Doom Meets the Sword of Fargol
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.
Other than the relatively powerful spells you can cast, combat will require you to drink a lot of potions and Elvish and Dwarven ales to buff your character. Fortunately, the quick access to in-game menus is great. A first person view of your character’s body and utility belt is rendered on the touch screen. This utility belt functions as the menu screen. Tapping the various objects on your belt will allow you to access your potions, inventory, game saves, maps, etc. The presentation is pretty crude, but it functions very well.
The monsters that you will encounter are many in number, but few in variety. I do like the fact that they have distinct characteristics, however. Some monsters, like the troll, are big and strong and will knock you backward. Worgs are fast and can attack multiple times. Trackers cloak themselves and teleport away after an attack. Green Slime monsters are tough both in the damage they deal early in the game and the sheer beating they can take. Additionally, if you leave an undefiled corpse on the ground the slime will absorb it and heal itself. Moreover, different weapons and spells will do more damage on some monsters than they will on others. I really like this aspect of the game. It adds complexity to combat, however there aren’t that many different kinds of monsters. You will quickly master how to best each beast after just a couple of encounters. It is kind of like the old school Final Fantasy games in that way. Encounters become monotonous and tiresome, rather than being interesting and strategy based.
Orcs & Elves is a simple dungeon crawler that harkens back to the FPS PC games of old. The graphics, combat, and puzzle elements are crude and uninventive. The game isn’t awful, but it isn’t very fun either. There are no role-playing features to speak of other than the auto-leveling of your character and the collection of loot. If you really liked Doom, you may like this game because the similarities are numerous. However, if your looking for a deep yet portable RPG for your DS, this is not the one.
RATING OUT OF 5 RATING DESCRIPTION 2.0 Graphics
The visuals are poor and pixelated. 3.5 Control
The controls are very user friendly, but they make combat overly simplistic. 2.5 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
They are no better than the visuals, but they don’t hinder gameplay and the score is original. 3.0
The distinct monster characteristics are a positive, but the monotonous combat and mediocre story are drawbacks.
3.0 Overall Rating – Fair
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.