In early March, Galoobeth Games first announced Aralon: Sword and Shadow on our forums. It wasn't until two months later that it popped up on our radar when Crescent Moon Games mentioned they were taking the game under their wing to undergo what they described as an "extreme RPG makeover." Since then, there have been some amazing before and after screenshots released, but it wasn't until we saw the new trailer and the original trailer back to back that our jaws really hit the floor. But after nearly 10 months of pre-release excitement, the real question is, does Aralon live up to the hype?

After sinking a stupid amount of time into the game over the last four days, without a doubt, yes, it does. In the world of the App Store, where many games can be described as "casual time wasters", it is beyond refreshing to play a game that has depth on top of depth, a game world that's easily describable as "epic," all with the potential for tons of replay value. Aralon grabs you with a mysterious story beginning with prophecies of shadow and evil, then ropes your character in with the death of Sir Roderick, who expires holding a cryptic letter from your late father.

The game begins with the selection of three difficulty levels ranging from casual to hard. Casual mode reduces all monster health and allows you to level much faster, while hard mode increases all enemy health and slows leveling. Normal is right in the middle. From there, you select one of three races: Human, elf, or troll. The race you choose doesn't seem to make any difference aside from class restrictions and starting stats (as well as the obvious cosmetic differences). Multiple hair, hair color, and face options are included, providing an impressive amount of customization right out of the gate.

So far I haven't focused on powering through the game as much as I have on dabbling in each of the classes: warrior, rogue, ranger, and mage. I've found myself very impressed that not only does each of the four classes play substantially differently, but each class can also be used strategically depending on how you spend your skill points as you level up. Skill points work a lot like a simplified version of World of Warcraft (and similar) skill trees, allowing you to specialize in and beef up various abilities.

For instance, playing as a warrior, you can invest skill points into specializing in using a shield. From there, you gain abilities that allow you to stun enemies by slamming your shield into them. Using a shield, you'll do less damage, but you'll also take substantially less damage by blocking. Alternatively, you can decide to invest points into dual wielding. After that, you can boost your parry rate, and then gain access to stun abilities following a successful parry. Further down the tree yet, there are skills that do bonus damage to stunned enemies, and it's up to you whether you're doing that stunning by whirling two weapons around, or bashing with your shield. Similarly, as a mage you can decide to dump points into powering up your fire elemental which transforms the mage into more of a pet class, or you can say nuts to it and spend points on boosting your sheer damage output instead.

Aralon controls well with multiple camera options including first person, third person, and a third person view with the camera locked behind your character. A bar along the bottom of the screen can be loaded with icons like many RPGs, and casting spells or using abilities is as simple as tapping on them. Aralon boasts an extensive menu system to handle its various functions from a huge inventory, to a map, quest log, the previously mentioned skill trees, and more. Playing through the game involves completing what seems to be tons of quests. Like many similar games, it seems like everyone in the world wants something from you or to do something for them, and there is never a shortage of things to do in game.

The game world is expansive; it's filled with boats crossing oceans, bridges crossing rivers, caves of all kinds filled with all forms of evil and so much more. Crescent Moon Games did a great job reworking the graphics, and it's very easy to just disregard your packed quest log and go exploring to just see what there is to see. There's even a day and night cycle complete with beautiful sunsets that then reveal a sky filled with stars, weather effects, and more.

I'm really not sure how we're even going to begin to truly "review" Aralon: Sword and Shadow. I've spent the better part of four days with Aralon, and I've barely felt like I've scratched the surface of what the game has to offer. Aralon is going to rewrite expectations of RPGs on the App Store, and it's just incredible to think that I'm playing a game like this on my phone. It gets better yet, the initial release of Aralon HD is going to be completely universal, and I've been enjoying the game equally on both my iPhone and iPad. All of the screenshots in this post were taken on the iPad, but it looks just as good (if not better) on the Retina Display of the iPhone 4.

Aralon: Sword & Shadow is scheduled for release on December 16th for $6.99.

  • Ghost of Sparta Jr.

    First... this game looks AWESOME. Can't wait... (By the time I finish this I know I'm not gonna be first, though...) Gonna have a good time with this one... Come on, Dec 16th.

    • Ghost of Sparta Jr.

      Well, what do ya know.

    • gamer3

      reply to iReLaNd he really wants to know... and i dont know the answer.:)

  • Abisco

    Amazing hands on preview guys! Loving it! Can't wait for this baby :)

  • Anonymous

    Finally, almost here. We need more full-fledged core games like this on iOS. This looks like it's going to be awesome on the iPad.

  • Dammster

    Any chance to have this game on iPhone 3G? I haven't seen any restrictions however this looks too good to be playable on 3G :D

    • Achy

      Doubtful. I'm not even sure if it'll play well on the 3GS, but it should be playable at least.

      • Amazed

        If it plays on the 4 in retina, then it should have no problems on the 3gs.

      • Bad Shad

        No doubt it will play smooth on 3GS, and should be playable on 3G, coz it will be a very big fail to leave about 70% of potential buyers on the ice. Its just no economical. There should be option to turn off dynamic shadows and high quality fire/water/sky effects, thats best choose.

      • http://toucharcade.com Eli Hodapp

        I find it to be very hard to believe that there are very many people out there who haven't upgraded their device in the past two years that will be interested in a fairly hardcore full-on RPG like this. I mean, if you look at Carmack's comments on Rage vs Rage HD, he made it pretty clear that the overwhelming majority of his sales came from the HD version with identical compatibility as Aralon HD.

      • Tyler

        Actually it's quite easy to believe. It's not like there have been a ton of decent RPGs on the iOS, so until now, someone who likes these sorts of games (i.e. me) might not have felt any need to upgrade his or her device.

      • Lampshade37

        or like some of us, there are people out there who can't afford to upgrade their device...

  • Anonym

    does this game supports profiles?

    • Lampshade37

      yea, it's got 5 different save slots.(:

  • Kent

    $6.99?! I want this game to be -$6.99!!!
    Unless they pay me I won't play this game!!!

    (Sorry, I just wanted to be the first moron to complain about an amazingly high quality game having a price above $0.99. Of course, anyone with two brain cells to rub together knows this price is beyond reasonable.)

    • Amazed

      Very cheap IMO, I thought it would be 9.99.

    • tsharpfilm

      I don't think anyone is going to complain about the price of this game.

    • Anonymous

      close cousin to the guy who complains about the price of this is the guy who declares he's going to have a tough time deciding between this and infinity blade.

      because scraping together nine dollars over the course of the next few weeks is going to be a massive financial hardship.

      • Chernobyl

        I am taking a loan out on my mortgage in order to get this game.

  • Jb

    Nice review. I like Ravensword so this should be a treat.

  • Sdlfkjsdfds

    fdgfd

  • DotComCTO

    Been looking forward to this for a while. These teasers and previews are killin' me! :-D

  • booch138

    *drools*

  • Backtothis

    Aralon.
    Now!!!
    I'll pay $25!!

  • Anon

    If it's a toss up between this and infinity blade, I'm picking this! Seems far more deserving of my cash.

    • tsharpfilm

      I'm getting both. Aralon for RPG, and Infinity Blade for awesome fighting game.

    • Hurrahstuff

      Infinity blade is a really fun game, but it lacks the depth that I know this game will bring

  • Cbtrey3

    I'm still shocked at the price. 6.99 is a steal for a game like this. I was expecting at least 14.99 to 19.99.

  • Rad

    Based on this company's previous games I will buy it for the $6.99 launch price to help support them. After all we want more games like this. The game screen shots reminded me of Heretic 2. I hope the game play is more like it too?

  • Frumius

    Nice write-up, Eli.

  • jamie oliver

    I hope there are not as much bugs like in Rimelands. It was just frustrating.

  • Mark007

    Thats it? They spend what 10 months to make it look like this? They have a LOT to learn from the creators of epic citadel, they had what like 2 weeks and look what they came up with.
    So, to sum, up in one word, DISAPPOINTING.

    • Guest

      Haha, you are an idiot.

    • tsharpfilm

      Lol

    • Anonymous

      Rage: Play time = 1 evening...no longer interested.

      Dungeon Raid, Carcassonne, and about a dozen more much less visually impressive games = playing for weeks, months in some cases.

    • Lampshade37

      bodies and budgets

    • Gamer_Gal

      Why do moronic people like you even waste time commenting?

    • merlinsbeards

      What is epic citadel but a walk around a city in the unreal engine?

      What is aralon but an open world with many cities, 4 classes, 3 races, skill trees, fishing, pickpocketing, and various other things to do?

      So yeah you're right. What the hell took them so long.

      • Crish

        The full game will be even worse. Afaik Infinity Sword will be on rails. It´s like: We can do free roaming and awesome graphics, just look at epic citadel - but we won´t.

    • Number1camel

      loser

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Hellioz-Dogol/100001254343956 Hellioz Dogol

    Will wait for the price drop...

    • Johno

      I don't see how people can say that to every game. Are you really that cheap? I hope there's no price drop so you can't enjoy this fantastic looking game.

    • Lampshade37

      $6.99 is the price drop, at least for a long time. it will go up to $9.99 on (i think) the 23rd. i know it will go up to $9.99, i think it's on the twenty-third

  • Nigetrt

    I'll probably be flamed by 12 year old fan boys nuzzling the teets of the developers, but the graphics look downgraded significantly from the original image releases. Oh well though, still look okay.

    • Mark007

      Thank You! Glad someone agrees with me!

    • Anon

      I'm pretty sure noone on this forum is 12, unless you're referring to yourself. :)

      • Nigetrt

        Oh how very witty of you to say.

    • Chernobyl

      You are entitled to your opinion, but when you add "flamed by 12 year old fan boys nuzzling the teets of the developers" all your credibility go's out the window.

      • Captain Morgan

        When you say go's instead of goes, your credibility 'goes' out the window...

        I agree the graphics don't look as nice as the ones shown earlier, which were probably off of a testing/programming computer or something, but I'd rather have smooth framerate than crazy graphics.

  • Jord

    demons souls on the iphone!!... anyone with me???....?

  • Zsoi

    Damn... take back what I said about no high quality games. Now I just need to get a 4th gen iPod...

  • http://twitter.com/karnakgames Karnak Games

    Productive days are near extinction :)

  • iReLaNd

    Is this compatiable with iPod 2gen?

  • iReLaNd

    please reply i need 2 no!!!!!

    • Jay

      Beta testers say YES works on 2nd gen, However the Devs say that they havented tested it on 2nd gen. If you can hold off for an hour and watch the i tunes reviews, if it doesnt the 1 stars will be flying all over.