Coldfire Keep is an old-school dungeon crawler. It emphasizes puzzle-solving over role-playing, but there's plenty of loot, and there's something cozy and reassuring about making your way through a single dungeon rather than wandering around a sprawling world.
At launch, Coldfire Keep had a bit of a rough start due to some control and stability issues. It has been updated 4 times since then, and I'm happy to report that the swipe controls work beautifully on both my iPad Air and my Retina Mini, and that I have encountered no noticeable bugs. Now then, onto the gameplay. Coldfire Keep is a traditional dungeon crawler. You begin the game by assembling your team of four adventurers. Normally, I would call this the role-playing portion of the game. However, its actually pretty shallow here, and you will more than likely end up selecting one character from each of the available classes (Warrior, Rogue, Caster, Shaman). Stat allocation gives the outward appearance of flexibility, but allocate points at your peril, because there is no customization of classes, and while pumping a caster's brawn will result in a hybrid brawny caster, it will not work very well. Hint: enter the game without spending any points and the game will automatically allocate them based on your character's classes. Enter the game, and you will immediately find yourself within the dungeon where one of your party members inexplicably shouts: Welcome to Coldfire Keep! triggering a scripted exchange between your group. This will periodically happen throughout the game, and I found it more of an obstruction to play than an enhancement to my immersion, but to each his own.
While the core gameplay of Coldfire Keep involves quite a bit of (turn-based) combat, the real challenge (and the fun) is solving the puzzles that will allow you to advance, and finding all the hidden secrets. Of course, there is also plenty loot to find, levels to gain, and mysteries to be solved; and I found the whole experience quite enjoyable. One word of warning, however, followed by an important piece of advice. Food and hunger play a major role in this game, and running out will mean a slow lingering death to your entire party. Normally, this mechanic ruins a game like this because you don't feel like you can linger and explore. However, the designers have wisely chosen to implement a mechanic that will keep this from happening. Hint: buy the fishing tackle at the first available opportunity. As fun as it is, I still have a few complaints. First, games like this really need map overlays, as well as the ability to make notes on a master map. Trying to remember the location of switches and unfinished areas is actually no fun at all. Second, the loot drops feel a bit scripted to me; like you only get what you are supposed to get, when you're supposed to get it. I prefer my gaming a bit more organic, and I'm willing to take the chance of getting junk in exchange for the chance to get something truly epic. Playing through to the end will take you anywhere from 10-12 hours; less if you ignore the hidden secrets.
The graphics of Coldfire Keep, which decidedly old-school in style, are crisp and feature modern lighting effects. this is important because you will definitely want to examine every location for anomalies, hidden switches, and clues leading to hidden areas. Also, unlike its predecessors from the 80's and 90's, movement is smoothly animated instead of jarringly redrawn for each tile entered.
The soundtrack and effects are decent, although they don't particularly stand out.
In-App Purchases (IAPs)
Coldfire Keep is a premium game so expect to pay when you buy it, and never again unless new content is released.
In spite of a few quibbles, fans of classic dungeon crawlers are likely to thoroughly Coldfire Keep. It's also accessible enough for those looking to dip their toes in the genre for the first time. If you're looking for a deep, flexible, and unforgiving role-playing experience, however, Coldfire Keep is not that kind of game, and doesn't try to be.
Ratings (scale of 1 to 5):
Graphics: - 4 - One of the best looking dungeon crawlers available on iOS Sound: - 3 - The music and effects don't particularly stand out as either good or bad. Controls: - 4 - Much improved since its release. Choose swipe controls over D-Pad. Gameplay: - 3.5 - I would have preferred a meatier RPG experience, and a more randomized loot table, but the dungeon crawling and puzzle-solving are very well done.
Playing Hints and Tips:
Buy the fishing tackle as soon as you can. Be prepared to travel between floors to solve certain puzzles. Let the game allocate your stat points at the beginning.