Aralon: Sword and Shadow (out now, $6.99) most likely needs no introduction to any serious iOS gamer given the staggering level of pre-release hype and anticipation. If you know nothing of this title; welcome back from your stay in that deep dark cave, here’s what you missed. Originally a solo project by Galoobeth Games, this open-world RPG looked a bit rough around the edges in early screenshots and the original trailer. Then, Crescent Moon (Ravensword: The Fallen King, Rimelands: Hammer of Thor) got involved and lent their considerable expertise to the game’s development.
Suffice to say, it looked anything but rough in the next batch of screenshots. Vibrant, crisp graphics and painstakingly detailed models grabbed your attention and the promise of mounts, including horses and dragons, made this game soar to the top of many most-awaited lists of 2010. Now, Aralon has finally been released after so much coverage and forum frustration by many impatient fans of epic open-world games. And, thankfully, the finished product does not disappoint by any stretch of the imagination. On the contrary – it’s an incredible showing of what is now possible on iPhone, iPad and iPod touch. Get ready iOS gamers, your era has arrived!.
From the very outset, it’s apparent this game is something special. You can choose between three races, elves, humans and trolls, then classes, warrior, rogue, ranger and mage. While the character models might not seem overly impressive, the lush backgrounds will grab you from the off. Every class has it’s own set of skill trees that offer plenty of awesome skills to perfect.
The game begins with a cut-scene of a man being arrested by guards in his home. He escapes and makes a run for it after being wounded. He winds up at your home, bleeding all over your bear-skin rug. He tells you the truth of your father’s death and who he really was; apparently you knew him as a farmer. This man, Roderick, then tells you he was the captain of King Owyn’s Guard. He gives you a letter from your late father and thus the journey is set in motion. We find out that King Owyn is being somehow manipulated by his adviser Merificus. Merificus is rumored to have some sort of magical powers and is oppressing the kingdom into a dark era. Naturally, it is now up to you to free the land of Aralon.
Movement is controlled by a thumb-stick on the bottom left of the screen. It is small, unobtrusive and works well. You can look around by dragging your other finger on the screen, this also influences your direction of movement and flows well overall. At first, I did find the drag-to-look feature a bit confusing to use as it’s the opposite to most games. However, simply delving into the options and selecting “Invert” fixed it to my liking and made it similar to other games I am more used to.
The game’s graphics are breathtakingly beautiful. Everything is incredibly well textured and smooth. Character models are done well and, although a tad rough, still manage to top those found in many other iPhone games. Day-night cycles are also a really nice touch and the transition occurs at a nice pace. Notably, a number of quests can only be undertaken at night or day, which only adds to the experience.
Aralon’s score sounds great and has a suitably epic tone to it. It changes depending on where you are and adds to the emotion of the current scene (although, it can get a bit loud at times and even drowns out some voice-overs during cut-scenes). On that note, the voice-overs themselves sound great and not at all cheesy, with the exception of some citizens who sound rather tinny. This is a minor detail though, considering they don’t have all that much dialogue.