Crusade of Destiny is the first 3D role playing game (RPG) available for Symbian^3. It’s based in a Swords and Sorcery fantasy world, much like the highly renowned World of Warcraft Massively Multiplayer Online RPG (MMORPG). Such games can be deceptively complex, requiring complex user interfaces (UI). Read on to find out how well this type of game translates into use on a touch screen mobile phone.
Wake up soldier, this kingdom won't save itself!
In its scale, Crusade of Destiny (CoD) is unlike any mobile game I’ve come across so far. While the focus of most successful mobile games, such as Angry Birds, is to provide a fun loaded quick fix; without demanding the player become too embroiled in game rules and mechanics, the RPG genre is different, the trademark of such games is their demand for a significant time commitment from players so that they can progress.
For those not familiar with RPG’s, there is a fairly steep learning curve to appreciate the rules and what it is you’re actually doing! CoD seems to assume the player has this knowledge already. To an extent, you can play the game without taking notice of the numerical side of the game, although doing so may lead to a degree of frustration.
In a sense, the story doesn’t really matter, serving only to provide a basis for the series of quests to complete. Suffice to say, an evil villain has taken power from the good benevolent queen of the land, and you will build up your skills and your abilities to eventually become the queen’s champion.
See, I told you there was a queen involved somewhere in all of this!
Before we carry on looking at the game mechanics, we should stop and look at the graphics. As the game makers, Dvide Arts, proudly claim; this is the first mobile 3D RPG, and the graphics are amazing. They take full advantage of the graphics acceleration in Symbian^3. Indeed, I found that the Nokia C7-00 I tested CoD with noticeably heated up during game play. This is hardly surprising, given the amount of number crunching the phone is doing to render and texture map the 3D models. The graphics are of an amazingly good quality, especially when compared to the desktop-based World of Warcraft.
Unfortunately, there is one major graphical bug in CoD. The graphics become a mess of blank coloured blocks when the phone is unlocked after going to sleep. All one can do is launch the task manager to kill the game (it’s times like this you really appreciate Symbian’s slick multitasking capabilities). Therefore, if you intend to stop playing for a while, you must fully exit the game, so that you don’t lose any progress.
In addition to the 3D models and landscapes, there are plenty of effects that lend extra polish to the look of CoD. When your character casts a magic spell, there is a rather impressive ball-lightning effect. The only criticism is that all the magic effects are quite samey. The game also operates on a night and day basis, with certain game events only happening at certain times of day. Indeed, finding objects in the wilderness is significantly more difficult at night when it’s harder to make out objects against dark undergrowth!
Casting a magic spell against a giant wasp.
The graphical style of the game has a slight Manga look to it, but is definitely reminiscent of the World of Warcarft style too. However, this perfectly lends itself to the graphics capability of the phone, and also entertains. Even the meaner creatures in CoD look rather cute.
Talking of graphics, the bane of RPG is that of the necessarily complex UI. Dvide Arts deserve a lot of credit here for reducing the complex UI down into something simple enough for a small touchscreen interface without compromising functionality. The most novel element is something a desktop-based RPG wouldn’t need, and that is an on-screen joystick.
The joystick appears as a red disc in the lower left or right corner of the screen, there an option to choose which. Dragging the disc away from its centre moves your character, and the distance of the drag controls the speed of the movement - walking or running. Turning your character by walking in a circle will also move the camera (i.e. the player’s point of view), but you can also pan around your character by simply dragging an empty area of the screen.
Note the red joystick in action
Another aspect of moving around that gives me cause for complaint is navigation. For each area of the game, you have to buy a map, which is fair enough. However, when moving around, there is no compass with which to get your bearings on the landscapes.
Selecting a target to attack is a simple matter of tapping on it, although I found for distant targets (against whom I wanted to make a ranged attack) it varied from tricky to impossible to get them selected.
The top left of the screen comprises icons for opening your map and accessing your character data. Character data includes the inventory of objects your character is carrying, quest information, current skill set, etc. Accompanying these icons are three bars. The red bar is your health points, which diminishes as you take damage, and recovers over time. The blue bar is your “Mana”, which is your ability to cast magic spells, this regenerates over time too. In both cases you can buy potions to instantly replenish these bars. The final white bar is the experience points meter and shows your progress to the next level.
Battle effects, and the highly compact highly user interface.
"The next level of what?" I hear the non-RPG people ask. In RPG games, everything has a combat level. Higher level combatants can deal proportionately more damage to targets with a combatant with a lower combat level, and vice versa. It’s this system that lends a structure to your progression. The creatures in each area have a specific range of combat levels, which forces you to level up sufficiently before you can take them on, and to complete the quests in their areas. It’s by killing more and more creatures that you gain more experience points and can level up.
It’s this leveling up aspect to the game that will be the deciding factor whether this type of game is for you or not. RPG veterans on the desktop lovingly call this process “grinding”, because you you have to kill a LOT of creatures, without actually participating in a quest, to be able to level up. As you do level up, you gain more health and Mana points, and most importantly, more abilities spread across melee and ranged attacks; and a range of magical spells.
Using the abilities you have available is done via a set of icons in the lower right corner. There is in fact a grid of 27 slots in which you can arrange your abilities. Only three show in the limited screen area at once, and you have to use another control to cycle through each block of three. It sounds cumbersome, but combat is slow enough to make this practical.
Configuring your skills
Another aspect of the grinding process is building up gold so you can buy better weapons and armour. This is done through collecting loot from creatures you’ve killed. Loot can then be sold at the local shop - there is a shop in every area of the game. However, in at least one case, rescuing the shop keeper was a mandatory quest before you could actually do business! At the shop, you can also sell all your loot and old armour or weapons, to make more money.
Time to get properly equipped!
One final aspect of gameplay to touch on is death! Each area of the game has something called a “Bind Stone”. When your character is killed in battle, you’ll reappear at the last stone you bound yourself to. Each time your character dies, you lose an increasing amount of experience points, thus giving an incentive to not get killed, or to use death as a quick means of transportation back.
I could actually go into much more detail about CoD than I already have - to say that this is a feature rich game is an understatement! For instance, I haven’t talked about renting a horse as a quick means of transportation between locations in the game. I also haven’t talked about the lovely music and wide range of sound effects. Hopefully though, I’ve given you an idea of how in-depth and involved this game can be.
Using the local horse rental service.
In the end, I think it’s a moot point as to whether Crusade of Destiny is a good game or not. As far as RPG’s go, Dvide Arts have done a superb job (except, please guys, give us an on-screen compass!) The question is more whether or not you’d like this type of game. Unfortunately, there’s no way to try before you buy, the game costs £3.00 (which I’d say is a bargain for something this polished), and there is no free version. If you’re the sort of person that passes your phone across to teenage kids to keep them occupied, then you may just have a hard time getting your phone back from them with this game!
David Gilson for All About Symbian 6th February 2011.