Some have reasonably argued that full fledged RPGs are a bit too overwhelming for the portable market where the majority of users only spend minutes at a time playing games. Several developers have attempted to provide the RPG fix without the RPG commitment, and Pocket Warriors is one of those games. It actually fits the mold somewhat well, except for the fact that it’s so watered down the game play becomes redundant and boring rather quickly. At least it looks pretty and sounds halfway decent, though.
You control a boy and girl tag team tasked with defending your village from all the evil that surrounds it. The village seems to be comprised only of an old lady, a hulking blacksmith, a panda that sells weaponry and a creature that kind of looks like a tree trunk with antlers, but what are you going to do? You get quests from the tree trunk, and then you leave the village to complete them. Every single quest is stopping something before it reaches the village. Quests must be completed in order, but once a quest is completed you can revisit it out of sequence at any time. This is both necessary and kind of annoying. You can fail a quest, but that simply means you earn nothing for your troubles and must replay it. So far I’ve seen nothing to indicate that there is a way to lose the game itself.
The basic sequence of events goes like this: first, you talk to the chief man to get a quest. Next you go on the quest. The quests get harder as you go along, but not dramatically. So far there are only two bosses that have given me any sort of grief, and the minions are pretty mild as long as you remember that it’s okay to pull back every once in a while. After you complete a quest you are rewarded with money, and if you’re fighting a boss you will get to keep any material that you’ve picked up. Material is key to upgrading your weapons, and you don’t get it just because it shows up, so if you see some lying around on a level be sure you pick it up. Finally you return to the village where you can buy new weapons, upgrade weapons you already have, or switch weapons if you don’t like the one you’re using.
That’s basically all there is to it. In order to get enough material to fully upgrade your weapons (each one can be upgraded two levels) you might have to fight bosses multiple times. The same applies to earning enough money to buy the cool weapons. There are no vastly overpopulated plains to conquer to acquire extra loot, so everything is based off the quests you play. The sad thing is that so far I’m half way through chapter two, and I’m still using the first set of weapons I purchased from chapter one. It’s almost like if you play your cards right you don’t even need to work towards the higher level weapons. Of course, I’m not sure I’ll stick around long enough to find out.
Besides the ultra linear game play, the main thing that bugs me so far is the fact that through 18 different battles I’ve only faced 5 different bosses and 4 types of minions. The game needs a lot more variety both in creatures and goals, or if the variety is there, show it off sooner. There also needs to be a more interesting way to earn money than playing the same levels over and over again. I appreciate the fact that a battle only takes a few minutes and that if I leave the game for a while between plays I won’t forget what I’m doing, but the structure of the quests is so rigid that it gets old rather quickly.
To control the active character you have two sets of movement buttons – one for running and one for walking. There is also an attack button, a defend button and a button to switch the active player. Sometimes the buttons don’t seem to be as reactive as they should be, especially when it comes to the defend button. There’s also a key element that they failed to include in the help – if you have an upgraded weapon, you can hold down the attack button to power up your weapon and unleash a more devastating blow. I wish I would have discovered that trick sooner. Unfortunately there are some times where that doesn’t seem to activate correctly either, and the game reacts like you simply tapped the button.
The visuals are easily the highlight of the game. Even the weird characters look cool, and there’s some pretty decent animation as well. When you get on the battlefield the backgrounds have a subdued, almost watercolor like appearance. Some of the attacks are pretty slick, though the end results might be painful for your character’s health. The only thing that’s a bit off for me is the ears and tail of the boy. Maybe he’s supposed to be a cat like creature, but it looks more like some odd Comic Con fantasy costume.
The sound effects aren’t bad. Attack noises are a bit generic, and the minions don’t really make a lot of noise, but the big monsters each have their own grumblings to offer. The music more than makes up for any lack of oomph in the effects, however. You start out with a nice gypsy style theme in the town, and then when you get to the stages with the minions it sounds like something out of the old Johnny Quest cartoons. Best of all, the score for monster battles really has the epic slant to it, just like you’d expect at the climax of any good action movie.
Pocket Warriors isn’t a terrible game, and actually starts off quite fun. There are definitely some high production values in the audio / visual department, and it certainly keeps in the spirit of targeting people that don’t necessarily get to spend hours a day on their phones playing games. In the end, though, I feel the game suffers from linearity and lack of variety in quest goals. Plus, Pocket Warriors is a victim of its own pacing. By the time I got to the end of this review I started facing off against some interesting monsters, but now I’ve lost interest in the game itself.
Overall Score: 6/10
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