Sunday, June 26, 2016

I flippin' adore Orcs & Elves

 This little gem deserves way more exposure than it gets.
 Let me take you back in time, circa 2009ish, back then Mobile games were a tad more rudimentary than they are today, but at least they didn't have microtransactions. Back then we didn't have fancy touchscreens on our cells, or weren't as widespread, so games suffered due to poor controls, so mobile games were little more than novelties or diversions.

 And then I discovered Doom RPG. Hot. Damn. The game was amazing, not in small part due to how it made the most of its medium. You couldn't have games that required twitch reflexes back then, there were some, but they sucked. Doom RPG dealt with this by making the entire game turn based. The world of Doom RPG was divided into an invisible grid, every time you moved from square to square a turn would pass. It sounds very slow paced, but the game never felt slow. And it was a blast to play, there were dozens of weapons, enemies and secrets to find!

 The game could last you anywhere near 10 hours, and it was glorious, I must have played through the game countless times, and back then I already grew out of replaying games I would've beaten recently. Life was good.

 And then came Doom RPG II. And... I don't have many memories of it, for whatever reason. But there was another game released by ID Software that used the same engine: Orcs & Elves. It had everything that made Doom RPG so good, but transported to a fantastic medieval setting. And the game benefited from it. Having flaming swords over pistols, a bow over a shot gun, a warhammer over a bazooka made it much more exciting. And Doom's enemies might be cool, but the new monsters were badass.
 And almost as soon as I found out about Orcs & Elves, a Nintendo DS port was announced, I remember watching the reveal trailer over and over again on Gametrailers.com. And I eventually bought the game on the day it was released. And there's no two ways about it, Orcs & Elves on the DS makes the Mobile version completely obsolete. That said, I would eventually return to this version, since I kinda never leave my home without my phone, while the DS usually stays at home.

 Orcs & Elves on the DS is everything Orcs & Elves was on the Mobile phone but better. The additional screen helps to make the interface friendlier, although to be honest, it takes a bit of time to get used to it, but once it clicks, you'll be using potions and toggling the map on and off with ease. The entire graphics were remade, the various environments now pack even more detail than before, and it looks glorious, not to mention the new enemy sprites; I thought the sprites on the mobile version were badass, but I was awestruck the moment I saw an Orc on the DS version for the first time.

 This port was a faithful remake of the Mobile game, but they didn't stop there, as this port features two new areas. I'm not gonna lie, the cavernous labyrinth area is a bit of a drag, but the new underground cave was a fantastic addition.
 Eventually, Orcs & Elves II would be released, and it was a step up from the first game in every single way. New enemies, new weapons, a longer storyline. It was also a bit ambitious, featuring towns and friendly NPCs. While I was a bit apprehensive of the game at first, since I didn't like the new protagonist: Valin, a Thief who stole the talking wand from the first game's hero, but the interactions between him and Ellon the wand eventually won me over. It was fun how Ellon would refuse to attack at first, but eventually warmed up to Valin, while Valin grew into a hero himself.

 Ah! How I remained hopeful that O&E2 would receive an enhanced DS port as well! But sadly that never came to be. And it's a shame, since the franchise died after that. I think there was a third entry on the Doom RPG series, and there was also a Wolfenstein RPG, but by then my phone was too outdated to play them... and nowadays, the games are so outdated for my phone that they are incompatible!

 Here's to you, Orcs & Elves, you were a fantastic two-game franchise that made the most of its platform to deliver an excellent game that worked perfectly around the limitations of its medium.

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