After purchasing an iPad, a few months back, I wasted no time in perusing Apple's Apps Store to see what games were on offer. As someone with a thing for fantasy I suppose it's no surprise that my first purchase would be a title listed amongst the "Great Roleplaying Games" section. My inaugural buy from said category was Battleheart, a game I had spied previously on a friend's iPhone. Intrigued by the cutesy graphics and promise of vanquishing monsters plaguing the kingdom I coughed up the modest sum of £1.99 and set off to guide my party of four courageous adventurers on their noble quest.
As someone with an aversion to touch controls I was surprised by how responsive the interface was on a budget tablet release in comparison to my previous experience with full priced games on Nintendo's handhelds. Movement of your band of warriors couldn't be simpler. You tap on a character and then drag your finger to the desired destination. Combat works in a similar manner, only that you drag your finger from a heroic warrior to a hostile enemy of your choice. If the character in question is a ranged fighter they will immediately begin to pelt the nasty with a volley of spells/arrows otherwise they will march into melee range to commence their assault. The troops at your command each have their own unique abilities which can be activated by highlighting the character and then tapping the icon representing the power you wish to unleash.
I do however have some minor quibbles with the controls, in that it can be difficult to target someone during heated moments when a mob of characters duel away in close proximity to each other. On more than one occasion one of my guys needlessly died as I frantically tried to target them with a healing spell, only to pick a neighbouring party member instead. Perhaps it would have been better to have the option of selecting characters by tapping on a portrait positioned at the edge of the screen as opposed to the characters themselves. I also had an issue with the spell icons as they were overly large and concealed the health bar of anyone standing under them (not good as it prevents you from gauging how hurt they are.)
STORY AND SHOPPING
Role-playing games are famous for their storytelling, but lamentably this is an area in which Battleheart is lacking. Your mission is to traverse thirty levels and clear each stage of goblins, ogres, skeletons and slimes but you aren't given any motivation for doing so. A plot narrated via humorous cut scenes would have elevated the gameplay experience in my eyes and would have complimented the adorable visual design of the characters and world. Ah well never mind, since when do gamers need an excuse to engage in mindless violence? Let's get down to the basics of combat and leave literary yarns to the likes of Tolkien.
Prior to entering a level you must decide on whom to send out into the wilderness. You get a few freebie adventurers and after earning some loot, by clearing areas of monsters, you can invest some funds into hiring supplementary warriors at the local tavern. As you would imagine a big part of the game's strategy is deciding who to use for each encounter. The traditional armoured tank that absorbs damage, healer to mend the wounded and a couple of heavy hitters works well enough, but if you seek a more unique line-up experimentation will yield some quirky combinations that surprisingly complement each other. The assortment of characters at your disposal include clerics, knights, wizards, rogues, paladins, monks, bards, rangers and even pirates. Gripes that local pub does seem to attract quite a varied clientele.
Cash will also have to be spent at the merchant to acquire gear for your party members. The selection of items on offer is determined randomly by the lords of commerce so it is worth revisiting the store after every battle to see what new stock is available. Characters can be equipped with a weapon and piece of armour which modifies their damage and defence values respectively. They can also don two trinkets which will confer a myriad of bonuses such as rapid healing, faster cast time, improved chance of critical strikes and so on.
The game's difficulty curve is perfect. Things start simple enough, but gradually begin to get tougher with the introduction of new enemies and gameplay mechanics which will require more advanced strategy to overcome. At first you can get by simply by ordering your toughest guy to wade into a horde of foes to grab their attention. Providing that his armour is up to scratch, with the aid of a healer, he should be okay allowing the rest of your troops to wail on their targets in relative safety. Things change though with the introduction of archers who use their fletching prowess to hit random party members, undead priests who restore the health of their diabolic minions and bloodsucking bats that will focus on one particular target no matter what. Nimble fingers and a cool head become essential when directing combat to ensure that you take out priority threats whilst at the same time ordering squishier characters to evade the pursuit of murderous slimes.
Fending off waves of enemies can get a little monotonous, but thankfully to spice things up some levels will have you challenged by boss characters. The triple threat of guardians awaiting you at the end of each ten level zone include a giant slime, stone golem and a mighty lich with a knack for summoning skeletal allies. The good thing about the bosses is that their unique attack patterns will demand that you utilise different tactics to those adopted against the lowly grunts if you wish to walk away triumphant. I especially despised the slime creature as he spews out globs of acid which land at the feet of your team. If you don't react promptly and move away the pools of corrosive liquid will dissolve away your disciple leaving you a man short for the remainder of the battle.
Overall I think Battleheart is worthy of five stars. The main campaign can be bested in around eight to ten hours, which I think is a fair amount of entertainment for two quid (its time to fun ratio works out being better value than a cinema ticket for example.) Besides, your adventures don't have to end with the completion of the main game. There's a trio of arenas were budding gladiators can compete against an infinite number of foes to post high scores and earn legendary items not available at the shop. I also enjoy revisiting the game to level up characters I neglected during my first run to see what new abilities they unlock at the academy. Mika Mobile Inc's game gets a thumbs up from me for a job well done. What this RPG lacks in story it more than makes up for in exciting battles and by having a lot of heart.