Wraithborne is a single-player hack-and-slash action RPG that looks great, plays so-so, and seeks to reach into your pocket at every opportunity.
An action RPG game is one that gives you a task and a chance to level and progress your character primarily through the use of your reflexes and adrenalin at the expense of thoughtful strategy. This, in and of itself, is not a bad thing if executed correctly. Unfortunately, Wraithborne does not pull this off. When the game was released waaaay back in November, I was eager to review it as it looked great and was coming from a powerhouse of a publishing company - Crescent Moon Games. Wraithborne's iTunes description proudly proclaimed that it contained no in-app purchases of any kind, which easily justified the moderately premium price tag of $2.99. Alas, the launch did not go smoothly due to a perfect storm of control issues and deadly crash bugs. By the time they got around to fixing most of the bugs (the control issues remain, as do some crash bugs) the hype had subsided and gamers had moved on to greener pastures, fueled in part by the scathing iTunes reviews left by disgruntled customers. Unfortunately and inexplicably, when they patched it, they also added IAPs and seem to also have rebalanced the game with them in mind. While I wanted to review this game when it was released, I couldn't due to its sheer crashyness. Now that I can play it, however, I find myself less enthusiastic due to 11th hour inclusion of IAPs.
You begin your quest with very little needless backstory. In moments you will find yourself surrounded by enemies and fighting for your life. Even without the less than perfect controls (touch or D-Pad) this game is maddening to play due to the relentless onslaught of enemies and the inescapable feeling that you are walking in mud while your opponents are skipping nimbly around you on astroturf. There are weapon upgrades that can be purchased with crystals and runes to unlock that will enhance your abilities significantly. Figuring out what to do next or where to go is not a problem due to the linear nature of the map zones. This is not a compliment. Part of the fun of these games is exploring every corner in the hopes of finding loot, and this game is sadly missing that treasure hunting component. The adventure is quite short (just a few hours), but once completed you can continue to play in arena mode to gain additional crystals and loot. Oddly, this felt more like the main game than the adventure. Lastly, Wraithborne supports Game Center Achievements and Leaderboards for you achievement hounds.
This is the one area where Wraithborne really shines. This game is beautiful to look at, and the animation is smooth as silk. I found the unalterable zoom level to be a bit close for my taste, however. With Action RPGs, I prefer smaller objects in exchange for a wider view.
The sound effects and music are both very good, although neither stood out or caused me to notice them.
In-App Purchases (IAPs)
As previously noted, Wraithborne offers the chance to buy additional crystals to better arm your character. If you relent and buy some for your kids, don't hand the device back to them too quickly as one of the IAP options is a cool $20.
Wraithborne is a graphically rich action RPG that relies too heavily on IAPs to be fun. The controls are less than great and the adventure is too short. It also contains some nasty crash bugs, which, along with the IAPs and controls, means I can't recommend it one to anyone.
Ratings (scale of 1 to 5):
Graphics: - 5 - Wraithborne is a thing of beauty to look at. Sound: - 3.5 - Decent sound effects and music, but they don't particularly stand out. Controls: - 2 - Not unplayable, but I never found myself feeling comfortable with them. Gameplay: - 2 - Clearly balanced to drive you toward IAPs.
Playing Hints and Tips:
Don't forget to equip runes! The game pauses while you tinker with them so take your time. Save your crystals and only upgrade weapons when you can no longer survive with the one you have or are going blind grinding for crystals. Your goal is to NOT purchase every one as that is ultimately wasteful. Practice your different attacks on low level mobs before wading into anything approaching your level.