Aralon: Sword and Shadow, the highly-anticipated and stunningly-beautiful RPG to rule them all, has finally been released by Crescent Moon Games and is now available from the app store. Offering a ginormous open-world environment with plenty of gameplay to keep you busy well after the holidays are over, Aralon has stormed the mountain and planted its flag to establish itself as top dog.
Aralon: Sword and Shadow HD Pros:
- Beautiful, huge open-world environment
- Epic soundtrack with a movie score feel
- Tons of quests, customizations, and things to do
- Exciting battles and fun exploratory elements
Aralon: Sword and Shadow HD Cons:
- Some graphical glitches and annoyances
- Targeting proper item is awkward at times
- Loading screens pull you out of the game
Aralon begins in typical RPG fashion: you must name your character, customize his (or her) look, and select his form (Human, Elf, or Troll) and class (Warrior, Rogue, Ranger, or Mage), which will dictate how and with what he can attack and defend himself. You are given some backstory where you learn that your father was murdered for uncovering a plot against the king. Following in your father’s footsteps, you embark on a journey to discover what your father knew and get to the bottom of the situation. You are then let loose in one of the most gorgeous environments we’ve encountered in an RPG. You’ll encounter many polite people who offer tidbits of info relevant to your journey, while also asking you to do them a favor, too. If you accept them all (as we did), you’ll soon start to feel a bit overwhelmed with all of the tasks you’ve promised to complete.
It’s all good, though, as it just reinforces how impressive the game is. Quests feel less like chores and more like suggestions of things to do and places to go in lieu of a giant arrow pointing you in the direction that the game wants you to go. In fact, the game really seems to take a hands-off approach, allowing you to choose what you want to do. If you want to blow off your quests and just go fishing, so be it. Grab a pole and cast away. Wanna check out the town and poke around the homes in the village? Be our guest. The real meat of the game, though, can be found in speaking with people, fighting off enemies, and discovering the secrets in the world around you.
When you start the game, you have very limited and weak weapons, armor, and skills. Through the course of play, you earn experience points for killing enemies and completing tasks. You also collect gold pilfered from dead bodies and open chests. You’ll even encounter articles of clothing, weaponry, and various other items that will improve your abilities and strengthen you along the way. From the menu, you can equip your person with weapons and armor that you obtain, use points to increase your stats such as strength, agility, and endurance, train in new skills that pertain to the class you chose, search through quests you’ve agreed to complete, check your map, craft new items from things you’ve found along the way, and marvel at your achievements. In this way, you can significantly improve your abilities and take on tougher and tougher enemies without fear. It is almost daunting how much stuff there is to do and manage, how many places there are to go, and all of the activities that you can participate in, but that’s just what we want in our RPGs, isn’t it?
The controls were very responsive and natural to use. A d-pad in the lower left corner controls your movements, while swiping around the screen allows you to change your view in all directions. A bar across the screen bottom allows you to tie in items for easy accessibility. Context-specific buttons appear to the right depending on your proximity to environmental cues. Get close to a person with a yellow ring around their feet or a punctuation mark over their head and a speech bubble button appears, allowing you to speak with just a tap. You move the conversation along by tapping on pre-selected text options. Stand near an item that can be interacted with, be it a chest, a dead body, a berry plant, or any number of things, and a hand button appears. Tap it to open doors, pick up items, and manipulate objects. When an enemy is in range, a weapon button and shield button appear, giving you options to attack or defend with button taps. In fact, there were many times that we were unaware of an enemy in our presence save for the appearance of these buttons. The buttons were an effective means of interacting with the world and they never got in the way of our enjoyment.
The soundtrack has an epic feel to it, like a movie score. It fit well and complemented your journey very nicely, as did the various sound effects and environmental audio bits. The visuals are quite breath-taking, and we found ourselves marveling at the detail involved. Day and night cycles create gorgeous lighting effects that really give the illusion of the passage of time. Shading elements reinforce the 3D nature of the world and give it a strangely realistic feel. Animations are fluid and smooth for the most part, which is very impressive given the quality of the graphics. There were some annoyances with pop-in as distant geographical formations do form before your eyes and some graphical oddities, most prevalent while we were swimming. It was also annoying that every move to a new location pulls up a loading screen with game tips. This means that each door you pass through will force you to wait a few seconds before you can continue playing, which has a tendency to pull us out of the game and prevents that fully immersive experience that we expected. Additionally, there was a definite need to reposition yourself constantly to get context bubbles to change. If you move past a speaking character to leave through the door, the bubble may not change from bubble to hand unless you keep moving around to trigger the swap. It’s not a huge thing, but it still gets old fast.
Replay value is outstanding, as the ability to play as 4 different class types can change the gameplay enough to make things feel fresh while offering different challenges than in previous playthroughs. Additionally, the huge explorable world and lengthy main storyline along provide plenty of reason to keep coming back for more. We’d almost like to see an option to turn on a directional arrow that points toward the path you should take to further your current quest, as we have felt lost from time to time, not knowing what to do or where to go to make progress in the game. From riding horses to fighting to customizing your character and strategically outfitting him for the battles at hand, there are plenty of decisions to make and enjoy as they play out in one of the better looking games we’ve seen. There are even 5 save slots to allow you to freeze your progress at any given time. We are very impressed with what we’ve seen so far and can’t wait to continue our journey through the fantasy world of Aralon. At a launch sale price of $6.99, we recommend snagging this one at a very fair price for a universal game of its size and breadth. Aralon is a 4.5-Dimple masterpiece.
Aralon: Sword and Shadow HD Review,