Pocket RPG is loot lovers dream, but with a twist!
While a catchy title, I can’t help but feel Pocket RPG is something of a misnomer. Since the game is (at least at launch) available exclusively on the iPad, it doesn’t really fit in your pocket. Likewise, it’s not really an RPG by any conventional standards – unless you’d consider game’s like Diablo and Torchlight RPG’s, which arguably, you might. What Pocket RPG is happens to be something much larger and more action-packed than its catchy title might suggest, and I can’t help but feel that’s a good thing.
Essentially a mash-up of the twin-stick shooter genre and popular fantasy loot frenzies, Pocket RPG puts players in control of one of three classic fantasy archetypes as they work their way through dungeons, collecting better weapons and armor, and slaying hundreds upon hundreds of beasties as they go. You’ll be able to choose between the arrow-firing Dark Ranger, the melee-heavy Blade Master, and the magic-wielding Battle Mage. Each character has their own strengths and weaknesses, and their different attack styles lead to unique experiences when playing as each character.
But while each of their experiences are unique, all three control relatively the same. Movement is handled with the stick on the left and combat is controlled by the stick on the right. The combat for each character is a little different; the Blade Master will have you mashing the stick over and over to land as many sword slashes as possible, the Dark Ranger lets you keep your thumb on the stick for auto-fire, and the Mage has you hold and release, with longer holds creating larger attacks. Despite the differences though, each character’s combat controls are simple and intuitive, requiring only a moment to master.
The basic elements of loot frenzy games are front and center in Pocket RPG – players will come across new weapons and items that will boost their stats in all sorts of elaborate ways, equipping and selling on the fly in order to keep their character at the apex of what’s possible thus far. But unlike most loot frenzies, Pocket RPG takes a sharp left turn that will quickly throw veterans of the genre for a loop – after each quest is complete, you’ll lose all of the progress you’ve made so far.
This may sound like a harsh move, and admittedly some gamers may be rubbed the wrong way by this, but in shirking off your accomplishments Pocket RPG does something wonderfully unique – it forces you to make smart choices between quests to determine what sort of equipment you’ll find on your next adventure.
You see, in addition to equipment you’ll be earning gold and levels during each quest. At the end of a quest, these get distilled into spendable currency. Level points are spent on skills that will help you do things like earn experience points at a higher rate, or make enemies more likely to cower in fear of you. Gold is spent on unlocking new classes of weapons, which in turn would become available to find in your next quest.
To give you a bit of an example, let me tell you about what was available for my Dark Ranger (the character I spent the bulk of my time playing with). In addition to wearable items that offered certain bonuses, my Dark Ranger had two weapons that went hand in hand – bows and arrows. Different classes of bows could let me do things like increase my rate of critical attacks, increase my mana regeneration, etc.. Likewise, different arrow classes allowed for poisonous arrows, arrows that split in multiple directions, bounced off of walls, or even pierced through multiple opponents. Unlocking more than one of these not only opened up different loot possibilities – it meant there were weapons that could offer more than one of these classes all in a single item. So it was totally possible (and relatively common) for me to find things like poisonous arrows that could bounce off of walls, or split shot arrows that would pierce through a bunch of opponents.
It’s this neat shopping experience between quests that really sets Pocket RPG apart from the competition, though the fundamentals that keep it similar to other loot heavy games are quite well polished and enjoyable here too. Combat is great – in fact this might be the best twin stick shooter we’ve played all year – and the art and sheer variety of enemies you’ll face are a total delight.
Pocket RPG wasn’t without its problems though. In terms of stability, things at launch are a total mess. We couldn’t play for more than half an hour without the app crashing on us. When this would happen we’d still retain all of our items and experience, but we’d have to start back over at the beginning of the level and contend with certain hostile elements all over again. And, while it’s a nitpicky complaint at best, there are a handful of spelling errors like “gaurd” and “bezerk” that managed to stick out like a sore thumb against the game’s otherwise stellar presentation. Still, Crescent Moon Games is a publisher with a solid track record, so it’s hard to penalize them for these facts knowing both issues will no doubt be remedied soon.
Other issues though were less fixable bugs and more design choices that simply didn’t sit well with us. While the game offers three unique characters, it only features a single save slot. This means that if you want to try and dabble in more than one class, you’ll need to overwrite your progress and lose any progress you’ve made up until that point. This situation was particularly heartbreaking for me, as I’d taken my Dark Ranger all the way to the final boss only to lose my progress when testing out the other characters for this review.
And while the game is terrific as a single player experience, there’s just something about dungeon crawls of this nature that just beg for co-op support. Playing through with the Blade Master was a blast, but it would have been even more fun to play with a friend on a second iPad offering ranged support with their Mage or Ranger. That’s not to say that the omission of multiplayer means Pocket RPG comes off as lacking in any way, but it’s definitely something we’d love to see rolled out in a future version.
Despite our few problems, there’s no denying that Pocket RPG is an absolute blast to play. If you don’t mind the game crashing every 20 minutes, this is an easy recommendation to make – even in its current state. If you think that such frequent hiccups will rub you the wrong way, however, we’d advise waiting until a later version hits the App Store to address these problems. At launch, the game has been released as version 1.01. Hang on for at least a 02, when (hopefully) all of the bugs will have been worked out. Once the crashing issue is addressed though? Don’t hesitate to pick this one up.