Those who’ve been keeping up with Gameloft’s recent string of mobile hits are probably aware of their expertise at bringing original titles to Apple’s devices that take more than a few ’inspired’ liberties from other established games, and while some consider their work borderline digital plagiarism, they almost almost deliver competent and enjoyable versions that live up to the spirit of the originals. With intergalactic space marines and modern guerrilla warfare already in the bag, they’re upping the ante with Sacred Odyssey: Rise of Ayden, which can genuinely be described as an ambitious link to a more well-known action/role-playing adventure series, and one that succeeds almost without trying or using much force.
Your journey begins in the land of Lasgalen where you assume the role of Ayden, a simple farm boy whose destiny is more than it seems. It doesn’t take long for the young work hand to stumble upon a chance encounter to save a young Princess from a few rouge orcs, which jumpstarts a quest that will test both his courage and faith to the god Uryah, as well as rid his realm of the ominous evil known as Amonbane.
In his efforts to save his homeland from certain doom he’ll have to explore the vast countryside on horseback and find the four fragments of ryah’s Holy Grail by engaging in third-person hack n’ slash action with healthy doses of puzzle-solving in between. You’ll find yourself inside a mystical tree in order to purify evil one moment, in an active volcano to quell it’s inferno the next, and finally face-to-face with the evil sorcerer himself. The tale unfolds through in-game cinematics that will have Ayden not only saving the world but also doing his fair share of good deed questing along the way, no matter how insignificant the task may be.
It also goes without saying that your epic with begin with a simple blade and shield, but you’ll soon acquire tools that make the challenges easier and help prepare you the final battle ahead. If you happened to have played a ‘similar’ game like this before be prepared to find items like the Gauntlet of Brakor (power glove), Locrian Hawk (boomerang), and the Nagual Cobra (grappling hook). This should for anyone who’s ever sat down with that ‘certain’ game starring a young lad clad in a green tunic (Ayden even gets a talkative fairy companion along the way), and a true qualifier that imitation truly is among the most sincere form of flattery.
The controls feel remarkably familiar too, and that’s a good thing if you weren’t expecting responsive third-person control from a touchscreen game. Movement is handled through the onscreen virtual stick while basic combat uses virtual buttons for attack and blocking, and it doesn’t take long to become fully accustomed to them when in the thick of surrounding orcs and navigating through villages and dungeons. Combat is seldom more than frantic (virtual) button-mashing that auto-targets the closest enemy; a system that works to help alleviate instances when the camera isn’t cooperating like it should. Ayden also sports a small jump/dodge maneuver (surprise) in non-combat moments, and cycling through your inventory is a fairly slick experience.
The polished visuals really look great, especially when viewed on Apple’s crisp Retina Display, and benefit greatly running on latter-day hardware configurations (I played the game on the iPod Touch 4). There’s great detail in the various locales and environments you’ll travel through, from lush grasslands to the frigid mountaintops of the north the areas they’re vivid and pretty immersive for a mobile game. This feat extends to the characters as well, as each model looks identifiable and recognizable, an aspect we seldom see in most console games. The only other thing you’ll possibly need to even see (and play) this would be a iPod Touch or iPhone with the latest hardware (3G or above), as the game won’t run on some older versions. Then again, its probably time to upgrade your Apple device anyway.
ThThose decrying the game as just a shameless rip of one of Nintendo’s most popular franchises (indeed, Ayden’s horses are named Miya and Moto) are missing its second most obvious inspiration, namely Lionhead Studios’ Fable franchise, right down to its more realistic characters and British-style humor. It also brings surprisingly good voice-acting (for a Gameloft game) to bring this fabled tale alive, plenty of NPC interactions, along with plenty of miscellaneous questing along the way. The only thing missing is a pet dog. Then again, you do have two horses…
If you can manage to get past the obvious comparisons and cribbed ideas to some of the genre’s best games then Sacred Odyssey: Rise of Ayden is probably the best and most enjoyable third-person action role-playing puzzle adventure worth playing on the Apple’s iOS platform. The story and setting are what you’d expect from most games in the fantasy genre and somewhat predictable, but still more than adequate, as the real draw is solely on the technical presentation and addictive action-puzzle gameplay seen. Yes, it may borrow liberally from both The Legend of Zelda and Fable franchises, but at least Gameloft isn’t trying to hide their love (the hero’s two horses are named Miya and Moto) and the replication provides enough satisfaction if a quick and deliberate mystical adventure is what you’re after.
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