|System: DS||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Fountainhead / Id Software||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: EA Games||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: Nov. 13, 2007||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Teen||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by Jonathan Marx
The Nintendo DS is one of the best selling systems of all time. According to Wikipedia, Nintendo has shipped close to 54 million units since its release in 2004. The stylish redesign, touch controls, speedy and efficient cartridge-based games, and phenomenal third party support make it so popular.
The only downfall with the system is its visuals. Graphically complex games that try and realistically portray the gaming world look awful on the system. As a result, many popular shooters and non-anime RPGs fail because they look so bad. This generalization has once again been proven true with Id Software and Fountainhead Entertainment's fantasy RPG, Orcs & Elves.
Id Software is the developer of the legendary FPS, Doom. Disappointingly, Orcs & Elves doesn't look quite as good the original Doom title from 1993, and the sound quality is only marginally better than the visuals. It's not as if this game is unplayable or broken, it just looks and sounds tremendously dated. Furthermore, the combat sequences, storyline, and puzzle elements of the game are very simplistic: Get ready to open a lot of red and blue doors. What do you expect from a game that originally released for mobile phones? Thankfully, there is a lot of loot to be found including rings, potions, gold, and weaponry, but none of it really amounts to a deep RPG experience. The extra levels and slight refinements found on the DS version don't add up to significantly better game than that found on the mobile edition. Generally speaking, this is a game that is somewhat entertaining, but probably not worth your time.
The story takes place in a classic fantasy world setting. You are a young Half-Elf warrior-mage delving deep into a vast Dwarven under-mountain complex known as Zharrkarag. You are the son of the legendary Elven adventurer Eol and the Valkyrie Fraiga. You have been gifted a sentient magic wand named Ellon from your father, and have taken up the mantle of a goodly fortune-hunter. Your mission in the title is to use your conventional weapon skills and your talking wand in order to find the Dwarf King Brahm and help his people from an Orcish invasion force. So far the story sounds pretty good, but it quickly deteriorates. While fighting in the halls, caverns, and dungeons, you will encounter a variety of baddies and a handful of NPCs that will enrich the story a bit. However, know that completing the 12 sections of the complex should only be done if you are truly enamored by fantasy RPGs of all kinds. Sadly, the vast majority of gamers will find the story to be an uneventful snoozer.
Combat action, pacing, and controls are poor. Moving and fighting under the mountain entails tapping a virtual directional pad and "Use" button on the touch screen. Slashing with your sword, firing bolts with your crossbow, mauling enemies with your warhammer or casting spells with your wand are as easy as tapping the screen with the stylus, but doing so is also too monotonous to be much fun. Fighting is turn based, and most monsters can either move or attack, but not both. Animated chests, called Mimics, are an outlier that can both move and attack in the same turn. You will acquire a handful of spells (four in all) for Ellon, whose power increases in line with your character. In order to cast the more powerful spells with the heirloom, you'll have to draw the corresponding rune on the touch screen. Sound familiar? This casting method is unoriginal and is only slightly more fun than tapping the "Use" button for standard weapons.