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June 23, 2022
In the time since posting my review of the first Hero Emblems game, I found myself feeling somewhat out of step with most other mobile enthusiasts. The match-three rpg had some neat combat ideas but it was wrapped in a pretty dull fantasy setting with very poor writing. Those that celebrated the title did so by praising the strength of the puzzle combat as a panacea for the rest of the game's weaknesses and appreciating it for being an IAP-free experience. Fast forward seven years and Hero Emblems II feels a lot like it's going to play out the same way. This follow up title lands almost a decade later with some updated visuals, but otherwise feels all too familiar.
It's a match
Hero Emblems II fashions itself as your typical fantasy role playing game. You follow a group of adventurers comprised of a warrior, priest, etc. and what starts as a simple quest to retrieve an item leads them to discovering an amnesiac elf in need of help. This kicks off a long, meandering quest where progress forward involves a lot of turn-based match-three puzzle combat.
Along the way, you'll meet other adventurers to add to your party, and by mixing and matching your abilities you can take down any number of spiders, skeletons, wizards, etc. that stand in your way. Much like the first Hero Emblems, the story here is not worth the price of admission. In addition to being very cliche, the same localization issues from the previous game erase much chance of finding charm in these characters or nuance in how the tale plays out.
Swapping it up
Instead of story, puzzle combat is again the star of the show in Hero Emblems II, and boy is there a lot of it. For the most part, the basic rules of the original Hero Emblems remain intact here, though there are a few twists that make Hero Emblems II conceptually deeper than its predecessor. In this game, each party member has their own life bars and your squad of four can tag out with other heroes in the midst of a battle.
Characters also unlock passive traits as they level up, some of which trigger when you swap them into a battle. This, along with access to customize what kinds of abilities party members can trigger on matching certain numbers of their emblems, allows for a somewhat granular level of customization that I'm not sure I've seen before in a puzzle rpg. My only issue with these systems is that they only sound impactful in theory, while in practice I found myself using most of the same strategies I used for the first game over and over again and not feeling like many new skills really changed any party member's role or function all that much for the majority of the game.
Swap some more
To add to the disappointment of Hero Emblems II's customization system, most of your ability to play around with it is limited by how much gold you've accrued on your journey. In order to afford new gear and abilities for your party, you'll definitely have to grind through dungeons multiple times, which makes Hero Emblems II's already somewhat lengthy combat format feel like a slog for long stretches. You won't necessarily have to grind for all the new gear you encounter, but some uneven difficulty spikes can and will eventually force you to get on the currency grind.
For some, this might be exactly what you want. To its credit, Hero Emblems II gives you a ton of match-three combat with some somewhat interesting systems layered in and some goals to aim for outside of its hard to parse story, all without ads or IAPs. This makes it a decent companion for a flight or to occupy the back of your brain as you watch tv on the couch. As a main event, or a game you want to really sink your teeth into, though, it leaves quite a bit to be desired.
The bottom line
Overall, if you enjoyed the first Hero Emblems, this sequel will probably serve you just fine. It very much feels like more of the same, but with some more customization options and updated visuals. None of these changes feel meaningful enough to change the core of its match-three combat, and outside of that the series continues to struggle in making any of its rpg trappings compelling.
from : Mid Atlantic Consulting, Inc.
June 22, 2022
The influence of FTL is still holding strong as evidenced by games like Abandon Ship. This game takes all of the roguelike elements of ship and crew management from Subset Games's breakout hit and moves them from the stars to the high seas. There are other ways in which Abandon Ship tries to establish its own identity but most of them aren't very well implemented making for an experience that constantly reminds you of an older, better game you could be playing instead.
In Abandon Ship, you play as a sea captain on the run from a group of seafaring cultists. You start with a crew of a handful of prisoners you freed in your escape and a very basic ship, with your ultimate goal being to stay ahead of your pursuers. Along the way, you sail in open waters, have sea skirmishes with pirates, and can stop off at ports to upgrade your ship, hire new crew, etc.
Along the way, it's also clear that these cultists are more than just fanatical worshippers. The world of Abandon Ship has some occult and monstrous secrets lying in wait, which mostly borrow from the realm of Lovecraftian horror and its derivatives.
For the most part, anyone familiar with FTL and the games that have already imitated it will be pretty familiar with how Abandon Ship works. You sail to a location on your map, and while there something or some things happen that you need to react to in order to move on. Abandon Ship is a little different than other titles like this in that each point of interest is like a small open world map that you sail through in real-time. This is to say you might see an event that seems like a battle and decide to take that on first before hitting the port to repair, though you have to weigh these options against the time it takes to explore the map and the ticking timer of when the cultists might arrive to try and recapture you.
All of this works... ok, but none of it looks or feels particularly great. The polygonal visuals are all pretty rough, as are the parchment-textured dialogue boxes and overlay UI elements that highlight events, units, etc. None of it feels super cohesive and functionally certain things like sailing around the map or scrolling through menus don't quite work the way you want them to. Because of the real-time nature of the game, this can create some problems, though Abandon Ship does handily provide a pause button that you can use at virtually any time to queue up commands or just assess your current status.
Test the waters
If you're curious about Abandon Ship, the game is a free-to-start title, giving players about 15 minutes of time with it before offering a few different options to pay and unlock several different campaigns and modes. Despite its brevity, this demo does give a good window into the way it looks, feels, and controls, and your comfort with those things are primarily what will affect your overall enjoyment of it. The stories from the campaigns and the level of randomized events are all serviceable with their main hook being their repeatability and your ability to strategize around completing them, and there is plenty to do even if you only pay into the main campaign unlock and not the others.
I enjoy the time I spend with Abandon Ship, but I can also never shake the feeling that I could be playing any number of games of the same mold that find more elegant and appealing ways to offer this kind of survival/combat/management/roguelike experience. Since all of these games are built around replayability, it's also hard to think of these older games as something that have been exhausted and can't be returned to. So, unless the high seas backdrop or Lovecraftian aspects of Abandon Ship speak to you in particular, I'm not sure there's a whole lot else this game offers that's better than what can be found elsewhere.
Despite some rough edges, Abandon Ship is a perfectly serviceable roguelike in the vein of FTL. The only problem with this is it's not different enough from other classics in this genre, and what it does do isn't quite up at the level of games that came before. This makes it a decent pickup if you really just need a new-looking kind of this game or cultist and pirate aethetics really speak to you personally. Luckily, if you're not sure, the opening demo version of the game is rather informative of what you can expect from the full game.
Source link: http://appadvice.com/apps-gone-free
June 21, 2022
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