With its title, Skilltree Saga sets at least standard hopes with respect to the RPG genre. Images of growing from a weak, level one RPG character that looks like Kanye West at a fashion show, to a battlefield master clad in the best gear with a string of powerful attacks may flash through your head. You might also have pictures of a beautiful tree of skills with innumerable branches replete with cool and powerful skills. Put these images out of your head.
As a mobile or “casual” RPG, Skilltree Saga is not Skyrim, where you can spend hours in character creation and development. Players begin with a choice of a human, elf or dwarf. You’re then thrust into the “magravate” Griffinsford of Aventuria – I looked up “magravate” because, though the context made the meaning obvious, I suspected the word was culturally significant. It turns out margravate does roughly translate to a German province. The error didn’t bode well for the quality of the game, however.
The use of “margravate” indicates that it’s set in the Dark Eye universe. Mobile players that also play on PC might recognize the backdrop from other, better games like Dakkensang: The River of Time. Skilltree Saga was not nearly as well received by the PC Master race, and with good reason. With its title, you’re likely not imagining a deep and engaging story. That’s a good thing, since you won’t get one.
You’re trying to rescue a baron’s daughter – she’s not a princess, but that’s not exactly breaking any molds. A wise old man, the “mentor” guides you through your quest; it’s a serviceable way of delivering tutorials and hints, but by no means setting precedent. The mentor shows you the ropes; embark on journeys and enter areas for a small fee of gold, tap fight to start each encounter, and watch as the combat unfolds.
Once the battle is begun, you have no control over which attacks take place. Your success is determined in a war of stats – yours vs. your enemy’s – which you can improve by leveling up and equipping better gear. In between battles and back in town, you can use your level up points to work your way through the skill tree, unlocking new abilities for use in combat.
You set the order in which skills deploy, and can change them before starting each encounter. That makes all the difference in fights against tougher enemies, and is literally the only control you have over the combat. If you know you can’t win, you can retreat to town to keep all the gear gained along the way. If you die in combat you’re returned to town automatically, less looted items. At least you keep your gold, diamonds, and experience points.
Not being able to control combat is by no means outside of the norm for a mobile RPG, perhaps that’s why the moniker “casual” is tacked onto RPG in SS’s case. Unfortunately, it doesn’t make Skilltree Saga more engaging. The mobile games that have successfully employed a non-combat approach had more to offer in other areas; attack, enemy or location variety, character customization, or story depth are three good examples that SS ignores.
And it doesn’t ignore these things in favor of limitless upgrade possibilities aka a really broad upgrade tree. While the graphics for the game overall are shiny and smooth the tree itself is not a stunning creation in either visuals or content; certainly not stunning enough to justify the title of the game. Plus, successful game titles usually have something to do with a game’s story, not a game mechanic. The tree is actually rather stunted. Skill leaves do not glitter in the wind like twisting diamonds; in fact, the nearly barren branches require few choices. Instead, you get what has been seen in a thousand other games’ skill trees. There are few surprises here. Each base skill has two branches with four skills, and that’s pretty much it.
No, SkillTree Saga is by no means Skyrim, and that’s ok, not every game can or should take hundreds of hours to complete. But every game should entertain, and in SS, too much actual gameplay time is spent just watching the computer play against itself. SkillTree Saga’s shallow story and barren skill tree leaves the player unsheltered from the buffeting winds of boredom. If SS were free, then there’d be no harm in trying it, but there are better games for three bucks. Let the wind blow you back to the Google Play Store.
Is it Hardcore?
No, not really.
If only the tree wasn’t so barren.