A while back, I complained about the fact that very few developers are releasing their entire backlogs onto mobile devices, such as Android phones and tablets. Luckily for me, and for others who wished for this same thing, a couple of awesome developers are, as how Rockstar/Take Two has released their critically acclaimed and epic smash hit, Grand Theft Auto III onto Android devices. This game changed everything for the sandbox genre of games and has subsequently released many more sequels as well as inspired a whole cluster of similar games like Saints Row, Sleeping Dogs and countless others.
But does the title that made a once Microsoft fanboy go out and buy a PS2 just to play, make a clean cross over into the world of phones and tablets?
Yes, Yes, I know, Skyrim joke is played out.
Regardless, when a game comes highly acclaimed, the producer has a history of good games and features one of the artists involved in this title hails from The Elder Scrolls series, I’d have expected something with a little more oompf behind it. When purchasing this game, the whole premises seemed fascinating to me. After all, I love me an epic fantasy “kill a bunch of mythical creatures” sort of game just like the next person. I’ve logged countless hours into World of Warcraft, Skyrim, Dragon Quest, Breath of Fire and who knows how many other action adventure RPGs. It’s a genre I quite enjoy to say the least.
But Aralon felt very lackluster in comparison to those games. It didn’t have anything truly magical or unique to itself. It played and appeared extremely generic, like quite literally it was an action adventure RPG where you go kill things. It felt soulless, like this could have been any other game. Just a shell, really.
By reading the description for Pixel Quest RPG, you can tell that the developer had some high aspirations. Advertising itself as an “retro RPG game with modern sandbox gameplay experience” you could be forgiven for thinking Pixel Quest was an attempt to make an 8-bit Elder Scrolls game. If that was the intention, or even if it was to simply make an interesting RPG, Pixel Quest fails miserably.
There is a large open world, in that there is no guiding force telling you where to go and what to do, but the sandbox aspect is a paper thin facade. A lack of direction does not equal a sandbox experience. During my attempts to play through the game before a game killing bug prevented any further progression, I was never once let loose on the world, nor did I ever have more than two quests at a time. In order to advance as far as I did (which took a ton of time due to an extremely slow “grinding” system) you have to complete quests in the exact order you receive them (technically you can choose the order of the first two quests you want to complete, but they both must be completed before you can get the third quest, and that quest must be completed before the fourth quest and so on.) Simply because the game forces you to figure this out on your own instead of giving hints on what you should do next does not make the game an open sandbox experience in any significant way, it is almost completely linear. A constricted world by itself wouldn’t be a game breaker, but an overly simplistic battle system, a lack of player progression, a frustrating reward system, an overall feeling of “incompleteness” and a multitude of bugs both large and small prevent Pixel Quest from capitalizing on its big game ambitions.