I used to love Norse mythology as a young faun growing up in the cold land of Odin’s might. Thor, Balder and all the other characters connected to the powers of nature intrigued me, and still do at times. Seeing a game with the subtitle Hammer of Thor of course got me all in the mood for some serious slaying. And to some extent my thirst for blood has been satisfied some seven hours of sneaking around dungeons in Rimelands. It is not set in Norse mythology, but is rather a steam punk mixture of myths, legends and philosophical ideas. Weaponry range from swords to cool looking muskets, and they are wielded by a bodacious babe called Miss Cristo. For some strange reason you can choose the first name, and my hero went by the name Curvy. Other than that there is no character or class selection until later on when you have to select one of three skill trees to develop.
Rimelands – Hammer of Thor is a turn based dungeon crawler. You control by context dependant digital keypad. It is fairly responsive, and once you encounter an enemy the game transcends from free roaming to turn based combat. This transition is rather neat, as you get a short drum roll once an enemy is near. This helps in setting up a good strategy depending on your primary attack, and the number of enemies. Battle is all down to the throw of the dice, and both attack and defence is thrown. Depending on stats, and equipped gear you get a number of dice to attack with. The throw is automatic, but at the cost of a mana a re-throw can be done. You have a limited mana supply for each battle, and special attacks as well as re-throws for defence come at a cost. You are free to use both health, and mana potions during your turn. Once all nearby enemies are dead your health, and mana regenerates.
There are three different skill areas to develop: ranged, melee and magic. Something worth noting is that a well rounded character is weak in the game. To succeed it is better to focus on a skill otherwise Cristo becomes rather weak in attack. I focused on ranged attacks, and it soon became apparent what strategies worked best. The skill tree becomes really important, and you have a selection of passive boosts and active skills. To use a skill in combat you have to use mana, whereas the passive boosts come for free boosting abilities or stats. A handy skill early on for the ranged skill is the crippling shot chaining the enemy to the spot. This gives you a couple of shots when a melee attacker is stuck. A ranged enemy of course fires back anyway if you are within range.
What Rimelands get completely right is the gradual difficulty curve. It is always slightly challenging, and if you run headless into a room against two enemies the chance is that you won’t make it out alive. There is no grinding needed in the game, and actually there is no grinding possible either. If you have cleared an enemy from a dungeon it is gone forever. I have felt an urge to grind to get Cristo to level up, but for once an RPG won’t let me. This is the main reason to why the game manages to keep the challenge during the entire story. I managed to get Cristo to level 19, and looking through forums I understand that this is about the most you can reach. This means that you won’t be able to get all skills in a skill tree no matter if you focus on only one of the three. To me this is rather refreshing as the game can be played three times with different strategies depending on the skill tree.
There is a world map you can travel around, and in the cities you can visit a merchant. Buying and selling stuff as usual, but you can also dismantle special items you have found. The dismantled material can be used to build gear and weapons by means of found blueprints. You can also enter codes found online to unlock new blueprints. Generally you have quite a low amount of building material making this less of a cheat than it might sound like. Furthermore the game gives you proper loot corresponding well to the level of difficulty. Compared to quite a few other dungeon crawlers new weapons do matter in Rimelands. The character screens are rather clunky, and shallow in my opinion. It is easy to compare gear though, and depending on your strategy of choice you have to decide what to equip.
The story in Rimelands is rather low key, and never gets really interesting. The urge to keep going comes more from the fact that I want to be able to beat the game. A perfect challenge can bridge any holes in the story. The game is completely linear, and there are not that many side quests that are really optional. At least I didn’t get that feeling when playing, and once the game gets challenging I want to be able to gain as much experience as possible. In that case it doesn’t matter if a quest is needed to proceed.
The presentation is really good rivalling Dungeon Hunter in creating the best dungeon crawler graphics. Cool lighting, and environmental effects set the mood. The enemies are moderately varied, but could have been slightly more polished graphically. The outdoor graphics remind me of those found in Baldur’s Gate for the Xbox, which equals really good. The music is laid back, and could have been more bombastic to fit the game. You can play your own music alongside the sound effects, which is my choice for Rimelands. The sound effects are quite repetitive, and the footsteps in snow sound quite off. The fact that there is no voice acting at all found in the game struck me as rather odd. As there is no choice of hero you would kind of assume that the hero would be fleshed out with a voice.
Rimelands : Hammer of Thor is an extremely enjoyable game due to keeping the challenge going, and I really hope to be able to continue the adventure. Not because I care about the story, but rather because the game mechanic works well. It is like a highly simplified combination of Diablo and X-Com. I recommend it, and since Thor is actually the origin of the first half of my name, my word is law.
Rimelands : Hammer of Thor $4.99
Seller: Crescent Moon Games LLC
Tested on an iPhone 4.