Open-world on the small screen.
A quick perusal of the Play Store reveals a massive, varied selection of role-playing games ranging from Social RPGs to Rogue-likes; from Japanese-RPGs to dungeon crawlers. But a real open-world RPG? That’s a rare sight indeed. Crescent Moon’s Aralon attempts to bring the feel of games like Gothic and Elder Scrolls to our phones, and succeeds in a way no other game has so far. Mobile gaming has a long way to go before we have our own Skyrim, but Aralon is an important first step.
If Aralon seems dated, that’s because it is. Originally released on iOS over two years ago, the Dreamcast-quality graphics are definitely not up to snuff with the latest graphical showcases from EA or Madfinger. You’ll see a lot of blurry textures, stiff animations, and primitive, blocky environments, but it’s easy to forgive all of that, once you start trotting across them on horseback. While this world may be miniscule when compared to today’s console and PC RPGs, it’s far beyond the typical Android fare.
Your quest begins when a dying man claiming to know your dead father finds himself on your doorstep. From there, the plot is thin and riddled with clichés, but Aralon’s joy is in building your character and exploring the eponymous world. You can choose from three different races and four different classes, with different skill trees and abilities, which make for varied experiences, and succeed in lending the game some replay value. As you level up, you’ll assign points and unlock new abilities, which can be equipped to a hot-bar at the bottom of the screen. All of the depth you’d expect from a full-fledged RPG is here, from crafting to enchanting equipment.
That isn’t to say that Aralon is quite a full-fledged open-world game. The world is still divided into discrete areas, linked by choke points (and loading pauses), and isn’t really open in the same way as an Elder Scrolls game. Despite this, you’ll still find a great deal of freedom. The game never tries to stop you from going off on your own, and throughout the map, you’ll find countless side-quests, most of which can be done completely independently of your progress in the story. Enemy levels don’t scale to yours, so many quests will be prohibitively difficult if you take them on too early, but the game is otherwise highly non-linear.
Combat manages to strike the right balance between being skill-based and stat-based. The actual hacking and slashing requires very little finesse, but blocking takes a lot of practice and timing, and the breadth of skills allows for a lot of tactical variety. At the start of the game, you’ll mostly just mash the attach button, but as you go on, fighting enemies becomes a lot more interesting and rewarding.
Aralon isn’t really a long game, nor is its world all that expansive. When stacked up against the kinds of games we take for granted on the PC, it’s really nothing to think twice about. But Aralon isn’t a PC game, and there’s really nothing else like it on the Android right now. It delivers what feels like a circular chunk of a modern computer RPG on your phone, and it does it without feeling like it’s been dumbed down or simplified. We won’t be talking about Aralon years from now, and it’s only a matter of time before something makes it look quaint, but until then, you really won’t find a more robust modern RPG experience on your ‘droid.
Is it Hardcore?
The world may be small, the story forgettable, and the graphics dated, but Aralon comes closer to the gameplay and feel of a modern PC RPG than any other game on Android.