This mobile RPG has more than a few problems holding it back

“Every 20 years, man kill one of their kind in the name of ‘Mate’ to regenerate Solar, which the rest of them need to breathe the air.” So it goes in Immortal Dusk, a Diablo-esque action-RPG for the Android that’s unfortunately plagued by shoddy controls, repetitive, single-button gameplay and, yes, a pretty bumpy translation into English.

20 years ago, a woman named Aesti was chosen to be the next human sacrifice in the ritual known as the Devil’s Strip. She’d been leading a team of researchers trying to find a way to end the need for this ritual, but before the work was completed they were attacked and killed by soldiers under orders from the rulers of the land. Aesti escaped but was wounded and so transferred her “hope” to the unconscious body of a young boy before dying herself. 20 years later, as the next sacrifice looms, that boy is on the cusp of becoming an official knight of the realm and undertaking a quest to uncover the secrets of the Devil’s Strip!

Immortal Dusk

Something like that, anyway. To be quite honest, the storyline in Immortal Dusk is simultaneously convoluted and not terribly interesting, problems exacerbated by the Korean-to-English translation, which is rough at best and sometimes gets downright ugly. [At least one warning message isn’t translated at all.] The nature of the gameplay doesn’t exactly lend itself to paying attention to the details, either. Missions tend to be very standard “fetch” quests – killing monsters, retrieving objects and doing all the usual things that have been done countless times in countless other cookie-cutter RPGs and MMOs – while combat, the central component of the game, is of the very standard “run up to enemies and hit them” variety, complicated somewhat by the fact that moving and attacking at the same time is impossible.

Movement is controlled by a virtual thumbpad in the bottom left corner of the display and interactions of all sorts are handled via a single virtual button on the bottom right. But button presses don’t register if the thumbpad is moved and vice versa, so if enemies are moving away, players must chase after them, stop moving and then launch their attacks. Most enemies are considerate enough to stay within attack range once the sword-swinging begins but it’s still an annoyance, and while I thought at first it was a limitation of my phone, other games don’t suffer from this issue, forcing me to conclude that it’s a frustrating idiosyncrasy of Immortal Dusk.

Another point of annoyance is the way the game only allows movement along the north-south-east-west axes, yet the town of Leed, where supplies are purchased and quests are assigned, is laid out diagonally. In order to move from one end of town to the other, therefore, players must “tack” horizontally and then vertically to move along the angled streets. I’d love to know who came up with that idea.

Immortal Dusk

Graphically, Immortal Dusk seems intended to evoke memories of old 16-bit console RPGs and its visual style may appeal to fans of that era and genre, but to my eye it’s just unexciting and dull. The audio is even worse, with a limited repertoire of sound effects and relatively short loops of repeating and rather grating background music. The menu buttons are tiny and the menu itself offers lots of options but is very vague on how to actually do anything. Very early on the game advises that healing potions should be assigned to a hotkey so they’re easily accessible in combat, for instance, but no word about how to actually do that was given and it took me a disconcerting amount of time to figure it out for myself.

If there’s one upside to Immortal Dusk, it’s that it appears to be a big game with a lot of grinding to do. Gamers with a real taste for that style of gameplay, and especially those who are also anime fans, may find enough here to make struggling with its foibles worthwhile, and those who like it should get some serious mileage out of it. It’s also free, which is always a plus and, if I may take a moment to zing, about the right price, too.

Yet while I’m not terribly familiar with the intricate ins-and-outs of the Android action-RPG genre, I find it hard to believe that this is as good as it gets. Because when you get right down to it, Immortal Dusk just isn’t very good. It’s far from the worst game I’ve ever played, but as a die-hard fan of neither the genre nor of anime, the truth is that if I couldn’t find something better than this to play, I’d just find something else to do.