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Underworlds

 
When a game like Underworlds from Pixel Mine Inc gets released, life is good.  I’ve been waiting for an action RPG in the same vein as Diablo on this platform for months and now it’s finally here.  Be assured though, this is no clone but an original creation from the ground up, designed exclusively for the iPhone.  The game posits you as a scrub guard for a travelling caravan headed up by old man McTavish.  On a routine stop in the town of Albrect, mysterious attacks on the townspeople inspire you to lend your righteous blade to the cause.

The game is presented in an isometric 3D perspective and features some very attractive graphics, excellent art direction and an acceptable framerate.  Staying true to RPG form, you start off incredibly wimpy and slowly build up into a bristling organic mass of destruction.  After you break camp with McTavish, gameplay follows a series of quests which you are assigned and complete 1 at a time.  This may seem restrictive at first (especially to Elder Scrolls diehards) but it keeps the game flowing smoothly and never gets you bogged down.   Quests are of the typical ’seek and destroy’ variety and usually involve tackling a cool-looking boss baddie then reporting back to whomever it doth concern.  Monster encounters and item drops are all random from game to game so there is definitely replay value.  The control system works well and thoughtfully includes a d-pad option if you don’t like the all-touch method of movement.  Attacking is accomplished by either selecting a monster or waiting for it to engage you and pressing the action button (effectively a ‘guard’ stance).  As you chalk up victories, you find sweet loot and that’s when you head to the inventory screen.  From here you can review vitals on every item carried, equip/drop/use and check your character’s attributes (strength, dexterity, intelligence etc).  You build up experience in combat and when you ultimately level up this is also where you can distribute your ‘points’.  For every level you get 5 points to distribute among your attributes and 1 point to assign to a ‘feat’ of which there are 5.  Feats can be enhancements to your battle prowess like Berserk (my favorite) which damages everything immediately around you in a spinning blade attack or more academic like a permanent boost to your health or vitality.  Health is to hit points as Vitality is to ‘feat points’ and onscreen this is represented by red and blue globes respectively.  If you have a potion of either on hand, simply touching the appropriate globe will auto-quaff it and grant you the benefit.  McTavish plays a further role too, that of the game’s ’shopkeep’.  Using special tokens that you find in item drops or purchase outright, you can instantly transport back to the caravan to wheel and deal with Mac and just as quickly return to where you were (very nice).  You can save your progress at any time with 3 save slots (multiple people can have a game going on the same device) and the game autosaves (to a 4th slot) at certain points and when you exit the app.
  
Onward to the gripes.
  • sometimes simply walking up to a torch/sconce douses it
  • all sound is lost after resuming from a phone call
  • impossible to unequip something, you have to swap it with a like item
  • using the touch controls it’s too easy to waste a health potion (by touching the red globe) when all you want to do is move left
  • no way at present to review past/current quest info
Now a few suggestions: 
  • the obvious of course, that being more classes, levels, items, monsters, more mOrE MORE until our heads explode!
  • would like to see pinch zoom implemented as the graphics can be quite small and some of the incredible details can be missed
  • would like to be able to bring up the d-pad instantly from an onscreen toggle
  • would like to see dynamic changes to the onscreen avatar as you equip new stuff
  • some form of minimap would decrease the amount of aimless wandering when you get a little lost
  • down the road, cooperative multiplayer would send this game to infinity and beyond
  • perhaps not possible (maybe for the sequel?) but would like to see randomized dungeons
  • some BGM would be awesome (dev’s already committed to this one!)
 
The initial release doesn’t take very long to complete and though it may seem short, there’s no reason to despair.  First of all, replay it on a harder skill level, that’s what they’re there for!  Further, the developers are already working on the 1.1 update with more content (hint: magic is in the air…)  and have pledged their ongoing support for this game.  They’ve been bonding with the community over on the TA forums and exclusively because of that (well, also because I simply think this game is incredible) I do not hesitate (in fact I’m jumping up and down) to recommend Underworlds to everyone who loves ‘em some action RPG as this game delivers the goods in a +10 barrel of awesome.
 
PS – note in the video below you don’t have to mash the action button, 1 press will target the nearest enemy until death do ye part.
 
version reviewed – 1.0
reviewed on – iPhone 3G 8GB 2.2.1
iTunes music support – yes
 










 

 

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