A solid imitation, but it’s not an original work of art.
Gather round, children, and hear my tale. The tale of a young warrior, his quest to save the world from some very bad people, and how he learned a great deal about himself along the way. What’s that? You say you’ve heard this before? No, it’s not Final Fantasy. No, not Earthdawn either. No, it’s in a new iPhone game called Chronicle of ZIC, an RPG that seems to be hell-bent on imitating every classic RPG out there, but not doing enough to be truly memorable on its own.
The game’s story is your typical fantasy fare: a young man named Zic has a mysterious past. At the start of the game you’ll determine what character archetype you’ll want to play as: knight (fighter), hunter (rogue/thief), and sorcerer (mage). He then discovers that he’s fated to save the continent from a nebulous “devil scheme” masterminded by a couple of nefarious individuals. If you’ve played one fantasy RPG, you’ve most likely seen this story.
Unfortunately, it takes way too long to get this story rolling. The game features a number of narrative sequences establishing Zic’s basic backstory, and none of them are terribly interesting. They are long, however, and each one takes a little while to load. On top of this the text was obviously translated into English - sometimes awkwardly with confusing phrasing – and uses an italic font that is extremely difficult to read on the iPhone’s screen. Even if you play the game on an iPad and enlarge the image size to fill the screen, the text is still hard to read.
The other big frustration comes in the form of combat and navigation. Players move Zic via a virtual D-pad on the left hand side of the screen, meaning there are only four directions to travel. Combat is handled in real time by mashing down on an attack/action button on the right side of the screen, while special actions/abilities are managed with a series of slots running across the bottom of the screen. When you attack, you also move forward.
As a result, movement and combat often feels awkward and stilted; it’s particularly frustrating to be fighting an enemy at the edge of a screen and suddenly move to a new environment because your attack carried you one step too far.
That’s the problem with this game: there are so many minor issues with it that it never gets close to being great. Instead, it seems to hover somewhere between “adequate” and “OK” when it comes to having fun.
There are some things that are done well, particularly the projection values. Graphically, the environments and characters look pretty solid, but they’re not amazing. Everything is seen from a top-down perspective, with graphics that have a lovely hand-drawn aesthetic. Dialogue between characters is represented via some lovely portraits with text underneath, and playing the game is often reminiscent of many early PlayStation titles thanks to its style.
Likewise, the audio is great, too. Music, when it’s present, is often perfectly suited to the environment. You’ll often wander through environments where there isn’t music, but there are appropriate sound effects that feel perfectly suited for the locations.
If you’re looking for an RPG to while away a lot of free time, you could do worse than Chronicle of ZIC, but you could also do a lot better. This is a game that stays firmly in the middle of the crowd, and never seems able to stand out.