Being a huge fan of both mobile games and old school RPGs, I came to Wizrogue, the latest offering from Forever Entertainment, with high hopes as the game claimed to be a tactical roguelike RPG built using the trappings of Wizardry. Those hopes were quickly impaled upon the tines of floor trap as the game bears few of the hallmarks of either the Wizardry series or traditional roguelikes. For those of us looking to play PC and console-style RPGs on our phones, the title is a mixed bag at best, though not without a measure of charm.
Though it is at present a premium title, the game’s mechanics are suffused with the conventions of freemium titles. This is no doubt due to the fact that the Wizrogue began life in the Asian markets as a freemium game. Rather than a character creation system, Wizrogue uses the increasingly popular character lottery system, familiar to anyone who has played free-to-play or collectible RPGs. After providing you with a low-level party you can buy random low-stat “common” characters with gold and more robust “uncommon” and “rare” characters with the game’s hard to get currency wizjewels. Later you can develop rares with the right mix of gold and other hard to find resources into “super rares.” You can also find randomized new characters while dungeoneering, with the high-end variants being exceedingly hard to find. While there is some fun to be found in this sort of new character lotto, it also proves in a number ways to be a pain the ole wazoo.
Customization is also badly compromised. Not only is there no place to create at least a lead character, you can barely customize the ones you win. While you can’t procure armor for your little dudes, a serious detractor from any RPG, you can outfit them with weapons and shields, and the new items neatly appear on the well-wrought 3D icons that represent your party. While you can’t customize your character’s race, icon, portrait or essential statistics, you can change their name and for a hefty price their class. The resulting stew of light customization and new character lotto feels largely like a compromise between the old and the new, with the crappier new school clearly winning out.
In other news, Wizrogue provides a fair amount of options for dungeon preparedness. If you tap the store tab from the game’s main menu, you will find most of the usual fair: potions and gear as well as upgrades to your pack and roster size. Clicking the labyrinth tab gives you a host of dungeons to explore. Sadly, there’s no story attached to any of the game’s many dungeons other than a paltry introductory sentence for each. As you complete available dungeons and move up in level numerous new ones open up.
Once you get your party down into Wizrogue’s simple procedurally rendered dungeons, the gameplay is well-balanced and generally fun, though there are a number of remarkable detractors. Your party, represented by what looks like six D&D painted miniatures sort of glued together at the base, vibes at both wonky and kind of cool. Much in the vein of traditional RPGs, your best off filling out your party’s front row with fighter types and your back row with a cleric, thief and magic user. While you can use the latter to respectively heal, open chests and throw a handy AOE spell, your support crew can’t attack while your fighters are attacking. For some reason, your front-end tanks can attack as one but that’s it. You can never assault with your front row tanks while casting a mean-ass fireball. Worse still, magic is relegated to a certain number of spells per labyrinth and the game fails to convey in a tangible way how the number is come upon or gauged. I found myself trying to save my spells for final levels and often ran out long before I got there, unsure of how it happened, and while running out may be the point, the whole spell mechanic is badly compromised if its guiding stat is opaque.
Though Hardcore Droid is dedicated primarily to premium games, we are sometimes forced to concede that although freemium games are generally steaming piles, there are among the millions of free Android games, a number of good ones, and a few game mechanics that stem from the freemium world aren’t occasionally half-bad—sometimes, when implemented in the right game, on a full moon. Some of Wizrogue’s freemium conventions work well. When you hit the big one and win a new rare character it’s pretty gratifying. At the end of the day, however, the worst aspect of this title is that fact that it started life as a freemium game with old school aspirations. The result is a title that is just too busy for its own good. There are too many resources, too many characters with arrays of stats that often seem to have little bearing on gameplay, too many skills and spells that don’t add up to all that much, too many samey three level dungeons and much of these trappings when stripped of their freemium carrot and stick feel unnecessary.
The best of the Android RPG lot: the Baldur’s Gate and Final Fantasy games, mobile originals like the Tales of Illyria games are great titles in any context and yet there’s no getting around the fact that overall the pickings are rather slim when it comes Android RPGs. In this context, Wizrogue isn’t half bad. Dungeon exploration and combat, caveats aside, is often enjoyable. If you can get passed the absence of a narrative, redundant game elements, a lack of customization options and the game trying to string you along with dubious resource gifts for logging in and checking your jack-ass in-game email, then you might enjoy yourself. If you are looking for core RPG gameplay, however, look elsewhere.
Is it hardcore?
A sometimes passable RPG marred by poor design choices and overwrought freemium game mechanics.