Published on August 30th, 2015 | by Al Jackson1
The Best Android RPGs of 2015
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 enough quality titles to handily complete a quarter of this list of 2015’s Best Android RPGs. 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.
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.
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 RPG 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.
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 mobile-only 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.
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.
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.
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.
Any mobile gaming fan 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.
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, just that.
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.
2. Final Fantasy Tactics: War of the Lions
Often, when you tell people that you’re not a fan of Japanese Role Playing Games, 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.
1. Illyria: Destinies
We became a fan of indie developers Little Killerz when we first played Tales of Illyria: 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, but, 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.