By Nate Adcock on Sun, 06/19/2011
Ok, I promise not to use further Old English phrases in this review (though I am tempted). Adventure and dungeon games are definitely a game type well suited to the iPad--a large mapped area that requires a lot of scrolling, panning or zooming can be hard to enjoy on a small screen. There is also the benefit of control placement around the iPad's larger display. Companions makes good use of the iPad to give complete command over any melee situation, has a detailed storyline, and plenty of challenges to keep oneself immersed for hours!
Companions is 58.9MB in size, so you can likely grab it directly on your iPad (versus through iTunes). The app loaded without incident and has thus far not crashed, or caused any trouble. The game has 2 modes of play, which allow you to launch a campaign, or run through a single map adventure. Also included is a beginner in-game tutorial. The game supports OpenFeint sharing and leaderboard options, as well as Game Center.
The control aspects are pretty simple to understand and master. Each character is on-screen selectable, and will move to any location using on-screen taps. I have not found a way yet to multi-select characters (in case everyone needs to run away, for example), so not sure that is allowable.
You can also tap-select any character from the icons along the left. Once selected, the special offensive talents of each character can be brought to bear on the enemy via the interface controls at the bottom. To scroll around requires 2-finger swipes, and a zoom button is available in the lower left corner of the screen. The little head icon in the lower left area can be used to view and equip your characters.
Companions has a lot of aspects and options to consider. The characters themselves (Elf, Human, Minotaur, and Dwarf) have a selection of fighter or skill types to choose from. They also have a number of attack modes, strengths and weaknesses, and suffice to say, it took me a number of tries to get through even the tutorial mode (damn mage kept getting killed). It is obvious that gameplay can become quite involved. The graphics of the game are decent, but the pace of play can be a bit monotonous, especially getting all your characters moved to specific locations.
In campaign mode, the game takes you through a startup and character development phase, which is also a bit tedious, but to get used to using the controls and using them in combat, it performs the necessary function of getting the noob player familiar before throwing in too many tough challenges.
The tutorial is similar and especially good at getting to know each character. You can quickly keep an eye on the life left on a character with the HUD (the red gauges circling each icon on the left). One aspect of the game to keep in mind is that having a character near an enemy does not mean they will attack. You need to orient them towards the enemy as well.
Deploying characters wisely is important, as each have unique abilities, and features. The dwarf and minotaur are better suited to frontline combat, while the mage and elf are better used from a distance. The dwarf has defense weapons that can open a large chasm in the floor, for example. The elf can spawn a dragon familiar to fight alongside the group (until killed), and target distant enemies with arrows. The minotaur can provide added defense to all characters. The mage can generate a large area of effect spell to damage a substantial chunk of enemies at once. Capitalizing on these unique skills requires attention, practice and experience. You can target more powerful enemies, and check enemy area of awareness and health/stats by tapping them.
The scenes are mostly 2-D overhead shots of the dungeon areas, with occasional interludes of story-telling. It would be cool if there were a 3-D view angle, though it wouldn't add much to gameplay or strategy (other than the coolness factor, and the much more graphics-intensive processing). The music and sounds effects are well-done, and the combat action is pretty typical for this kind of game--enemies await in sections of the dungeon, and often come in a somewhat predictable fashion, though there are surprises as well (e.g. an enemy suddenly comes out of an object).
The game has clearly defined goals for each quest, and characters are provided tools, weapons and bounty to master each challenge. Slain enemies also offer up supplies like healing potions. You have to remember to check and re-equip your characters regularly, as they will likely gain new and better gear and protections.
Companions is a majorly fun and well-developed adventure game. One tip for new adventurers, if your character life is getting low, run away. You can outrun many enemies, and even your fighters should have some form of area effect weapon to do damage from a distance. Not exactly mind-blowing advice, but hey, I am a relative Companions noob myself--and it worked for me more than once. I recommend this game, especially if you have the time and patience to go through the levels properly and enjoy the dungeon exploring game genre. Grab it on the App store at the link below.