Have you ever wanted to unflinchingly stand in precisely one place while mowing down a never ending horde of demons with nothing but a crossbow and an unlimited supply of ammo? I personally would rather not stand quite so still in the face of such a large oncoming force of mass destruction, but that might just be a matter of personal preference. For those of who would like to boldly embark on such a journey of selfless heroism, Michael Buettner has your dreams covered with his mobile game Battlebow: Shoot the Demons (out now, free).

Battlebow_Screenshot_7In Battlebow there are specifically two kinds of actions your chosen hero can engage in: ranged combat – basically a given, considering the game’s title – and in your face melee attacks. To fire off a projectile – the specific type being determined by the character currently selected – all you have to do is tap anywhere on the screen, this causes a shot to be fired on the straight line path between your finger and the hero. You don’t actually have to perform a separate tap for each and every attack, you can instead simply hold down on the screen to fire off arrows as fast as your equipment’s stats permit.

Furthermore, the currently selected archer – if you move your pressed finger around – will follow along with his never ending spray of arrows (or whatever it is that particular hero uses for ammo). This will – however – annoyingly cause his aim to lag behind while he wastes time firing off volleys at all the possible in between angles, rather than immediately going to where ever your finger’s final resting place is. Still – despite the fact that the dragging method can lead to delayed aiming – you’re definitely going to find yourself stuck with it, particularly since Battlebow will often confuse the alternative for an attempt at melee combat.

Speaking of melee combat, the player can engage in one of three different close range actions by swiping across the screen either up – down – or in either of the two vertical directions. The upwards action is a minimal damage attack that attempts to shove enemies back a bit out of your hero’s face, but generally isn’t terribly effective against most enemy types. The downwards swipe commands your hero to block attacks for a limited time, during which he takes reduced – rather than eliminated – damage from any demons that slash out at him. Swiping either to the left or the right will cause your  character to slash in that direction with their chosen melee weapon, with this being your primary – if somewhat inadequate – method of dealing out damage to any demons that reach your zone of personal comfort.

Battlebow_Screenshot_ArtillerymanGenerally speaking the objective of Battlebow is to make sure the enemies don’t get in your hero’s face – as this is where you’re likely to take on lots of damage very quickly – but, while there is some skill involved in aiming, for the most part your ranged combat effort is far more about your hero’s level and gear than personal gameplay prowess. The simple fact is that no amount of skill is going to compensate for the massive amounts of damage a demon will tank as they hurtle towards you, unless your damage output is faster than their speed. Is it here where I launch into discussing one of the many issues that plague Battlebow: the rate of money acquisition and the method with which stat enhancing equipment is obtained.

Killing enemies doesn’t actually directly net you a single coin within Battlebow, instead you have a chance of potentially finding gold – or perhaps equipment – each time you successfully survive a wave of demons. This means that one can just as easily have a brutally short run with massive rewards, much the same as they can make an epically lengthy stand against the demons that pays off precisely nothing at all. Therefore the real determinant factor of how much money the player rakes in is more a product of time spent grinding, as more time fighting means more chances to potentially have the RNG give them cash, rather than a direct reflection of the skills displayed.

Of course, this is all assuming the player will even have anything worth spending their cash on since the gear available for sale in Battlebow completely randomizes every few minutes. So if a player finds there is something for sale that they desperately need in order to get their stats up – but don’t currently have enough money to purchase it with – the odds that they can successfully grind up the needed funds before the store randomizes again are pretty much nil, thus enters Battlebow’s IAP options. While not the greediest title on the block – with the most expensive IAP option only totaling $5.99 – the player is still essentially held hostage to quickly acquire funds when the weapon they need finally shows up, unless they want to just sit around with a large amount of gold on hand waiting for it to randomly rotate back onto the market.

Battlebow_Screenshot_4_LoadoutThat said, even the most determined of players – with an entire mountain of gold currently on hand – will never be able to obtain the absolute best gear in Battlebow without availing themself of the game’s IAP options. This is because the absolute best gear in the game is only obtainable through the use of IAP crystals, which are only acquirable either by real-money purchases or via signing up for the promotionals in the ads that you will often be bombarded with. It also exclusively with these IAP gems that a player can pay to unlock Battlebow’s other three playable heroes, which is especially frustrating since the lion’s share of loot that drops will almost always be for someone other than the default character.

Still, what is truly important about a freemium title is not a detailed account of the IAP options that exist – as these are something every app freely given away on iTunes will have – but whether or not the gameplay is interesting. Unfortunately, the answer to this particular question – thanks in large part to the fact that Battlebow’s combat is far more driven by gear than skill – is a big resounding no. Firing an endless spray of crossbow bolts at your enemies – who otherwise do little more than mindlessly march towards you – will quickly bore many players to the point of tears, especially since it takes forever to kill most targets if you don’t have good gear on hand.

Of course the game is certainly done no favors at all by the fact that its rather lackluster visual presentation is only a single step removed from being absolutely devoid of any animation at all. Most of the demons you will face – who themselves are often just recolors of previous monsters – have a walk animation of precisely two frames, with the second frame merely being a mirror image flip of the first. Worse yet is the fact that the masking layer in the game is improperly set, resulting in demons that look as if they’re walking up from behind a floating invisible wall rather than the scenery’s cliff face. The most impressive thing you will probably see in Battlebow is when the various body parts of an enemy scatter about the field after being hit by an exploding arrow, and even then this does little to prevent the title from being bland in both gameplay and appearance.

iFanzine Verdict: Ultimately Battlebow is a game with bland action where your damage stats are far more important than your actual skill, and the rate of money acquisition is completely random. It certainly doesn’t help that the game itself features utterly bland animation, that in many cases just uses two frame walk cycles where the second frame is merely a flip image of the first. Whether or the not there is any truth to the developer’s claim that Battlebow has been tested to ensure you can finish it without using any IAPs is irrelevant, odds are you’re going to be bored of the title so quickly that you won’t even care about the IAPs at all.