Review: Aurora Feint II: The Arena
A while back I reviewed Aurora Feint, which I called a "puzzle game combined with a RPG game". It was a free game, and I gave it four out of five stars. Mostly because I felt they didn't enhance the "RPG" elements of the game enough. Well, along comes Aurora Feint II, which I have been trying. Aside from a few tweaks to the game, most of the gameplay is the same as the original, which the additional of an on-line multiplayer type mode.
Compared to the original, this game has been improved. The graphics seems crisper and richer, there is more instruction detail on how to play the game (and what the various powerups do). One drawback to this is that it seems a little slower than the original - hopefully this will be changed as the game is tweaked and improved. The major differences in the game play (not the multiplayer mode) are a more developed help section (listed as the academy) along with brief "hints" that appear as the transition screens are loading.
I still have the issue that this isn't really an "RPG" type game, although I have softened on that somewhat. Originally, I said that it wasn't really an RPG since everywould would eventually choose the same ability (there were no classes or paths for people to choose. You could choose any skill or powerup that was available - if you didn't choose it at one point, you could get it at the next level advance. I have softened on this somewhat since you can choose a direction - focusing on one skill set or one element type. That choice is entirely yours however, and if you choose to go one direction you aren't "locked" into it. Rather than go into the details, people can take a look at my previous review. You can see how to play as well as seeing images of the game play (although as I said, the graphics look better in the new version - darker, richer, crisper)
The major different in this version and the previous version is the inclusion of a massive, on-line gaming community. With this new version, you can enter the Arena to battle online against other players. To enter the online mode, on the game map, you click on "World". That will take you to a new map, with three options - Town (to take you back to the mine/store/tower map), Tavern (community location), and Arena (battle!).
The Tavern is simply a chat forum to chat with other online players. I was expecting something of a graphical interface (say, a tavern with tables that you can sit down at) but unfortunately it is simply a text-line interface. You can't create any private rooms, it is basically a free for all. It would be nice to have private tables or just be able to step up to the bar (to continue the tavern metaphor) - maybe that will be in an update. Note - the chat room can be accessed at any time simply by tapping at the bottom of the screen (where you always see the most recent comment posted), so I don't really know why they had a specific "tavern" location.
The Arena is where you can battle online opponents. The Arena map has five location: Records Hall, Battleground, Academy, Summoning Circle, and World. World simply takes you back to the world map. Academy is a instructional guide - giving you the details on game play, power ups, skill sets, etc. I found this Academy VERY useful, since it explained a lot of things I wasn't clear about in the original (like how to use weapons). A tutorial game mode would be nice as well, for people who learn more by doing instead of reading.
The Records Hall is simply a list of high score - either your own, your friends, or the world leaderboard. The friends feature is nice - you can designate someone as a friend, so you can keep track of their status. You can either befriend someone in the tavern, or from the main menu (not the map interface) search for their name to add them to your list.
The Summoning Circle allows you to summon a ghost to play for you, even if you are offline. I think this is a great feature, and a really cool concept. The ghosts are described as "repeating your moves" in your absence - I am not sure if this means they simply repeat the moves you made to summon the ghost, or if they repeat the moves in some other fashion. You summon the ghost by playing a quick game in a short period of time, the more points you score, the stronger your ghost is. You can resummon a ghost at any point, and use tools and weapons to make your ghost stronger!
The Battleground is the focus on the new online action. In the battleground, you can choose an instant duel (fighting an instant opponent ghost), browsing through the ghosts (to choose your opponent), or search for a ghost (if there is one you specifically want to fight). I was disappointed to see that you were only fighting other people's ghosts. As far as I can tell, there is no direct, two people online at the same time combat. Also, there doesn't seem to be any long term effect of online combat - you don't get anything, you can't build up any rewards or anything like that. I suppose it acts as practice, but it would have been nice to see some sort of reward. Likewise, I can't find any obvious drawback if you lose a battle (and the same hold true if your ghost wins or loses while you are offline).
The addition of the online component is nice and adds a fun twist to the game, but much like my previous review I feel like they are teasing us with what could be and then stopping at the five yard line rather than going in for the touchdown. Live, one on one battles; a more complex social networking structure; integration between the battles and the RPG game - these are features that would put this new setup over the top. As it stands, the added features are nice, but it simply leaves me wanting more.
Pros: New online interaction, help section, better graphics
Cons: Most of the same problems as before - leaves me wanting more!
All in all, I like this update to the Aurora Feint game. While I wish it had more features, the added element of online play is a nice touch, especially the "ghost" feature that allows you to play even when you are offline. I also was happy to see the integration of a help system into the game. But until the game addresses some of the aspects of the game that leave me wanting more features, I am still hesitant to give it five stars. Added to the fact is that the game is no longer free - now costing $4.99. The previous version of the game no longer exists (you can buy the old version for $1.99 as "Aurora Feint II: The Beginning) or just the tower puzzle (Aurora Feint II: Tower Puzzles) for $.99). With the updated features, I give it four and a half out of five stars.