iPhone Game Review: Undercroft
Reviewed by JadeDragon
Undercroft is one of the most accomplished games on the iPhone and iPod touch. It's a traditional RPG that has a massive world, large collection of weapons, armor, spells and ton of quests. If dungeon crawling, hacking monsters and the undead, collecting loot and building hero characters are you idea of RPG fan, then Undercroft provides a long and satisfying journey.
Rumors go around the land that a great evil has risen on an old abandoned royal graveyard near the city of Dolbrad. The Dead are walking around the place killing everybody, who tries to explore secrets of the tombs. Stories reached a small remote town, where travelers and merchants meet. In the tavern they talked timorously about ferocious corpses wandering the graveyard during nights. It is under this backdrop, you take up arms and venture into the wild. Though your goal is to defeat the evil in Dolbrad, the road leading to the big city is far and dangerous. You will meet people good and evil, and fight creatures from many origins along the way. The good news is you don?t have to do this alone. In Undercroft, you can create a band of heroes, giving them each a different skill set and building them to undefeatable super heroes.
Just like in traditional RPGs, your heroes can gain status including Strength, Dexterity and Constitution. There are 12 skills available for each character, and each character has a class (Warrior, Assassin, Priest, Mage and Summoner). The skills correspond to the class, i.e. Mages have spell skills, Warriors have weapons skills, Priests have healing and resurrection skills, and so on. But there are a good mix of skills and balanced for each class so that nobody is left defenseless. But in general, Mages are range character, Warriors are good for melee fighting and Assassins can sneak and like to use throwing weapons. The character building is fun in Undercroft, especially when you create and control four of them.
For a mobile game, Undercroft has unbelievable number of weapons, armor, spells and items. The weapons include melee collections like axes, maces, swords, etc. and range weapons include bows, throwing knives and explosives. The weapons also have elemental (ice and fire) and illness (poison and stun) effects. The fighting system in Undercroft is turned based and works very smoothly. The turn-based fight isn?t very fancy like in Final Fantasy series, but it works for the game. It generally doesn?t take much of thinking once you?ve built up some strong skills and the strongest weapons. The elemental aspects of the fighting system is very logical, you will soon learn to use certain types of weapons and spells against certain monsters. Armor works in a similar way and has protection ratings, added stats and skill points and elemental defense points.
There are 6 maps in Undercroft and the map has different types of terrain and dungeons to offer the adventurers. One thing to note, once you leave one map onto the next area, you can?t come back to the previous map. Then again if you?ve done all you have to do on one map, the game gives you no reason to come back. You get plenty of quests in each location, and the quests range from killing monsters, to finding missing people to collect certain things. And you even get tricked into a quest and end up fighting the quest giver, and there is also a maze puzzle quest. Most quests are pretty obvious in terms where to go and what you have to do, but the game is very good at providing different types of quests so that you don?t get bored doing the same type of things over and over. Questing without loot is no fun, Undercroft won?t disappoint you on that. For every rock you turn and very corner to investigate there always seems to be some loot waiting for you. When you beat enemies you often get what they left behind as well. The game gives you plenty of place/traders to trade with which makes it easy to manage your slotted inventory.
The dungeons in Undercroft are usually easy to get around. You will need to work some levers and push some buttons for open hidden areas, so always look around you for the signs of hidden rooms and areas. The dungeon maps and environment vary and correspond to the areas you are in or the monster that control them (like the fire pit is red and filled with fire demons). The enemies increase in stats as your heroes do, and some respond to elemental effects (like fire effect wood druid more, ice weapons kill the fire monsters faster, etc.). Some of the monsters have elemental and illness attacks as well. So stock up on potions or spells that cure the effects or you will loose lots of turns in the fight. There is easily 20-hour gameplay, but you will likely take longer for puzzle solving and exploring each map more than once for certain quests.
The graphics are nice and the interface is very well designed. For a game with massive number of items, enemies, characters and skills, the interface is very intuitive and clear. Buttons are large enough to press with your finger easily, and battle system and controls work very smoothly. Each enemy, item, weapon, armor or book/spell has a clear look and style. The game has varied terrains like snowy mountains, forest and a big city; and the dungeons though dark not hard to see. The map works very well in the game. You can display the map in the full view mode which shows everything on that particular map (where the dungeons are, the town is, statutes and more) or in the upper right corner view mode which helps you see which direction you are moving to.
Undercroft has background music tracks and sound effects that fit the gameplay well. The music tracks have different styles for each map (highland Celtic tunes, piano airy music, symphony style track, etc.), and the game allows you to play your own iPod music by muting the in-game music. There is plenty of sound FX in the game, most of them are appropriate for the accompanying actions. There is an option to turn on/off the sound effects as well and you can adjust volumes of both sound FX and in-game music.
In a sea of iPhone and iPod touch games, Undercroft is a shinning gem. If you call yourself an RPG fan, you will fork over the $5 to buy this game. There is a Lite version free for you to try. But with a large world to explore, many dungeons to clear and many quests to complete, and not mention the weapons, armor and spells to collect, you get at least 20 hours of gameplay. For the traditional RPG lovers, Undercroft takes you on a journey that?s worthy of both your time and money.
Ratings (scale of 1 to 5):
Graphics: -4.5- Very nice and intuitive interface.
Sound: -4.5- Different BGM for each location. Both sound tracks and sound FX are nicely done.
Controls: -5- Touch control is very easy with no learning curve. For a game with a relatively complex system, this is no small feat.
Gameplay: -5- Satisfying traditional RPG gameplay. At least 20-hour gameplay and you can extend it longer with different class of characters.
Playing Hints and Tips:
-If you play the game solo, which is more challenging but more interesting, you can play the game several times to experience it with different character class. Each of them is vastly different from the others in weapons/spells, status and more.
-There is a bug in the Olga?s Maze. Don?t push any rock to the corner where the reset lever lives. You will block the reset option.
-Many people ask where to collect all 6 chickens. Since it?s in the beginning of the game, players aren?t used to the system yet. You will find more chickens in the dungeons as they are not all in the village.
Developer: Rake In Grass
Release Date: Oct 18, 2009
Buy App: iTunes App Store
Lite version (free): iTunes App Store
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