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The Whole Game in My Hand #8

by Michael "txa1265" J. Anderson, 2008-01-30
Games reviewed in this article:

Hmmm ... which non-RPG to feature, which non-RPG to feature, which non-RPG to feature ...

Yes, I have pushed out this edition to include as many games as possible, because there really haven't been any 'real' RPG's released for a handheld in the past couple of months. (save the 'what is RPG' discussion for another time, folks ... please?!?!) There have been strategy games with RPG elements and adventure games often classed as RPG's and even a shooter with an action-RPG core. So I just waited and kept piling things on ... until I have come up with a bunch of semi-RPG-ish stuff. Of course, I ended up waiting long enough that what looked anemic when I started writing in November turned into yet another mammoth list of games!

I have gotten loads of positive feedback on the new format - particularly the built-in links. If there are any other thoughts, feel free to use the comments or PM system to send them along. Of particular interest to me - this month I have load of 'non-RPG' games covered. Two of these - Zelda and Castlevania - are entries in genre classics that many here have been playing for nearly twenty years, so I figured I would cover them. The others are strategy and strategy-RPG. Strategy-RPG I feel comfortable with, but with the strategy games I feel I might be drifting a bit far afield. What do you all think? Let me know in the comments as always!


Nintendo DS – October/November/December Releases



The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass (My Score 5/5, Rated E)
It has been nearly three years since we have seen a Legend of Zelda handheld game, and what an amazing change! Rather than looking and feeling like an evolved GBA game, which is the course so many handheld series take, Phantom Hourglass is more like a scaled down console game. And it is wonderful to play in just about every way - the difficulty level makes it accessible for beginners to enjoy but still fun for those who have been around for the entire series; the graphics and sound are wonderfully done; and the (almost entirely touch stylus-based) controls are intuitive and become second nature immediately.

The game picks up where Windwaker left off, with a short introductory slide show to get you going. The game shares the visual and sound style from that game as well - and it is amazing how well it comes across on the DS! The game looks, sounds and plays absolutely fantastic - the only caveat is that if you are truly hardcore about these games you might find this one too easy. Personally I found that failing less than I did in The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past allowed me to focus on the joy of the settings, puzzles, story and characters. The added multiplayer battles are fun, but the single player adventure is the real story here. And that story is about one of the best games of the year and another truly great entry to the Legend of Zelda series.



Front Mission (My Score 4/5, Rated E)
SNES and Playstation fans of strategy games might already know about this 12-year old game. You play one of two sides - the OCU or USN - and command squads of 'Wanzers' (sort of like walking tanks) in battle. The storylines are distinct, making for nice replayability, but the core gameplay is identical. Each side takes turns moving and attacking as is typical in strategy games, with the added feature of locational damage that pairs up with the weapons used by the attacking bot.

The ability to customize your bots for strategic attacks is one of the best parts of game, and certainly adds to the depth and replayability. Each mech has a body, legs, right and left arm. Each part has its' own health meter and you can attack each section individually - and outfit your mechs with weapons and armor to take advantage of that fact. This leads to many strategic opportunities in terms of how you plan for attack and defense on the various missions. The DS port is very nicely done - the graphics translated nicely and the menus and character dialogs are easy to navigate and understand. The plot does a reasonable job of carrying the game - but this isn't a strategy-RPG: the focus is on the combat system, which holds up just fine. There are many hours of solid strategy gaming here for fans of the genre.


Panzer Tactics (My Score 4/5, Rated E)
Do you love board games like Axis & Allies? If so you will LOVE Panzer Tactics. If you are already nervous just move along, because this game isn't about fast action - this is a deep and engaging strategy game that will soak up hours ... and that is just the tutorial! The tutorial takes you step-by-step through an increasingly complex series of exercises designed to familiarize you with making best use of your units and learning strategies and tactics needed to succeed. Tutorials are handled in a mission format, so you can go back and repeat any tutorial in any order. This is extremely convenient, as some players will require more help in some areas than others.

The main game is focused on a lengthy set of three campaigns that allow you to choose to play as the Germans, Russians or Western Allies. There is plenty of historical detail presented during the game - nothing new for history buffs, but it is well done and informative. The campaign is naturally three views of the same war, but since the tactics, goals and strategies employed by each faction varied greatly they play very differently. Unfortunately the multiplayer is somewhat lacking. Unlike so many DS games, there is no simple single cart mode.

The game has adequate graphics and sound, not really living up to Age of Empires or Advance Wars DS games. However, this is another example of proper prioritization - the game is supposed to be a deep single-player strategy game ... and that is what it does best. The turn-based combat system allows you to move, buy or recruit units, refuel or re-arm, or attack. The field of battle is a connected series of hexagonal grids. There is a ton of information displayed on both screens about the environment, landscape, and the selected unit's capabilities and status. As in any strategy game, ignoring the standard 'rock-paper-scissors' hierarchy in combat will result in frequent death. The game has a tight use of line of sight for visibility, and the terrain can change rapidly - so paying attention to all units at all times is critical. Weather effects are also figured into battle calculations, which can make or break a mission.

The pace of the game - somewhere between slow and glacial - will be a turn-off for many. But if you have read this far, you shouldn't be surprised - this isn't an action game, nor is it a RTS game. It is pure tactical strategy with no time limits - so take your time, study your screens, and reshape the course of history to your liking.


Naruto: Path of the Ninja (My Score 2/5, Rated E)
Naruto is a turn-based party RPG that gets its' story entirely from the first 80 episodes of the Naruoto anime series - which seems very exciting until you think about the inherent limitations. First, squeezing that much material while still having plenty of turn-based combat means losing plenty of content along the way, leaving the plot fairly thin and weak - even compared to the anime series, which no one would accuse of being overly deep in the first place. But the bigger problem is that there is very little room for freedom or choice, making you feel like you're riding on rails the entire time from predictable scene to predictable scene. As for why the game is based on a string of anime episodes from more than a few years ago - the game is a slightly upscaled port of a Japanese GBA game from three years ago.

Believe it!

'Believe it' is a common saying of Naruto. The reason I have used it is that it is indicative of the only thing keeping this game from being completely forgettable - the developers have done a very good job of infusing the spirit of the anime series into every corner of the game. Despite a clunky interface, lousy graphics and sound, boxed-in character advancement and gameplay, the charm of the game comes through on a regular basis as you have various characters chiming in on one subject or another - but usually about Naruto. That doesn't earn the game a recommendation, however - it just means that fans of the anime series are likely to find some fun here. But still I recommend waiting for a few months, because this will be in bargain bins before long ... which is where it belongs.

Believe it!


Dragon Quest Monsters: Joker (My Score 3.5/5, Rated E)
The Dragon Quest Monsters series of games is less well know outside of Japan than the core Dragon Quest or the competitive Pokemon franchise , but this solid game looks to change that. This game is not up to the level of the excellent Dragon Quest VIII, nor is it even the same sort of game - yet there are many similarities. The graphics and the presentation of battles have carried elements over from Dragon Quest VIII, and the skill system is very similar between the two games as well.

The battle system is similar to earlier games in the Dragon Quest Monsters series - you control up to three monsters in a party and can either issue commands directly or assigning then a default AI behavior. Battles in general are rather simplistic, especially when you hand over control to the default behavior. This makes the game less engaging than the Pokemon series, but it is still fun. Your tolerance for extended dungeon crawling will largely determine whether you think the game is fun or a drag - and I found it pretty fun, but lacking the depth and breadth of either Pokemon Diamond/Pearl or other dungeon crawlers released for the DS this year.


Final Fantasy XII: Revenant Wings (My Score 4.5/5, Rated E)
There was quite a stir when Square Enix announced that not only wouldn't the next chapter in the Final Fantasy saga be launching on the Playstation 2, it would be launching on a handheld ... a Nintendo handheld at that! That represented the first time in thirteen years a Final Fantasy game launched on a Nintendo system, and the first time ever for a handheld launch. There was a load of other stuff as well - it was going to use a real-time combat engine that owed more to the RTS genre than the RPG systems of prior games; it employed a variation of the gambit system featured in Final Fantasy XII; and it also employed a variation of the summons system from that game. Fortunately, the finished product delivers in pretty much every way possible - it is an excellent Final Fantasy game, the best RTS game on the DS and also one of the best RPG's on the system.

Final Fantasy XII: Revenant Wings picks up where Final Fantasy XII left off, as Vaan and Penelo take to the skies in their own ships to pursue their dreams as sky pirates. They immediately discover the mysterious Glabados Treasure and are transported along with some other friends to the floating islands of Lemure. It is then that Vaan discovers the treasure acts as a summoning stone and meets a powerful enemy who is ready to plunge the world into chaos. Everything about the game is very well executed - the graphics, sound and use of dual screens is excellent, and the controls are highly interactive and nicely done. Playing a RTS on the DS is a bit cramped at times and occasionally feels a bit like herding kittens, but the execution is as well done as I can imagine for the system. There are enough selection methods to keep everything flowing - and the missions are fun and engaging enough that you will constantly find yourself staying up too late saying 'just one more mission'. An easy recommendation for anyone with a DS in their house!


Orcs & Elves (My Score 4/5, Rated E)
This month's featured game is a port of a cell phone game. Does that spell DOOM (hehe) for the game? Check out my featured review here.


Nintendo DS – The DS RPG Outlook for Q1-2008


The DS had a wonderful 2007 in terms of RPG's and strategy-RPG's, so what are we looking for as we start 2008? Not too much ... at least for the first few months. The year got off to a great start with the next entry in the Advance Wars franchise, but there are only a few other releases planned. A couple of weeks after the PSP release the DS gets Dungeon Explorer: Warriors of Ancient Arts. The famed Sid Meier's Civilization franchise lands on portables and consoles late in the first quarter in a game called Civilization Revolution. Other upcoming releases include Drone Tactics in late March, Mystery Dungeon: Shiren the Wanderer in mid-March and the highly anticipated Final Fantasy: Crystal Chronicles - Ring of Fates comes in early March. Another couple of games of interest coming in the first quarter are River King: Mystic Valley and Harvest Moon DS Cute.

The other game I have been hotly anticipating since it was hinted at nearly a year ago is Mazes of Fate for the DS. Originally intended as a simple port of the excellent GBA game for release last fall, it has turned into a graphical retooling and is now supposedly coming out in late February. There have been a couple of videos released - in fact, the first releases caused a bit of a storm of criticism. Those 'early build' videos have been pulled and replaced with some much better gameplay video. However, those still only show a single screen and have everything shown as it was on the GBA, just now in very nice 3D. It isn't clear what the second screen will show ... we'll have to wait and see!

 

Sony PSP – October/November/December Releases


Alien Syndrome (My Score 2.5/5, Rated T)
This game reminds me very much of a toned down version of Shadowgrounds or Alien Shooter: Vengeance. All three feature top-down perspective and have you running around various areas killing loads of enemies. But while the former was a straight-out shooter and the latter was a blast-fast shooter with RPG-lite elements, this is a pure action-RPG. Unfortunately, the surgery that removed all of the extreme violence and gore from those other games seems to have removed the personality as well, leaving a pretty generic experience in its' place.

The bottom line of whether or not you'll like this game is decided in the first half-hour of playing. In that time you will meet a couple of different types of enemies, get to experiment with different weapon types and shields, create your own items, level up and choose new skills, and battle a boss creature. When I cleared the second boss creature I realized I had seen pretty much all the game had to show - but I kept right on going. This is one of those games that lives or dies based on the gameplay, because the rest of the game is quite bland. I have come to love these top-down shooters, so this was a blast to roam around and blast everything, and it was nice that I could do so anywhere without worrying about streaming strong language or overly gory scenes. If you have played either of those games and enjoyed them, this is a game I can easily recommend - but only if you can get it for a bargain price. It really just isn't a very good game - there is some fun to be had with blasting stuff and working your skill-tree, but it isn't a game that I would ever recommend for someone to go out of their way to buy.

Final Fantasy Tactics: The War of the Lions (My Score 3.5/5, Rated E-10)
If you played Final Fantasy Tactics on the Playstation, there is really no reason to get this updated port. Oh, except for the all-new CGI cutscenes, and the new translation of the dialogue and text. Yes, and the extra areas you can find and new jobs such as the legendary Onion Knight, and of course the characters you can find by fully exploring areas. In other words - this is *not* just another lazy port, nor even a lackluster port like the Final Fantasy I and Final Fantasy II ports from earlier this year. Everything from the original game has been preserved, and the technical realization of a ten year old game on a modern handheld works very nicely from load times to controls to graphics. Unfortunately, many of the additions don't flow comfortably, and too many games in the past decade have figured out how to reduce some of the complexity while still delivering considerable depth, leaving this feeling overly-complicated and dated ... but still a solid strategy game.

The original Final Fantasy Tactics had an excellent story of political intrigue, featuring twists and turns and betrayals and more. With the updated translation and added scenes you can follow things more closely than before. But this game lives and dies on the battlefield - and the combat and class systems are deep and still hold up well. All job classes start as a Squire or Chemist, and progress as you gain levels. Of course, you will have to gain considerable levels to become a powerful Onion Knight, but you have twenty-two possible jobs to master. The turn-based combat system has plenty of depth and options, including units having a few turns to be revived before they die permanently. You have to deal with terrain issues, weather issues, and other factors in addition to the typical rock-paper-scissors unit effectiveness ratings. The core strategy game is consistent with the one that wowed Playstation owners a decade ago and set a milestone in terms of console strategy games. However, the game looks, feels and plays like a ten year old game despite the new content. The result is a game that feels like it has been dressed up nicely and even gotten a new suit, but is at its core a decade old game that isn't all that well suited to the PSP in that state. And that is the main source of the disappointment - some areas feel nicely updated, but they represent less than 1% of the play time of the game. You will spend 95% of your time battling a dated interface and struggling with a system that was neither designed nor optimized for handheld gaming. Making it worse is the recent release of Jeanne D'Arc and Disgaea: Afternoon of Darkness, two games that show how a game can be deep and difficult to master while simultaneously being accessible and friendly for gaming on the go.


Disgaea: Afternoon of Darkness (My score 4.5/5, Rated E-10)
Ported games are sort of like people working in customer service (stick with me for a second) - the best ones make you feel like everything is about you, while in your head you know that they are doing the same exact thing for everyone. The point is that you feel like you are being taken care of, which is much better than feeling like you are interrupting a conversation to buy something that is costing you a month's salary. The PSP got three games from the Final Fantasy franchise in 2007, and all of them felt like eating someone else's leftovers. The RPG's were particularly bad in that regard, but despite updates and additions Final Fantasy Tactics felt like last week's dinner reheated with some new gravy. All this serves as introduction to a single observation: while Disgaea was originally a PS2 game (see the GamerDad review of the PS2 version of Disgaea 2), the PSP porting has been done so nicely and has so much stuff added that is so well integrated that you really feel as though you are playing an all new PSP game. And a really good one - I'll leave it to you to decide if you prefer this game or Jeanne D'Arc - I prefer the latter, but both are truly excellent strategy-RPG's that should be on your 'must have; list if you are a fan of the genre.

The game is centered around a young demon buy named Laharl who comes out of a two-year nap to discover that he was nearly assassinated, and that his father - king of the Netherworld - has died. This sets up your quest - you need to recruit allies, put power-hungry overlords in their place, and do whatever it takes to assert your dominion over all aspects of the netherworld. There are plenty of fun - and funny - cutscenes throughout; they tell the story, recap events, and generally keep things moving along. Once you get into the heart of the game - combat - you will find this a deep and satisfying tactics experience. It is much friendlier and more accessible than Final Fantasy Tactics, but don't mistake that with ease or simplicity. There is loads of replayability in addition to the 100+ hours you will spend conquering it the first time. This is the sort of game that is fun yet serious, deep yet accessible, and one that you will want to keep within easy reach of your PSP. It was great on the PS2, and it remains great on the PSP - with enough new stuff that even if you have already played it you will have plenty to keep your interest. Wait - you're still here? Go, get on, and go buy it already!

Warhammer 40k: Squad Command (My Score 3/5, Rated T)
Sometimes a demo gets you excited about a game, and other times it warns you off spending hard-earned cash on one. Still others it is a fun experience marred by minor annoyances that you convince yourself won't be a big deal in the full version of the game. The latter is my description of the demo for Warhammer 40,000 Squad Command - it is a fun turn-based strategy game with horrific camera and view problems that almost completely destroy any fun you will have during the entire experience.

You control armies of Space Marines in futuristic battles against the Legions of Chaos in turn-based battles: you move your troops and fire upon enemies based on a pool of action points for each unit. And there are some really cool units - the huge mech units dish out massive destruction, but all of the units serve their purpose. Of course, the enemy has the same sorts of weapons as you do - and they also have the advantage of not being limited by tightly constrained views and camera control. The demo had some inklings of this frustration, but only when you get to the meat of the 15-mission single player game will you really feel the full frustration. It nearly ruins the game - but the battles themselves are quite fun, and the graphics of blowing stuff up are very nicely done. Add to that a solid multiplayer against up to eight players - in which everyone has to deal with camera issues - and you have the recipe for an overall positive experience. If you are already a Warhammer fan, or are looking for some fun turn-based futuristic battles, then you should be able to deal with the camera frustrations and find the fun game lurking around the corner.

Castlevania Dracula X Chronicles (My Score 3/5, Rated T)
Castlevania: The Dracula X Chronicles is an amazing addition to the PSP library for two reasons - it is the first North American release of the classic Rondo of Blood game, and it is the first handheld release for what many consider the best Castlevania game: Symphony of the Night. Unfortunately, what makes for a great press release doesn't always make for a great gaming experience - the games are very good in general with plenty of extras and off-shoot paths to explore, but the updated graphics and sounds seem to bog down the system and performance is uneven and the visuals really don't enhance the gameplay.

All three games - the updated Rondo of Blood, original Rondo of Blood and updated Symphony of the Night - are side-scrolling action-adventure games where you explore large maps full of respawning hordes of vampires, monsters, and other undead creatures. Rondo of Blood in particular is frustratingly difficult, and neither game is all that well suited to 'pick-up and play' handheld gaming. They are fun games, but the negatives outweigh the positives - you have to plod through Rondo of Blood in order to unlock the superior Symphony of the Night as well as the original Rondo of Blood. And when you finish it all you will realize that these games are no longer the pinnacle of 2D Castlevania - the two DS games play smoother and have more rewarding experiences than these. This leaves this as something for completists or folks without a DS - just don't expect anything that will be anywhere near your 'best of all time' game lists and you can enjoy the monster destruction.




Sony PSP – The PSP RPG Outlook for Q1-2008



Things are going to continue to be pretty sparse for the next few months - the only major release is Final Fantasy VII: Crisis Core coming at the end of March. We STILL haven't heard anything else about the PSP port of SilverFall, so perhaps it is time to assume it has gone the way of the Oblivion PSP port ... that is, into oblivion. There is a recently released action-RPG called Warriors of the Lost Empire that I am still playing, and also a little-known dungeon crawler called Dungeon Explorer: Warriors of Ancient Arts coming in mid-February. On the strategy front, Civilization Revolution is also coming to the PSP and is supposed to land sometime late in the first quarter.

Well, this has proved an interesting few months, with some reasonably good releases on both systems after a seeming dearth of RPG's for a while ... now let's move on and take a look at Orcs & Elves in some more detail.



Handheld RPG Review - Orcs & Elves (DS)


If someone tells me that a new game for the DS is a port of a cell phone game, I am immediately suspicious - and with good reason. Given that the business model for cell phone games is based around very limited controls, very short play time and limited hardware capabilities, it is not likely that any game ported that way would be a very engaging experience for fans of serious RPG's. Deep Labyrinth is a great example of this: it is cute and colorful, very limited and becomes dreadfully shallow and repetitive very quickly.

Of course, that game wasn't developed by John Carmack of id software.

Orcs & Elves was very well received as a cell phone game, standing out surprisingly from the typical stream of overly-simplistic and derivative games that are barely worth the monthly subscription fee. It is a game that I actually 'bought' simply because I thought it was worth playing more than a couple of times. I never finished it on my cell phone - never got close, as it turns out - but the experience put the game high on my 'must have' list when it was announced for the Nintendo DS.

But is it a RPG?


Certain compromises are apparent which were made to compress a RPG to a cell phone, nearly all of which are also present on the DS version. There is little choice in the game, as you cannot alter your kills or attributes, your spells grow naturally as you progress through the game (and there are only a few), your weapons arsenal largely comes to you by taking care of quests that you have no choice but to complete, and the pricing of armor and weapons dictates what you will use and when. There are no dialog trees, no branches to the main plot, nor any way to influence the way the game will turn out.

The game was definitely improved in some ways, making it a true DS experience. First, the game was improved in terms of graphics and performance. This is still a two dimensional sprite-based game at heart, but the sprites themselves are more detailed and the environments look drastically better. It is certainly not the best looking DS game, but nor is it the worst - the graphics are perfectly suited for the game style and environment. The game also makes excellent use of the dual screens. The top screen is your view screen, showing you the world through the first person view of the protagonist. There is a fairly minimal interface shown - you see your selected weapon and your health. The screen therefore gives you plenty of visibility to what is happening.

The lower screen is very nicely used - there is a touch-screen interface that looks like your belt from a top-down view, with icons that allow access to a variety of options. The sword lets you choose your weapon, the mug shows you what casks of ale you are carrying, the ring lets you choose which ring to wear, the shield selects your armor, the bad allows you access to repair armor or look at your quest log, the map shows the map for the current dungeon, and the pocket watch gives access to the main menu for saving and other options. The stylus works perfectly for this system, but you can also use the d-pad and buttons to work your way through the entire interface. It is a nice option and complements the excellent interface.

Epic Fantasy (turn-based) Hack & Slash


Orcs & Elves tells a fairly simple tale involving ... well, orcs and elves. You play a young elf named Elli, the son of a great elven hero named Eli and a valkyrie, and are in possession of a talking magic wand named Ellon who was handed down to you by your father. You have been given the seemingly simple task of visiting a dwarven king who is an old friend of your father. Upon reaching the dwarven settlement you find all of the guards dead and the status of the king unknown. The ghosts of some dead dwarves remain to help you on your quest to discover what evil has befallen the dwarfs and to avenge their deaths.

There were some additions made to the game for the DS. First, the main quest was extended with the addition of an area called The Forge, which adds a nice challenge and bit of length - and feels right at home with the rest of the areas. There are also a couple of side-quests, including a long and thoroughly enjoyable 'chase the wererat through the tunnels' quest that includes pushing boulders and jumping on air-jets and all sorts of other interesting strategies along the way. These are definitely enjoyable and add to the overall experience, but they must be taken as soon as offered or they disappear permanently.

Gameplay is entirely turn-based. As you move through the dungeons a step at a time, everything else moves as well. Once a monster spots you they will generally pursue - though some will run away - and trade blows until they are dead. You can quickly discover what creatures have weaknesses to swords, bows or magical attacks - as well as which ones have ranged attacks of their own.

Elli levels up as he progresses largely by killing creatures and completing levels - accomplishing tasks will generally get you rewards such as weapons or information to advance the main quest. You can also gain additional experience and rewards by finding all secret areas or killing all monsters in a dungeon. But the attribute increases you gain through leveling are only part of the overall picture. Using potions and wearing rings will augment your natural skills in both positive and negative ways and are occasionally critical to success. For example, you can use a strength ring to add damage to your attacks, drink some ale to increase your strength while diminishing your accuracy, or drink a potion of haste to give yourself an extra attack per round.

The crawl to the end


My best definition of Orcs & Elves is a turn-based fantasy hack-and-slash dungeon crawl. This is not an epic game with loads of options or possibilities - indeed replaying is all about repeating the fun rather than getting much of anything different out of the experience. But you are likely to want to replay - because while it is a limited game, it is very well done and loads of fun. The sequel has already been released on cell phones and expands upon the original game, allowing much more customization and freedom of choice while sticking to core gameplay that makes this one work so well. Orcs & Elves is a solid game that knows exactly what it is trying to do and accomplishes that very well, making it easy to recommend to anyone who owns a DS (especially since it has already seen a price drop to coincide with the cell phone release of Orcs & Elves II), but definitely not the sort of game that would warrant buying a DS to play.


Pros and Cons

+ Captures an 'old school' first person feel.
+ Fun combat system.
+ Nice interface and controls.
+ Multiple save slots - save anywhere!
+ Nice added content expands the game.
- Very little choice - for anything.
- Too simplistic at times.


Final Score and Game Info

While I definitely love 'high concept' games that set out with grand aspirations ... and often end up with a series of compromises, I also really like games that set out with a more modest set of goals and absolutely nail them. Orcs & Elves is such a game. It is relatively short for a RPG, but feels satisfying in terms of delivering just the right sized experience for the type of game it is. The characters you meet are amusing and the situations are fun and some of the battles are quite challenging - and you never become so wealthy that stocking up on potions and repair kids is trivial. There is plenty to do and replaying at higher difficulties adds to the experience. This isn't the best game I've played for this article - that goes to The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass. Nor is it the best RPG - that would be Final Fantasy XII: Revenant Wings. Orcs and Elves was definitely one of my favorite games of the busy fall/winter release season though - and that is because it combines some sensibilities from Doom with the feel of many classic 'old school' dungeon crawlers. Final score: 4/5.
Box Art