon-ball-z-dokkan-battle-review/#comments Mon, 24 Aug 2015 17:47:42 +0000 http://www.hardcoredroid.com/?p=35465 Android-strategy-DragonBallZDokkanBattle-01It feels like you can slap a well-known name on a product these days and expect people to love it. That’s what Dragon Ball Z Dokkan Battle is. It’s a cash grab. It’s also probably meant to build hype for the new Dragon Ball Super show that came out this summer. But this game has as little to do with Dragon Ball Z as X-Men Origins: Wolverine has to do with the new Deadpool movie. They share characters, but one of them is a cynical exercise in capitalism.

Dragon Ball Z Dokkan Battle is a bit like Dragon Ball Z themed Monopoly. Sure, you can have Goku, Vegeta, Trunks, and Krillin on your team, but you could have made this a Star Wars game, replaced them with Luke, Han, Chewie, and Leia, and it would be the exact same game. The game actually plays like a board game in parts. Each level has a step by step layout, and depending on which step you land on, different things happen. You can get items, power ups, or take damage, and at the end, there’s a boss battle.

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Battles are the crux of this game, but they’re woefully simple, repetitive, and unexciting. You have a team of Dragon Ball Z characters and you get to take turns having them fight your enemy. But it isn’t an action game. It’s a bizarre kind of strategy/puzzle game. You have your character on one end and the enemy on the other, and in between are lines of colored orbs. You want to pick a line of orbs that has all of one color. The more orbs you get in a row, the stronger your attack.

There’s a bit more nuance to it. Each character has a color type, and if you choose orbs of that color type, their attacks are twice as strong, with some color types being stronger against enemies of other color types. And if you organize your team so that characters who have an in-show connection to each other are next to one another, they’ll boost each other’s power.

You start with a team that includes one strong character who you’ll recognize and love, if you’re a Dragon Ball Z fan, and four weak characters who may be obscure and won’t be valuable to your team. You can get more characters by collecting dragon stones or friend points. Friend points are plentiful, and they seem to get you weak characters.. Dragon stones can get you strong characters, but the problem is it’s a lottery. You spend five dragon stones and maybe you’ll get someone worthwhile, but maybe you won’t. You collect one dragon stone for every level you beat. Of course, you can always spend money to get more dragon stones. And that seems to be the point of the game, because it’s next to impossible to create a respectable team without dishing out cash.

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All these elements could possibly make for an interesting system, but they don’t. Part of the problem is that Dragon Ball Z is the wrong franchise for a puzzle game. The entire show it’s based on is about fighting. There have been plenty of great DBZ games, but they are all fighting games. And the “puzzles” themselves are not puzzles. They’re mind-numbingly simple. If you’ve done one, you’ve done them all. And there are a lot to do. I did not get to the end of the game, but since it has a pay-to-win element to it, I’m guessing the levels are next-to-endless repetitions of the same schlock.

I love Dragon Ball Z. I would love to be able to create a team of Z fighters and pit them against their enemies. But they need to fight in real Dragon Ball Z style, as is the case in the many, many previous Dragon Ball Z video games. Instead, the Z fighters participate in some bizarre puzzle game that’s barely a game mechanic. I’m sad to see Dragon Ball Z go this way, but this Dokkan iteration is a cash grab and nothing more.

 

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Storm Age Review http://www.hardcoredroid.com/storm-age-review/ http://www.hardcoredroid.com/storm-age-review/#comments Fri, 21 Aug 2015 01:59:04 +0000 http://www.hardcoredroid.com/?p=35417 1432196770_storm-age532Due to the lack of coverage Storm Age has received since its release early this summer, I expected to grind through a glitchy, IAP-heavy mess that failed to bring any novelty to the already abundant freemium RPG market. Fortunately, I was only half right.

Developed by Camel Games – not to be confused with the many camel-themed games that apparently exist – Storm Age offers an enjoyable gaming experience, however there is very little about the game that makes it unique. Many of Storm Age’s key features and characters are similar to numerous other games that are also built around the freemium model, from Blizzard’s incredibly popular Heroes Of The Storm to less successful games like Final Fable. It is Storm Age’s inability to set itself apart from its competition that makes the entire experience of playing it lacklustre.

Our story takes place on The Samia Planet, on a hovering landmass appropriately yet unoriginally entitled Floating Island. Throughout the expedition you must defend your kingdom against the wicked Scourge Legion, who are attempting to conquer your land, by creating an ensemble of heroes.

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Combat is fluid and fast-paced, although this is mostly because your heroes engage in battles automatically. This leaves the player with little to do, other than implementing their heroes’ special attacks when they’re available and at the appropriate times. Whether you are victorious or vanquished relies entirely upon your strategic abilities, as there are no heroes that are automatically superior to the others; it’s up to you to create an incredible hero and a winning formation.

Storm Age Battle Scene

Unfortunately, this is where Storm Age begins to fall apart. It becomes clear fairly early on that the true primary objective is simply to upgrade your characters. There are over fifty heroes you can unlock and summon throughout the game, each with their own special abilities, so you spend half of your time upgrading and evolving each of them by inlaying gems into their equipment and spending gold on their evolutions. Although, presumably because the creators are desperate for you to continue playing, these rewards are bestowed upon you from the very beginning so it’s relatively easy to upgrade, and even satisfying at times.

Storm Age does have a few redeeming features. The game’s 3D graphics are vibrant and equipped with 360 degree rotate so you can fully immerse yourself in the landscape. The animation and soundtrack blend well together to ensure that you are invested in the gameplay, especially during battles. IAPs are available, of course, all of which are for gem packages and can cost anything between $2.99 and $99.99, but they seem unnecessary, as you get given gems almost constantly.

Storm Age Gems

Also, once you reach level ten you are able to partake in PvP battles and form a guild with other players. Multiplayer is as enjoyable as the campaign mode, although when you first start challenging real opponents you will probably suffer multiple defeats. Or maybe that’s just me.

Storm Age is undoubtedly a fun freemium strategy RPG, but it is in no way exceptional. The game mechanics and graphics have a lot of potential, but ultimately the gameplay, at present, is the same gameplay you’ll encounter in a dozen freemium titles and thus it gets a bit boring in the long run. It’s simply a shame that instead of creating something original the developers have produced yet another stock-freemium game.

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The Mystery of the Mayan Ruins Review http://www.hardcoredroid.com/the-mystery-of-the-mayan-ruins-review/ http://www.hardcoredroid.com/the-mystery-of-the-mayan-ruins-review/#comments Thu, 20 Aug 2015 16:00:08 +0000 http://www.hardcoredroid.com/?p=35428 Android-adventure-Mystery-Mayan-Ruins-thumbDespite my love of the point-and-click adventure game, its descendant genre, the “escape the room” game, has never really connected with me. There are certainly several design improvements in escape games, like clearly defined objectives and improved puzzle logic (not a single rubber-chicken-with-a-pulley-in-the-middle in sight), but they lack many of the story hooks of more traditional adventure games. Which brings me to The Mystery of the Mayan Ruins, a game that pretends to be classic adventure but turns out to be an escape game.

The first hint comes in the opening story screens, still images with text that tells the story of how retired explorer John Smith gets dragged back into the treasure-hunting game when kidnappers take his family for ransom and demand an ancient medallion as payment. Shockingly high stakes, but where a more traditional adventure game hero would seek to track down the kidnappers and handle them directly, Smith caves to their demands and sets of on an expedition.

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The gameplay is much like that of Myst, perhaps a more direct ancestor of the escape genre. The player navigates pre-rendered 3D backgrounds by tapping to move from one screen to the next. Though the game takes place over across several temples with connecting outdoor sections, the design is that of a standard escape game. Puzzles are usually found on clearly denoted panels around the titular Mayan ruins. A few require items that can be found around the environment and stored in the player’s inventory, and clues for some of the more self-contained puzzles are stored in Smith’s notebook.

The puzzles are fairly wide-ranging, and I would usually only get stuck if I was underestimating the game’s cleverness. In my defense, puzzles include “find broken lever, put lever in hole, pull lever” and “find clue, input puzzle solution directly from clue.” Still, that lever puzzle hides a secret that I didn’t discover till much later, and easy puzzles can be forgiven, especially considering the common adventure game alternative: getting stuck and never playing again.

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That said, The Mystery of the Mayan Ruins is a pretty basic package. The whole game lasts less than an hour. A single music loop (albeit a good one) plays throughout the entire adventure. There is little animation to speak of, beyond a few opening doors. Because of this, it can be hard to remember where you are going or coming from – there is no visual connection from one screen to another. A few signposts mark the way, but multiple locations share the same name. Speaking of which, the English translation is not fantastic (the development team is Spanish), though really, none of the text is terribly important. The story is inconsequential, and I can think of only one puzzle that involved any text at all.

Mystery of the Mayan Ruins is fairly good at what it does, but it’s not exactly reaching for the stars. As a short, simple escape game, it gave me an education on the features that make this genre fun. Unfortunately, I might not recommend this particular title to those who don’t need to learn the same lessons.

 

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Best Android Games of the Week 8-17 http://www.hardcoredroid.com/best-android-games-of-the-week-8-17/ http://www.hardcoredroid.com/best-android-games-of-the-week-8-17/#comments Thu, 20 Aug 2015 06:41:34 +0000 http://www.hardcoredroid.com/?p=35436 -Eddie Cochran

Especially when you’re a student or teacher or a seasonal worker or have been vacationing for a good long time. In such cases, one is likely to find a hard knot forming in the pit of their stomach as the days grow slightly colder. They no doubt find themselves, as night begins to fall earlier each day, taking practice glances into the seemingly bottomless abyss of their future as a wage slave.

But, not to worry because, as in all things, Hardcore Droid has got your back. For this week of August 17th, 2015, we’ve slapped together a list of the 5 best new games on the Play Store. Any one of these excellent games is guaranteed to stave off the summertime blues or at least bring you a little joy during, what is for many, a difficult time of the year.

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5. Lego Batman

This is the same type of Lego action game that droves of you will be familiar with from the world of consoles, and PC, I suppose. I’ve played at least a half dozen different types Lego (insert franchise du jour) video games with my sons, and they definitely make for bona fide action games. While the tension may be ratcheted down a bit and the puzzles on the easy side, they are still invariably fun games, and Lego Batman: Beyond Gotham on Android is no exception. The title not only plays well with the ole virtual thumbstick but is heavy with awesome Dark Knight stuff. The game features over a hundred playable characters, bunches of unlockable Batman suits and over a hundred missions. Highly recommended.

 

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4. Harbinger: Battleship

Modeled after indie powerhouses Out There and FTL, Harbinger: Battleship has a lot to live up to. Since I was up last night fiddling with this title, I can happily attest that, aside from a handful of bugs, Harbinger generally lives up to its well-regarded inspiration. Like said indie classics, Harbinger involves outfitting a space ship for a tough, nigh on impossible mission. In this case it’s crossing a vast star map to wipe out an alien invasion. Problem is, the sector in question is all the way across the quadrant; and so, you have to hyper jump from sector to sector battling pirates and other assorted baddies along the way. Post ass-whipping, you collect the resources your vanquished foes have left behind. You then put them to work repairing your ship and building it up into an alien nut-twisting, juggernaut badass.

If you are not into a tough challenge, Harbinger is not for you. However, if you enjoy the lately popular roguelike paradigm that more often than not has you dying and starting over numerous times before becoming a force to be reckoned with (in this case before building the final iteration of the SS Nut-Twister).  Roguelike, FTL fans and anyone who likes a challenge, will be in their glory with this well-made action/strategy title.

 

 

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3. Doom & Destiny 2

If the idea of a funny, irreverent and self-referential RPG is for you the antithesis of good role-playing, then by all means skip indie RPG, Doom & Destiny. If, on the other hand, you are an open-minded mobile RPG fan, then don’t be put off by D&D’s humorous approach to story-telling nor by its somewhat old school JRPG look. Firstly, remember that the game is an RPG built from the ground-up a by a talented and passionate microdev team. However, it clearly isn’t the game’s humble beginning that make D&D 2 one of the best RPGs on the Play Store. Remember that this brand new sequel is bigger, deeper and boasts more professional production values than did its excellent predecessor Doom & Destiny I. To that end, the game boasts some great new visuals and special effects (for an indie title from a microdev) and sports a longer and more detailed story. All indicators suggest that like its predecessor it’s a smart, funny, and overall superb indie-RPG. In short, if you are an RPG fan who plays games on a mobile device, get it.

 

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2. Fallout Shelter 

Digital crack.

While the above fragment really says it all, you probably want to know about this baby. I played this enjoyable and extremely popular nuclear fallout shelter simulation, wherein you oversee the development and maintenance of a vast, futuristic fallout shelter known as a Vault (a Vault as in good ole Vault 13 from the Fallout Universe), for about 3 hours this past weekend and immediately uninstalled it. Truth be told, I was having a lot of trouble putting this thoroughly engaging simulation down, and as is usual for a family man like myself, I had a couple of things to do, and wanted to spend my gaming time on the 5 other things I’m playing.

Developed by the master game makers at Bethesda, Fallout Shelter is depicted in the cute and demented cartoonish graphics surrounding Vault Boy. The game’s genius, however, is in its gameplay. Once you get started on your Vault you’ll end up juggling so many timed and contextually meaningful projects that you will promptly find yourself immersed in Fallout Shelter’s gameworld. Though easily played in short spurts, completing a vault will take some time to be sure. If you’ve got the extra time for a game with no overarching goal and have the even slightest interest in a deep, mobile simulation game, look no further as Fallout Shelter is everything it’s cracked up to be.

 

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1. Tales of Illyria: Destinies RPG.

What? We chose a small, indie RPG over Lego Batman: Beyond Gotham and Bethesda’s Fallout Shelter. Have we lost our bearings? What the hey is going on?

Fact of the matter is, Tales of Illyria: Destinies blows away both titles and then some. Destinies represents not only one of the finest mobile RPGs of the month, but a title you will surely find on both our Best Android RPGs of the year list, and very likely on our Best Android RPGs Ever Made.

Deep, immersive, fun and smart.

Destinies is all the above. Like it two predecessors Illyria: Destinies is the kind of storied RPG that one looks forward to playing, much in the way that one longs to return to a great book. It’s partly the rich, dynamic story you create and engage with as you explore Illyria’s gameworld, and it’s partly Illyria’s unique gameplay as it is in part the finely balanced and smart Oregon Trail mechanic one engages with as they traverse Illyria’s gameworld.

This latest Illyria game is unique among the three games in the series as not only is it the largest Illyria game, but it is the also the first one that’s set in an open world. It’s the same Illyria players will remember, but instead of following quest A to quest B, players can go wherever they want and complete the game’s countless quests in whatever order they prefer. To top it off Destinies’ Oregon Trail element works like a dream on a touch screen and the game itself: deep, nuanced and mobile as a novel, is perfect for curling up in a chair with. In short, get this excellent game. It is the best new game you’ll find on the Play Store. Period.

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Sometimes You Die Review http://www.hardcoredroid.com/sometimes-you-die-review/ http://www.hardcoredroid.com/sometimes-you-die-review/#comments Wed, 19 Aug 2015 00:26:07 +0000 http://www.hardcoredroid.com/?p=35405 Sometimes You Die | Best Android GamesPick a popular game. Chances are that within the first ten minutes of playing it, you’ve shot, decapitated, crushed, or blasted apart a person, animal or humanoid supernatural being. Sure, you’ll find the odd indie game that casts you as an immigration officer or plops you inside the dream of a flower, and a few games may even explore the consequences of our unquenchable thirst for death, but it’s only a slight exaggeration to say that every digital game ever made is about killing.

Maybe we’re all just terrible people by nature, or maybe we’re just not very imaginative when it comes to game design, but the fact remains that we’ve pretty much always enjoyed watching people murder each other for fun and sport. Heck, middle-schoolers in the United States bask in gratuitous violence every time they enter a cinema (and yet, the sight of two men kissing instantly earns a movie an R rating).

So it’s pretty nifty when a game like Sometimes You Die attempts to subvert the norm, where the only entity you ever kill is yourself, and not only is your death inevitable, it’s also necessary. Were I a literalist, I would rename the game You Need to Die in Order to Finish the Game. At first glance, the game seems like an ordinary platformer (albeit with sleeker visuals): you play as a small black cube in an austere landscape of platforms, spikes and razor-sharp spinning wheels of death, jumping your way to safety. What makes the game interesting is that most obstacles are impossible to overcome in one try, and when you die, you respawn at the start of the level, with your pixel-corpse remaining exactly where you fell, a new element in the landscape with which you can interact . Suicide thus becomes an essential game mechanic. Kamikaze leaps onto deadly spikes create safe surfaces to land on for your next iteration, and staircases made of your own broken body will lead the next you to freedom. It’s a little macabre if you think about it too much, and the haunting narrator and interrogation-esque lighting (complete with dangly lightbulbs) both reinforce this mood: you are not in a happy place, and yes, sometimes you do die.

Sometimes You Die | Best Android Games

Also, I’m trying not to give away any spoilers, but you should stick with the game all the way through. It’s a pretty quick playthrough, and there’s a neat surprise waiting for you at the end. Trust me on this.

Now, Sometimes You Die isn’t entirely revolutionary as a game. Planescape: Torment (arguably one of the best RPG’s ever made) made excellent use of death as a puzzle-solving mechanic, vaulting off of past versions of yourself has been successfully  done before (check out Braid), and minimalist games with cool music aren’t unheard of (see what I did there?). Nonetheless, it’s the combination of these various elements, coupled with an unsettling atmosphere of impending doom that really makes the game shine. Even if you are possessed of the sunniest of dispositions and have never harnessed thoughts of upending your sense of self-preservation, I would highly recommend this game.

“Despise not death, but welcome it…” – Marcus Aurelius

 

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Warhammer 40,000: Space Wolf Review http://www.hardcoredroid.com/warhammer-40000-space-wolves-review/ http://www.hardcoredroid.com/warhammer-40000-space-wolves-review/#comments Tue, 18 Aug 2015 03:55:42 +0000 http://www.hardcoredroid.com/?p=35380 space-wolf-android-thumbnailShouted in a deep and comically guttural voice, the line  was originally “Blood for the Blood God!” a war cry shouted by ichor red Chaos Space Marines in 1998’s tactical strategy title: Warhammer 40,000: Chaos Gate. I remember Chaos Gate as a fun tactical strategy title made in the mold of the legendary Xcom: Enemy Unknown. You might think, judging by the way I’ve altered said battle cry, that this review of the more recent tactical game: Warhammer 40,000: Space Wolf will end up negative. If so, chalk one up for yourself.

Like a hot blind date who turns out to be proudly flatulent, Warhammer 40,000: Space Wolves is an unfortunate exercise in extremes. The game starts off well before its myriad IAPs form a $100 plus paywall that, like an offered finger from said hot date, exhibits an indifference to its core audience that’s as off-putting as it is insulting.

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As far as I can tell there hasn’t been a video game yet that has focused solely on the Space Wolves, a group of Space Marines from Games Workshops’ famous Warhammer 40,000 universe, and no doubt a lot of fans of the Warhammer Universe will find this exciting; and really it’s not bad stuff at all. You play as the leader of a band of Space Wolves. The Space Wolves apprently hail from a planet called Fenris (named after the Norse god Odin’s pet wolf), are coolly wolf-like and do all sorts of bad-ass things like eat their enemy’s brains for intel—the imagery and snippets of story that you engage with en route to the game’s missions are fun for the most part. The overall story involves something about a planet and aliens and Chaos Marines and really, who cares? It all boils down to window dressing for gameplay but for that, it’s pretty good.

The game’s missions consist of your avatar and two companions snapping open cans of whup-ass on various gangs of aliens and vile Chaos Space Marines. You can choose your two companions from an overall squad of five, each of whom represents one of the game’s three classes of Space Wolf, namely: Grey Hunter, Wolf Scout and Wolf Guard. The playable characters that represent the two coolest classes: Wolf Scout (sniper) or Wolf Guard (heavy weapons specialist) can only be unlocked via IAPs. Which brings us to this: So far this description suggests a lot of choice. Not so, unless you have money to burn. That’s because developer HeroCraft has seen it fit to charge players for every conceivable thing one might do with this little band of sci-fi soldiers. Want to change classes? Pay the piper. Want a sniper? Pay up. Want to level up your scout? Your avatar? Change classes? Change or enhance your cards? Heal after a mission? Pay, pay, pay, pay and pay. What’s worse not only does the game charge for every essential facet of the game it even charges to level up your avatar and five companions. Worse still, the price to level up actually doubles with each successive level. More on that in a moment.

In spite of its incessant nickle and diming, I found the game’s unique approach, that of a tactical strategy/collectible card game hybrid to be a fresh and compelling way to deliver turn-based tactical strategy, and by that same token, I found the game’s first 9 or so missions to be a complete blast. What’s more, HeroCraft does a solid job of both making general sense of the card mechanics and integrating them into the game’s turn-based tactical combat missions. The cards themselves represent either one-shot weapons (attack cards), equipable weapons, movement or general use cards. Each of the game’s three combat classes comes with its own deck, which overall boils down to classes having generally similar cards, more of certain types and a few class-unique cards. For example, the Wolf Scout (sniper) class gets both equipable and one-shot sniper rifle cards that the other classes don’t.

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During missions each playable character’s hand is displayed along the bottom of the screen. Any of the game’s cards can stand in for a standard movement card. When used in this way, the card is played and lost from your hand. Savvy players will thus maintain a small contingency of crappy cards to sacrifice and by so doing, be able to focus the game’s severely limited allotment of resources on a smaller elite deck within their deck.

All combatants, both player and AI, get two action points to spend per turn with initiative being decided by way of a timer. You can mitigate this limitation by either setting back the timer via ‘effort’ cards or by ending your turn after spending only a single action point, but you have to be careful that you don’t overdo the single-move tactic or you will find yourself being handily outmaneuvered by your opponents.

With no cover mechanic, an utter lack of firing stances and limited turns and movement, Space Wolf more closely follows the Space Hulk model over that of Xcom or Jagged Alliance. Yet in spite of these missing tactical conventions, Space Wolf offers up a bevy of options to consider within each turn. Whether it’s attempting to manipulate the timer by taking a single move turn, or choosing to use an equipable weapon over a one shot, or choosing a facing that will optimize your approach two turns down the line, there’s no denying that, at its core, Space Wolf boasts some very nuanced gameplay.

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Sadly, this compelling gameplay is badly unbalanced about midway through the game’s three tiny campaigns—or sooner or later, I should say. Depending on how many IAPs you buy and when, the game’s difficulty curve spikes and winning missions eventually becomes impossible, unless you’re willing to buy bunches of expensive IAPs to compensate. While this is a common (and lame) aspect of most freemium titles, it’s particularly egregious here because grinding to compensate is barely an option. First off, Space Wolf’s wonky multiplayers pays out peanuts. Secondly, the game’s daily rewards are counted in multiples of ten, while leveling each of your characters begins in the thousands and ends in the tens of thousands. Lastly, replaying Space Wolf’s small array of missions to earn extra credits is out, as  replaying only pays if you achieve one of a mission’s three goals—goals I should add that payout little, do so only once, and are often enough nearly unattainable. The end result is a particularly frustrating and exorbitantly expensive paywall.

I initially hoped that, like Blizzard’s Hearthstone or Gameloft’s Dungeon Hunter 5, we might have a fair freemium title on our hands. Because of this and because we endeavor to give every dev a fair shake, I invested $40 in Space Wolf’s IAPs (a liberally fair number considering the relative dearth of content). This investment rendered Space Wolf playable up to about mission nine or for about three hours. After which, because of the exponentially rising costs of leveling, the game quickly became ridiculously expensive, especially for an app. Just moving from level 7 to 8 would have cost me an additional $40. To be clear that is moving three of the game’s five playable characters up a single level. Also bear in mind that after that move there are levels 9 and 10 to consider, to say nothing of the card booster packs, buying credits, weapon parts, two types of runes (card enhancement and extra life runes), and the cost of healing your Space Wolves between missions. In short, Space Wolf is an unholy rip-off.

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Again, there’s no denying that an excellent strategy/card game hybrid sits at Space Wolf’s heart, as there’s no avoiding the fact that in the end it is completely hobbled by so many annoying, overpriced IAPs that even the most frugal gamer would end up spending well over $100 to finish this app (within a reasonable period of time). While this paywall is in place, we cannot recommend Space Wolf. What’s more, because HeroCraft deigned to drag a decidedly hardcore genre deep into the freemium mud, we actually recommend that core gamers avoid it like the plague that such games might be.

If you’re a mobile gamer who loves tactical strategy, check out The Banner Saga, Final Fantasy Tactics or either of the two superb Xcom games. And when you find yourself caught between extremes, whether it’s excellent gameplay marred by hosts of ludicrously expensive IAPs or the aforementioned hot blind date reaching for your lighter, we say life is not a dress rehearsal, drop the nut off at the next block and hit uninstall, whichever the case might be.

 

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Barcode Knight Review http://www.hardcoredroid.com/barcode-knight-review/ http://www.hardcoredroid.com/barcode-knight-review/#comments Mon, 17 Aug 2015 13:00:51 +0000 http://www.hardcoredroid.com/?p=35365 Android - RPG - Barcode Knight - 02Barcode Knight is a game that doesn’t think to hard about what it is, which is a pretty straightforward RPG/dungeon crawl with a bit of a twist on the formula. The twist isn’t so much having to do with the gameplay, but how you get into dungeons in order to crawl. You don’t travel on a world map or walk around at all, for that matter. You scan barcodes and then the barcode generates a fight between your characters and whatever the barcode produces for you. It’s an odd feeling when you find yourself rummaging through video game cases, empty soda cans and books in order to scan their barcode and then have your fight socks rocked, but something about it is strangely addicting.

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It should be noted that barcodes aren’t necessary if you aren’t near something to scan. (Or let’s face it; you’re too lazy to get up) You can spend in-game points in order to generate fights that are randomized. This can lead to you getting dropped into a fight that you are totally not prepared for, however. There were several times when I took the random portal only to have my face ripped off by a couple of really high-level goblins or some such. Then again, it’s tough to gauge what really dictates the difficulty of barcode-generated fights. I had thought it depended on  the monetary value of the item that you’re scanning is, but I scanned my PS4 box and had a pretty easy fight generated for me.

As you continue, you unlock certain areas that you can click on in order to buy weapons, armor, improve them and recruit some fighters in order to even the odds in a fight. There is also a boss portal that you can unlock that makes the random portal look like child’s play. I tried several boss fights (which cost quite a bit of points) and was promptly destroyed by the creatures that lurked beyond the veil of the portal. Those fights are meant for hardened warriors who have quite a few battles under their belt.

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Combat itself is pretty conventional. You suit up your warrior with his gear, arm him with his weapon and unleash him on the field. He fights without direction from the player, and all you have to do is press the heal button occasionally when you see that your little warrior is about to be felled.

I am personally not a fan of detached combat. Not having direct influence of the outcome of a battle tend to leave me feel cheated. However, the barcode battles tend to be quite simple, and you can have a pretty high-level character in very little time. This leads to jumping into random battles to test you mettle and ultimately ends in the boss portal, where you will no doubt be humbled a couple hundred times before you upgrade your weapons and armor sufficiently in order to take them on.

While it’s true that the concept for the game isn’t exactly rocket science, there is a bit of elegance in simplicity and as far as RPGs go, there are certainly worse.

 

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Mazes of Karradash Review http://www.hardcoredroid.com/mazes-of-karradash-review/ http://www.hardcoredroid.com/mazes-of-karradash-review/#comments Sun, 16 Aug 2015 22:14:12 +0000 http://www.hardcoredroid.com/?p=35356 Android-rpg-mazes-of-karradash-01

Mazes of Karradash clearly draws inspiration from the early days of the dungeon-crawler genre, hearkening back to the era with a clever loading screen featuring a pixelated image of a floppy disk. In those days, you needed a whole desktop computer and time to commit to your dungeon crawling. Now, that computer is a phone that can fit in your pocket, and with Mazes of Karradash you can dive into that dungeon at any time. This synthesis of old aesthetic and new gameplay results in a solid game that will please both casual and hardcore gamers.

All the typical hallmarks of the dungeon-crawler genre are present in Mazes of Karradash. Your quest is to trek into the darkest depths of the dungeon of Karradash, passing through different levels filled with monsters that get consecutively nastier and more dangerous. Along the way you also find chests filled with precious loot, such as gold coins, potions, and relics. These items come in handy for Karradash’s unique feature: your village.

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The thing about Mazes of Karradash is that you shouldn’t get too attached to any one of your characters, they’re almost certainly going to die and never come back. The game has a permadeath system, which is just as unforgiving as it sounds. But your heroes’ deaths are never in vain, because the spoils of their journey go to improving the resources of your village, resulting in future heroes who will be better outfitted for the journey. After an ill-fated round leaves your hero dead, you can use their gold to purchase things like Academies, which allow you to unlock new classes, or Farms, to boost you starting attributes. Other types of loot, like relics, unlock new weapons and armour classes.

This system, while greatly enhancing the replay value, does mean that Mazes of Karradash comes with a bit of a difficulty curve. At the start of the game, you’re limited to playing as only human warriors fighting with their bare hands or rusty daggers, and you’re not destined to last very long. However, with each new attempt at the dungeon and additional races and classes, you start to get the hang of things and can easily move on to more challenging levels of the dungeon.

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Having to send in character after character to their deaths just to acquire better equipment can feel like a grind at times, but Mazes of Karradash is just as easy to put down as it is to pick up. Its autosave feature ensures you won’t lose your place, even if your phone freezes, so you can play for short bursts on your lunch break or crawl for an hour or two, depending on your fancy.

Despite the beginning difficulty curve, what makes Mazes of Karradash so playable is that the cost of entry is so low. Combat is based on a simple turn system, and if you are ever confused about any of the icons on the screen, there is a link to an online manual on the home screen of the game, which you can exit to at any time without losing progress. Unlike other classic RPGs, the manual of Mazes of Karradash is hardly dense. First-timers of dungeon-crawlers will have no trouble understanding the mechanics at work, while veterans will likewise be pleased by the game’s faithfulness to the genre.

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With their simplistic designs and straightforward gameplay, it almost seems as though dungeon-crawlers were just waiting for a platform like mobile phones to come along. Mazes of Karradash capitalizes on the mobile device’s ability to attract both casual and hardcore gamers, and offers a gaming experience that will please both.

 

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