Genre:  Role Playing

Coldfire Keep Review: Old-school dungeon crawling done right

Feb 20, 2014

The town of Newsettle needs your help! There's evil around every corner (careful not to step in any) and it's up to you and your stalwart band of newbie adventurers to delve into the depths of Coldfire Keep, uncover the source of the trouble, and put an end to it once and for all!

A brief history lesson before we get going: The "dungeon crawler" is a type of first-person RPG, solo or party-based, with a focus on exploration, puzzle solving, collecting loot, and copious amounts of combat with a host of inhuman ne'er-do-wells. They were particularly popular in the 80s and early 90s, but by the mid-90s the genre had fallen out of mainstream gamer consciousness. In recent years, however, it's enjoyed something of a resurgence, driven largely by the 2012 indie hit Legend of Grimrock. (I delivered the same sermon in the lead-in to that review too, by the way. I like to keep readers informed.)

Now along comes Coldfire Keep, and if you've ever wished that you could go digitally spelunking on your bus ride to work, I have good news: There are some rough edges, but in most of the ways that matter, this is a game that gets it right.

Coldfire Keep follows four inexperienced adventurers as they investigate strange happenings in the ancient castle that lies just outside of town. In fine dungeon crawler fashion, that's the extent of the setup: Some monsters busted up the place and you're going to look into it because nobody else will. The tale gets a little deeper as you progress through the catacombs but it's perfunctory stuff, and the truth is that, much like climbing a mountain, you're diving deeper into the dungeon for no better reason than because it's there.

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Final Fantasy VI Walkthrough

Feb 18, 2014

Final Fantasy VI is a role-playing game from Square-Enix. In this game, you control a company of heroes out to stop a madman from decimating the world with his powerful magic.  Gamezebo’s strategy guide will provide you with some tips and hints that will help you get a good start in this grand adventure.

Final Fantasy VI

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Final Fantasy VI Review: A muted retelling of a grand old story

Feb 14, 2014

Another day, another controversial remake of a classic RPG from Square Enix. This time, the beloved SNES epic Final Fantasy VI is getting the "Vaseline treatment" – that is to say, this mobile rerelease has had its scenery and characters smoothed out to hide its pixel-based shame.

The end result looks awful, but what's really important is how Final Fantasy VI plays on mobile. And, well, after all these years, the game still ranks amongst the best RPGs released during the 90s and early aughts, a golden era for the genre.

Final Fantasy VI

Final Fantasy VI has a pretty ambitious story that's still compelling to follow. One thousand years after the destructive "War of the Magi," magic vanished from the planet and was replaced by steampunk and other technology. Magic and the people that used it faded into legend – but a slow trickle of magic is coming from an unidentifiable source, and it's enough to send the land's Emperor on a hunt for this ancient power.

War quickly follows, and the conflict grows until the apocalypse cracks the earth, poisons the water, and mutates the animals. No, really.

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Undefeated Review: Proof that the JRPG is still alive and kicking

Feb 13, 2014

Few game genres have undergone as much change and experimentation as the Japanese RPG (JRPG). Sometimes, those inflicted changes turn out to be popular. Other times, you get Final Fantasy XIII. As a result, these past couple of decades have been lonely ones for those of us who grew up with (and still love) the likes of Dragon Warrior, old-school Final Fantasy, and Suikoden.

Thankfully, there are still plenty of independent game studios willing to give us our fix of tile-based movement and magic-slinging heroes with crazy hair. Undefeated by Aldorlea Games is a particularly solid and enjoyable effort, though it has a bug or two that might throw a wrench into your plans to save the world.


The three main heroes of Undefeated, Marcus, Bastien, and Fela, are new conscripts in a world that's troubled by an ever-expanding Wasteland. While the authorities have always managed to keep the Wasteland under control, lately its monstrous plants and animals have been creeping down from the poisoned lands. After a chance encounter with a mutant wolf, the three friends are swept into a plan to figure out why the Wasteland is creeping over healthy territory – and stop the takeover, if possible.

Undefeated is a traditional JRPG through and through. You travel across an overworld map that occasionally gives way to sub-maps of forests and dungeons. You visit towns. You take on side quests for folks. You meet enemies (which can be rendered visible on the sub-maps, giving you a chance to avoid random encounters) and take turns beating the snot out of them by issuing commands via menus. Depending on what you like from your RPGs, Undefeated may be exactly what you want.

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Suits and Swords Review: Don't get caught counting cards in this one

Jan 28, 2014

As someone who makes most of his income working in the casino industry, but also enjoys playing and writing about RPGs, I sometimes feel games like Suits and Swords are messing with my head. Splicing together blackjack and a fantasy RPG could be really intriguing. Or it could be a disaster, as splicing in general sometimes is. This game manages to be neither, ending up a middle-of-the-road experience in both content and execution.

Unlike some other casino-RPG hybrids, having the inhabitants of the Suits and Swords world play blackjack to fight their battles makes some sense. That’s because the whole place is themed like a deck of playing cards, with four distinctly different lands – Heart Union, Diamond Empire, Club Kingdom and Spade Nation – in which to adventure.

Suits and Swords

As Captain Black Jack (get it?), you return to find all four nations have come under the sway of the evil Joker. No, not the famous one, but their inspiration is clearly the same. To get to him and set things right, you’ve got to defeat a number of enemies and brainwashed friends by defeating them in head-to-head blackjack play.

Most people know at least the basics of blackjack, so I won’t go into the rules here. Suffice it to say that in each round of play, if you get closer to 21 without going over than your opponent, your character attacks. The reverse is also true, and if both sides bust or have equal totals, it’s a push and no damage is done either way. Better totals do more damage, so a 21 takes away more hit points from an enemy than a 19.

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Winds of Destiny - Duels of the Magi Review: More like a slight breeze

Jan 28, 2014

Winds of Destiny - Duels of the Magi is one of the most straightforward games I've ever played. Seriously, the game is on par with Checkers as far as complexity goes. A single match in Winds of Destiny can be completed in minutes, and the entire single-player game can be knocked out within a half-hour or so. Best of all, the game's brevity comes without penalty. It’s clear that the developer, Stupidgizmo, realized the key to a good smartphone game is succinct gameplay, and they capitalized on that knowledge here completely.

Players start the game out by choosing a guardian from one of three class types: healer, protector, and "damage." There are eight guardians in total, and the only difference between them (apart from varying cosmetically) is that every character possesses a special ability which can be activated during battle. Once a guardian is selected, players meet Custos, the leader of the guardians! Custos introduces himself and it is quickly apparent that his own special ability is conjuring up walls of text out of thin air.

Winds of Destiny - Duels of the Magi

Once Custos' history lesson is over, players are plopped right into their first battle. There is no tutorial in Winds of Destiny. In lieu of a tutorial, Stupidgizmo uploaded a video onto YouTube that runs through the basics of the game. The video is linked on the main menu, which is inaccessible during gameplay: a fact I discovered straightaway. I found myself starring at a hand of cards, some with numbers, some with pictures, and I had no idea what to do.

Luckily for me, and probably the good chunk of players who failed to see the tutorial link on the main menu, Winds of Destiny is really easy to figure out. At the start of each turn, players choose three cards from the hand which has been randomly drawn. If the player selected three numbered cards, the numbers are added together and that is how much damage is dealt to the opponent.

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Tales of Phantasia Review: What a Phantastic mess

Jan 27, 2014

Free-to-play mobile titles tend to make traditional game fans furious, and when you come across a hair-pulling experience like Namco Bandai's Tales of Phantasia, it admittedly becomes hard to defend the controversial formula.  

Tales of Phantasia is a 16-bit classic action / RPG that was a huge hit in Japan, but has had a limited Western release since its debut on the Super Famicom (Super Nintendo). The original game received a fan translation that takes some creative liberties with the story and its characters (think unwarranted profanity – lots of it), and a poor Game Boy Advance remake, but otherwise, English-speakingfans will have to make do with Tales of Phantasia for mobile. What a shame, then, that Namco considers this poorly-constructed adaptation a worthy ambassador for newcomers to the series.

Tales of Phantasia is free to download, which should rightfully set off some warning bells. How does the free-to-play formula even work in this instance?

Tales of Phantasia

The answer: It doesn't work. This is a 16-bit RPG through-and-through, right down to the "orphaned hero" storyline. You grind enemies for experience, grow in levels, and buy better monster-slaying equipment. That's fine – except Namco Bandai has thrown in optional purchases like orbs that revive you when you die.

The problem with making a title like Tales of Phantasia free-to-play is that you have no idea if the game is playing fair. The mobile iteration is apparently a port of a Japanese PSP re-release, and to hear the tittle-tattle from series fans on message boards and the App Store, the mobile port allegedly jacks up the difficulty, reduces item drops, and even removes save points to goad players into buying resurrection orbs and other boosters.

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Road of Kings Review: Road of middle-ranking courtesans

Jan 17, 2014

Gamebooks have made a big comeback on mobile devices recently. But for all the nostalgia and entertainment they provide, I can’t help but feel most of them are a wasted opportunity. On a multimedia touchscreen device, why limit yourself to static pictures and text? Road of Kings attempts to take the concept to a new level by mixing in elements of rouge-like adventure games. You play a barbarian warrior who has 100 days to amass a fortune of gold big enough to buy yourself a chieftainship.

The action takes place on a top-down hex map of a fantasy kingdom. There are towns to visit, ruins to explore, and monsters and other heroes to encounter, which you can either fight or have join your party; if you choose the latter option, you must then feed them by buying food or risking hunting in the wilderness.

Road of Kings

So far, so ordinary. What’s intriguing about Road of Kings is the combination of chance encounters and scripted story. Travellers on the road or the contents of long-forgotten ruins are generated randomly, but many locations on the map provide a richer vein of adventure.

Enter one of these and the game map is overlaid by a text window describing your encounters and offering you choices in the vein of a “choose your own adventure” book. The locations of these change occasionally, but once you’re in a given adventure the script remains the same. And you’ll need to experiment and learn the rewarding choices if you want to succeed in your quest.

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Overlive Review: The Reading Dead

Jan 17, 2014

Overlive is a promising mix of things. On one hand the game is a tap-and-shoot zombie shooter, and on the other hand it's a choice-driven narrative full of decision making. Unfortunately, neither one of these elements stands out memorably. The combat scenarios involve simply tapping at static images to shoot, or swiping a finger across the screen for a melee attack, and while the writing was grammatically sound, by the end of my playthrough I was left with more dead-end subplots than I cared to remember.

In the game, players are tasked with escaping a zombie-filled city before the local nuclear power plant has a meltdown and blankets the area with atomic radiation. Instead of simply tossing players a shotgun and pointing them in the direction of the best way out of town, Overlive has players scrounging the city for a vehicle to use to escape the blast radius of the power plant. While on the hunt for a vehicle, players encounter a number of survivors and begin to unravel the mystery surrounding what really caused the apocalypse.


The problem with Overlive's storytelling is that the game can end before the story does. I literally ran the clock out, attempting to unravel the story, and ended up dying on the 180th day when the power plant exploded. I never found any answers to the half-dozen plot points brought to my attention while playing through the game. Now, while that does promote replayability (something which I typically like within a game), the gameplay itself was just too dull for me to want to have to deal with it again.

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The Banner Saga Walkthrough

Jan 16, 2014

The Banner Saga is a turn-based tactical RPG from Stoic. You play as a series of protagonists, traveling across the world, tending to your armies, and engaging in grid-based battles. Gamezebo’s quick start strategy guide will provide you with detailed images, tips, information, and hints on how to make the good guys suffer for their foolish delusions of heroism.

The Banner Saga

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