by Jody Mulhern
previewed on NDS
Making turn-based combat attractive to impatient souls
Some might argue that the turn-based genre hasn't aged very well at all. Its introduction encouraged a much more tactical approach to games than some were willing to put in a game. It opened the door to more precise gameplay as painstaking emphasis was employed to every facet of the turn: movement, weaponry and attack. It quickly became the control freaks' dream genre (ahem, the editor begs to differ here and also wants to point out that the turn-based game format has existed since early tabletop games such as chess -Ed).
The implementation of turn-based gameplay in general quickly became a nightmare to the less patient among us. RPGs with turn-based elements are a perfect example, given the Final Fantasy series, which became incredibly frustrating when the toughest bosses concentrated on your weakest characters. Ultimately, this resulted in a wasted Pheonix Down and, more importantly, a wasted turn. Dawn of Heroes, an upcoming traditional TBS game in many respects, seeks to eradicate these issues by showing some simple compassion to those who choose to enter its quirky universe.
In the land of Brimthule, a hero is needed
The game takes place in the fantasy land of Brimthule, which has come under attack by an evil monster called Ragnakore. Brimthule's efforts to defeat the beast eventually resulted in a stalemate, as King Leeroy of Brimthule turned both himself and Ragnakore into lifeless statues. The kingdom eventually falls apart in the absence of any heroes willing to stand against the odds to defeat the beast once and for all. Still with me folks? This is where it gets weird. When it seemed all hope was lost for Brimthule, a magical, prophesying ummm... belt tells of two unlikely heroes, whose destiny is to become the heroes that everyone so desperately needs - the champions of Brimthule. This is beginning to sound like a parody, but the chosen ones accept their destiny and embark on a wondrous journey, earning more party members as they progress.
Kindness towards gamers
Dawn of Heroes for DS still retains the traditional turn-based formula of battles readily laid out upon a fixed grid. However, this doesn't mean it can't look good whilst doing so. The bottom screen of the DS reveals the traditional battle grid from a birds-eye perspective, where friend and foe are represented by different icons. The top screen, however, boasts an impressive 3-D battle engine where all the action can be seen taking place. The graphics and art styles are far from unique, but nonetheless eye-pleasing.
Each mission pans out with five characters, complete with individual ranges of movement. During each turn, the player is free to move anywhere within their designated range before they choose their desired action. There are three different attacks to choose from – physical, magical and affliction. Each situation and individual enemies bear weaknesses to one or more of these attacks, so choose wisely.
Experience points are gained after every battle, which are vital for developing your characters' abilities. Also, you won't have to worry about the consequences of leaving unused characters in the dark, as they will gain Exp too, even if they aren't in your party. Any new party members met along your journey will also have their stats automatically matched to everyone else's. It's nice to see Wicked Studios and Majesco taking example from certain PC RPG titles in showing a bit of compassion to their gamers. However, it seems as though their kindness has no limit, because there's more...
Players will no longer have to worry about their individual fighters being mercilessly ganged upon for an old-school beating, as characters that are attacked twice in a row will become temporarily invisible to the enemy AI targeting system. This allows your turns to be spent more efficiently i.e. evacuating vulnerable characters from the jaws of danger or simply healing your weakened warriors so that they are ready for battle once again when they become visible to the enemy. This user-friendly formula has a sting in its tail, though: it works both ways. You can't expect to use a cowardly tactic against your enemies whilst you are simultaneously exempt from it. This simple rule can only ever be overridden when facing an overpowered boss, or the last enemy on the screen.
How well these intuitive features will come to fruition remains to be seen. Wicked Studios and Majesco are certainly having a valiant stab at refreshing the turn-based genre with a more lenient and laid back approach, but we will have to hold out for the Dawn of Heroes's release to really see whether they can squeeze any more ingenuity out of a tried and tested genre.