Gameloft mould a Zelda-like onto iOS using their magic cloning clay… With mixed results
First up, if anyone had any doubt to this games inspiration, then you are mad. This is a Zelda clone through and through. Gameloft even admit it by calling two horses Miya and Moto. (An obvious reference to Nintendo’s Miyamoto having been the creative mind behind the Legend of Zelda. From the story, characters and gameplay mechanics, it takes all of what is good about Nintendo’s masterpiece, pulls it apart and puts it back together again on iOS… Unfortunately they didn’t have the Hayes manual to slot those parts back in the right place.
Sacred Odyssey simply doesn’t have the chops to pull it off. Like many Gameloft games (pretty much all of them) you are not given the freedom to discover things for yourself. Instead you are repeatedly told where to go and what to do almost immediately through either story dialogue or with your mini-map and the question mark symbols.
The game is broken up into what is essentially two parts. The over-world and the dungeons/temples. It is these over-world elements where this hand-holding is most evident. For example, early on in the game, you find that an airship is blocking your path. An NPC tells you you must find a winged man to retrieve an object. But instead of sending you off on a quest where you must talk to multiple NPC’s, and complete a few mini-quests before finally finding out where he is, the game shows him as a question mark just a short walk away from the airship. Where’s the adventure in that?
All to often this is the case in the over-world sections. Simply follow the markers and/or wait for some dialogue and you’ll soon know exactly what to do, where to go, or be taken straight there in a matter of moments. At least with games such as Aralon, you know that you’ll often have to travel great distances, and slay many creatures to get to your next objective. While there may be some of you without the patience for these long journeys, it is a staple of this genre of game, and so to remove that adventurers spirit is an odd decision. It makes the game seem like it’s impatiently trying to rush your through to the end.
Another example of this is with your steed. You can’t have a Zelda-like without one, and it is one of the greatest moments in Ocarina of time when, after hours of walking around on foot, that you finally earn the right (and come of age) to ride Epona the horse. Sacred Odyssey, on the other hand, can’t wait to get you in the saddle. Within the first ten minutes of the game, before even unlocking the full adventure, you are riding off to the nearest town. Gameloft have missed the point that the excitement and wonder of first riding Epona in Ocarina of time, was because you worked hard for it. Because of this it stops you from developing a bond with your character, his horse and the characters around him.
The second part, the dungeon’s of the game, do fair a lot better. In fact they are pretty darn challenging with multiple head scratching puzzles that even Professor Layton would find taxing, and are without doubt the best that the game has to offer.
Once in a dungeon, you must fulfil various tasks in order to reach the temple’s boss and retrieve a piece of an object, for which this whole game is about. These tasks generally require you to utilise new weapons recently revealed to you, so for instance a powerful glove to break ice in the ice temple, and a boomerang style weapon to reach the unreachable in the fire temple. Environmental puzzles are designed to take advantage of this, and eventually when you meet the bosses you’ll use the same knowledge.
Like Metroid and Zelda, the bosses here require strategy to beat. With multiple hit points you must take out the vulnerable areas, and from there take out their HP. They are pretty challenging and are the only place in the game where you are likely to die. That is if you forget to replenish your health before a fatal blow, with numerous health pickups dotted around and available in bulk from merchants.
The presentation too, is a highlight of the game, particularly the audio. Yes, even the dialogue is well acted (a first for a Gameloft game), with humour and drama delivered in equal measure, and I didn’t once feel the need to turn the sound off. A good thing too, as the music really is top notch.
Visually it’s pretty solid too, though Gameloft’s graphical engine is showing it’s age, particularly in the lighting department and the mannequin-like characters lacking any emotion to support the voice acting. Apart from a pretty shocking example of fog to cover up geometry pop-up, the environments are a standout, and gives a good sense of scale. Particularly the temples. Quite why this game doesn’t support older devices is a mystery.
Controls, for the most part, work well, with Gameloft’s brilliant and responsive virtual stick and context based button combo. You’ll have no problem pointing him wherever you want to go. However, the implementation of the controls in the gameplay is less than stellar. Once again there really isn’t any challenge involved. You can’t fall off ledges for example, so any platforming sections are never risky. Sword fighting is mind numbingly boring, thanks to a ‘nearest enemy’ lock on that relegates battles to mindless button mashing. Why a more advanced fighting system, the likes of Hero of Sparta, couldn’t be implemented is odd.
And again, that damn horse tramples on proceedings. Not only can you instantly switch between on-foot and riding (why can’t we call her to us with a magical flute?) but she also lacks any realistic momentum. So what you end up with is a just a faster version of being on foot, that once again needs no mastery of skill.
Gameloft state that this is the most ambitious action RPG yet to grace the AppStore. Ambition is one thing, but delivering on that ambition is quite another. Unfortunately, Sacred Odyssey is lacking in too many areas, many of which are paramount for this genre to succeed. Because of this, it fails to offer a consistently good experience worthy of the 5+ hours you’ll need to sink into it.
Sacred Odyssey is available as a free to try download, with the main game unlockable for $6.99 with-in the game.