Crusade of Destiny is one of the most ambitious projects I have seen for the iPhone. It is a RPG set in a massive 3D world. Of course it becomes up to you to save this world from evil, and in true RPG fashion you start like a caterpillar, and it is up to you to guide your avatar to become a strong butterfly. A nice intro raises expectations that this might be something special, a gem in the rough.
You get to start your quest in a small village in a peaceful part of the world. You are an elf whose parents overdosed the milk rations, and added some steroids. Actually most of the friendly characters look like elves on steroids. You have to prove yourself to the trainer in town to get a sword, and get the first taste of the upgrade system. Ok, this sounds great doesn’t it? Well it isn’t really as it feels like a stripped down version of everything. The town contains about three houses where one is yours where you can sleep to regain mana and health, one is the armoury and the final one is locked. A bit barren town, and sadly that is the largest town or village I have encountered during my travels. Ok then, what about the upgrade system, surely that is deep and full of RPG goodness. You can allocate your points on either melee, magic or bow skills. You get one point to allocate for each level you reach, and depending on how many points you have in the three categories spells and attacks are unlocked. This removes a lot of the classical RPG element where you can choose how to evolve your characters abilities in at least five different categories. In Crusade of Destiny you start by adding all points to melee as you haven’t got any magical attacks in the start, and have no means to afford to buy a bow.
I mentioned the armoury where you can buy new weapons; surely there must be a lot of customization and weapons to buy? No, about three swords, three bows and two armour pieces for each body part are on offer in your approximate price range. You can walk to another village to get more expensive equipment but it is far beyond the amount of money you are villing to grind for. This gives you little incentive to play the game for the sake of customization, one of the important aspects of any RPG.
To get money you have to kill enemies, and hope for the best that they drop something. A bear drops a bear hide, and so forth. You then have to collect it by walking over it. This is quite annoying once you start using distance attacks with magic or bow. Killing something from a distance just to have to run and look for the dropped loot is tedious.
Grinding is something you must be prepared to do a lot of. A lot of the quests requires you to be of a certain level to even start them. When you tap an enemy you can see their level, and enemies a couple of levels below you are pushovers. Enemies on your level is hard, and enemies above your level are impossible. This makes grinding really boring, as you have to focus on killing the odd creature on your level but most of them on levels inferior to yours. This is because your life bar regenerates slowly, and fighting against the same level creatures will get you killed. The game promises 40 hours of gameplay but if 30 of those hours are spent grinding I think the game turns into chore.
Battle is done by either walking up to a creature, and smack away at one of the three attack buttons or by tapping the creature on screen to set a target for distance attacks. Once you are locked in battle it is a matter of button mashing, as there is no dodge or guard buttons. You can exit the battle by running away, but most creatures will follow you. Enemies come in groups of four that just stand around in an area. It looks strange when you see four bears over by a portal, four beetles next to town, and four rats in between them. This becomes a problem when you engage for example your third bear, having already killed two. All of a sudden the two killed bears respawn behind you, and if they are about your level you will get serious trouble with them.
The game world feels really designed by numbers, and in dire lack of variety and personality. Everywhere I run I meet these quadruple enemy formations, be it skeletons, golems or vampires. Sure they display different levels of aggression, and some are more prone to attacking you than others.
Some aspects of the game are done well, such as the really nice music and the inclusion of a day/night cycle where time of day/night determines what creatures roam the land. But most parts of the game feel in need of polish, and even redesigning from the ground up. Running around these villages would be nice if you could kill something based on your skill as a player, and not just based on the level of your avatar. Games such as Hybrid: Eternal Whisper has shown that you can demand skill from the player to succeed.
The quests are ok in the standard RPG style with collect this and that, and rescue him or her objectives. The User Interface is quite good for the most part, and you can look at your objectives at any time. As you won’t get any weapons or equipment dropped by enemies you won’t need to check out what to use. A strange thing is that you get to buy things from the stores by talking to the storeowner, but selling is done through your own equipment screen. The game has an extensive help file letting you know things such as that, thankfully.
Crusade of Destiny feels half finished, and unfocused. Your hero runs around the countryside all alone, it all feels so barren. The story lacks passion, humour and connection between the intro and actual game. All the grinding needed is quite boring as you just mash the attack buttons. Sure you get more attacks to assign to the three buttons but still the game requires no real skill.
At $9.99 the level of polish expected is far from what Crusade of Destiny can offer. I applaud it for being an ambitious project, and a few updates might make it more enjoyable alongside a price cut to a third of the now asked price.
Presentation and graphics
It is hard to rate the graphics in Crusade of Destiny as it runs really smoothly in 3D but at the same time the game world is devoid of detail. The odd three, door and house are all there is beside the enemy formations. Characters all look more or less the same. Enemies are blocky, and lack in movement animation. Still despite all the shortcomings the graphics are quite pleasant once you move around.
Good music setting a nice tone to the game in true RPG style. The sound effects are quite standard with the odd kapow as you hit an enemy. If you already play your own music upon starting the game it will continue alongside game music and sound effects. Simply turn down the game music volume to have your own music with sound effects.
The touch controls work fairly well. There is a lack of multitouch when you walk towards an enemy that you want to target. You have to let go of the virtual joystick to be able to tap an enemy. At times I have had trouble running left and right, and instead having to run forward, stop turn left, run forward, stop turn left. For running left or right the joystick seems to have a sweet spot that is hard to pinpoint.
The grinding element to gameplay really brings the game play to a halt. Sure most RPGs require some sort of grinding at some point but at least you get weapons or other cool things to focus on. In Crusade of Destiny you only grind to reach the next level. If you die you will get respawned at the bind point you have chosen, this can be in any of the villages. Sadly you also loose your accumulated experience once you die meaning you can’t take on harder enemies to grind faster, as they might kill you.
Several hours of grinding, no I don’t think so. There are lots of side quests, but as most of them require you to be of a certain level to stand a chance you have to grind to complete them.
Crusade of Destiny feels unpolished, expensive, unfocused and generally like a collection of ideas about how a RPG is built but not executed properly. I cannot recommend it in the reviewed version (1.0).