Fantastic Knight ($2.99) by Minoraxis, Inc. is a classic-style RPG available for the iPhone and iPad.
The Kingdom of Beollent is in shambles, and as the game begins, the government is facing attacks from rebel soldiers. As Fantastic Knight progresses, the plot unfolds from two different viewpoints. Wenrick, hated by the upper class and loved by soldiers is in place to inherit the imperial throne, while Erien is the rogue who is going to tear down the empire and save the world.
Their plots are intertwined and you can play as either character. I played as Erien, who is weak but wields a dual pair of poisonous knives to her advantage, while Wenrick is a soldier who relies on strength and brute force.
Gameplay wise, Fantastic Knight is nothing you haven’t seen before. In fact, if you’re a fan of RPGs, you’ve probably played this game several times in different incarnations back in the era of the Super Nintendo. This is standard explore the map, do quests, and hack and slash enemies RPG fare.
The controls were great on my iPhone, but unwieldy on my iPad. There’s a directional pad that controls movement, and an attack button. These buttons are easy to reach on the iPhone, but harder to reach and use effectively when holding the much larger iPad.
Over the course of the game, your character will learn special attack skills that are accessed by four programmable buttons near the attack button. Attacking enemies is done by tapping the attack button over and over again, with little variation.
Enemies are not difficult (auto-aiming is well implemented), but keeping an eye on your health bar is imperative. When fighting two or more monsters, your health can drop quickly. Your health potions are located along the bottom of the screen, and tapping them while continuing to attack is not always easy. If you do die, it’s game over.
Unless, of course, you want to use some real money to buy crystals, which will fund resurrection stones. Oh, and there’s absolutely no autosave. You will have to make sure to continually hit the quick save button. When you die, you will have to exit to the main menu and reload your last save, which is time consuming and irritating. I appreciate that this is how old-school RPGs handled saving, but it’s a frustrating mechanic in an iOS game.
There are items to collect, skills to learn, and other intricate mechanics in the game, such as item creation and enhancement, that will become familiar as you play. To upgrade your character, items can also be found in shops around town, or bought with the coin system, which turns your real-life dollars into crystals that can be used to buy special items to help you progress.
The music in Fantastic Knight was relatively enjoyable (though I’d like to be able to silence it without turning off ambient noise), and the retro-style detailed graphics were great, although they looked much better on my iPhone than my iPad. The menus were intuitive and easy to use, except for the equipment menu, where I continually wanted to drag items into slots rather than using two taps to equip something.
I wanted to enjoy Fantastic Knight, as I love RPGs, but there were too many minor frustrations that overpowered the gameplay, at least for me. I’m accustomed to iOS games that are relatively well laid out with clear instructions and quests.
I fully admit that I’m spoiled by iOS games, as old RPGs worked exactly like Fantastic Knight. The map is maze-like, and quest and NPC locations were not always clear. I dreaded having to open that map to continually decipher my location.
In a lot of ways, it felt like Fantastic Knight was missing a manual. This game needs a tutorial system in place, especially for people who aren’t familiar with RPGs.
It’s mentioned in the loading screens that stat placement is exceptionally important for progression, but the game never tells me what stats are important for which characters. There’s a cursory help menu, but I was still left wondering if I was actually assigning points correctly.
Fantastic Knight is still a solid entry into the RPG genre, and I hesitantly recommend it, but would caution prospective buyers to make sure they know what they’re purchasing, at least until an update with some fixes (and hopefully an autosave function).
The combat-oriented gameplay is well done and error free, the storyline is compelling and interesting, and the graphics tie it all together, turning Fantastic Knight into a game that RPG fans won’t want to miss, despite a few gameplay flaws.
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