In a lot of ways, if you've played one Korean RPG, you've played them all, and if you've played one 16-bit inspired action-RPG, you know exactly what to expect from another -- but Minoraxis' Exitium: Saviors of Vardonia [$1.99] hopes its ideas about multiple narratives and play styles is enough to separate it from the abundance of action-RPGs in the App Store.

The majority of the gameplay elements are going to be familiar -- the hack, slash, then loot formula is here in abundance as is the need to grind through respawning enemies to get enough experience and goods to tackle the next area. The game controls exactly like you expect, but the iPad offers enough screen real estate to keep the fully customizable interface from being overbearing.

The thing with the controls is, they feel weird -- even after several hours, it never clicks in the way you want it to. That's partially because the directional pad is a little awkward, but it's also because the characters move incredibly fast, as if the whole game is overclocked. You can adjust the speed in the options menu, but it never snaps into a sweet spot that feels comfortable.

If you can get used to the controls, there is an amazingly deep game here. You'll be playing as one of four characters, from two different sides of the war, each with their own story, play style and class. The story isn't going to win any awards, but as far as heavy-handed RPG narratives are concerned, it's at least a familiar telling of two warring kingdoms infested with a harsh brand of evil and monsters running around. Considering the supposed weight of the narrative, the dialogue is rather light in some places, but it's unclear how much of that is due to translation issues.

Unfortunately, you also know what to expect from the quest system. Although there are hundreds of different sub-quests, nearly every single one amounts to a fetch quest, some of them are even simple enough they'll only take a few seconds to complete. The story missions don't differ much either, but thankfully, the massive map has a diverse set of enemies and locations to keep you from getting bored.

That's good, because you'll be grinding those enemies a lot. Even if you decide to go with the in-app purchases, you'll need to spend hours hacking away at enemies to level up. Most of that comes with a rewards system outside of gaining a level, as Exitium seems to want to award you for completing a massive variety of micro-tasks, from killing a certain number of enemies to using potions a number of times. For the obsessive compulsive among you, there is a ton of content to mine here.

Since each of the characters comes with their own play style, the game is going to feel different whether you pick the berserker, paladin, priestess or mage. The berserker and paladin are both all about close range combat, so if you're into the more classic feeling action-RPG, you'll be most comfortable with either of them. The paladin and mage are distance attackers, and since the game doesn't come with an auto-target, they can take a little longer to get used to, but each has their own merits.

Each character also comes with their own set of passive and active skills gained by either completing the micro achievements mentioned above or by leveling up. The skill tree isn't that deep, but each skill has several levels associated with it and they help diversify combat enough to keep it interesting across the course of the game.

As you'd expect, there is also a crafting system where you can make potions and enhance weapons. It's as deep as it needs to be, and you can get through the game without spending too much time on it if you don't want to. There is, supposedly, also a multiplayer aspect to the game, where you can trade items with other characters, but I was never able to get it working.

Exitium looks fantastic and nails the 16-bit style. It certainly stands out the most on iPad, where, with the exception of a few odd things that weren't optimized, the game looks wonderful. It certainly cribs a lot from its history, but you can see a lot of effort went into making it look the way it does.

As far as how it actually plays, Exitium: Saviors of Vardonia doesn't offer a whole lot of new ideas, but it does offer an interweaving story that begs for the game to be played four times and enough quests to keep you busy for a long time. It could use some tweaks to the controls and the dialogue will make you laugh for all the wrong reasons, but as an action-RPG, it nails what it's going for and has a lot of content. It's not up to par with the likes of KTH's Wild Frontier [$2.99], but the clean menu system, easy to understand crafting, multiple story lines, and the interface make it stand out in the genre.

TouchArcade Rating

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  • http://www.facebook.com/Quickmix Frank Quickmix Hassas

    I bought this Game yesterday. I like it!

  • Kevin Clark

    Is there something wrong with Korean eyes that they can't pick up higher framerates? 

    Each of these look like an emulator with frameskip turned on too high.

    • http://twitter.com/Inaba_kun Phil Baxter

      I suspect there are underlying reasons for the way these ports from Korean dumb phones always move in this way. My guess would be that they're using tile based hardware with no hardware scrolling, so the only way to scroll the playfield is to move all the tiles along by one. (tiles will most likely be 8 or 16 pixels square). This produces extremely jerky scrolling, although this may be par for the course on Korean dumb phones for all I know.

      When porting these tile based engines it may be easier to just keep the movement exactly as is, but as the target platform is so much faster than the source, they can  effectively overclock the engine. This makes the frame rate higher but also means the tile based movement becomes too fast.

      One of the best iPhone RPGs is a port of a Korean RPG called Crimson Gem Saga, but as it was a PSP game originally, not a phone game, it was written with proper per pixel scrolling in mind from the outset and so moves relatively smoothly on the iPhone.

      • Kevin Clark

        This was super interesting to read.  Thank you.  :)

    • Guest

      Koreans have the smallest eyes...

  • Ron Goodrich

    This review made me take a look at Wild Frontier.  Looks like, according to the reviews on appstore, that game you're plugging is broken.

  • hansolo

    I don't really get the multiplayer part. I can join with gamecenter to friends games, but if we start them we are alone, any suggestions?

  • http://www.facebook.com/ngohuyq Huy Ngo

    Gahh... KRPGs always sucker you in with great art and sexy 8-16 bit sprites.  I promised myself that I would approach every new "retro" game with caution and read about it before going for it.  

    KRPGs seem to always be built on art and graphics then they try to slap a game / story to em with heavy grinding.  Not to say that's bad, but it is not for me anymore.  Be wary... for the love of god be wary!

  • Anonymous

    I would like a top down RPG that isn't all about button smashing.  Secret of Mana had a system that penalized for button mashing.  How about a rhythm system where you have to tape in a morse code like way to get your full heavy attacks off.

  • http://twitter.com/21tigermike Michael A. Robson

    But I thought iPhone users just played Angry Birds all day????

  • Austinriddle87

    NO story, no purchase.  Anybody know anything that rivals Ash?

  • The Truth

    every single one of these lame krpgs makes me shed a tear for the great graphics that were wasted on it.

  • Anonymous

    At the moment I am trying to use the portal to return to town and I have the dialogue box "Return to town?" Yes. No. And it has frozen. Looks like I will have to wipe the game and reload it and loose all my progress to this point. Not a happy camper.

    • Angaro

      At the moment I am trying to use the portal to return to town and I have the dialogue box "Return to town?" Yes. No. And it has frozen. Looks like I will have to wipe the game and reload it and loose all my progress to this point. Not a happy camper. Shut down the app, then double click your iphone button. This will bring up a scroll line of recent apps. Hold down the Exitium icon until it wobbles. Then click on it until it disappears. Then close the scroll line and reopen the app from the main page (I had this same problem with Infinity Blade - froze regularly) 

      • Anonymous

        Angaro, you are a legend. Minoraxis (the game makers) told me that the update (coming soon} would fix the problem, but couldn't tell me how to get around it. After wiping the game and starting from scratch it has happened a second time by accident, as I foolishly had the portal scrolls right next to the action button and hit it by mistake in the middle of a battle and backed into the portal and there I was , stuck again. I just tried your solution and it worked. Thank you.

    • Angaro

      At the moment I am trying to use the portal to return to town and I have the dialogue box "Return to town?" Yes. No. And it has frozen. Looks like I will have to wipe the game and reload it and loose all my progress to this point. Not a happy camper. Shut down the app, then double click your iphone button. This will bring up a scroll line of recent apps. Hold down the Exitium icon until it wobbles. Then click on it until it disappears. Then close the scroll line and reopen the app from the main page (I had this same problem with Infinity Blade - froze regularly) 

    • Angaro

      At the moment I am trying to use the portal to return to town and I have the dialogue box "Return to town?" Yes. No. And it has frozen. Looks like I will have to wipe the game and reload it and loose all my progress to this point. Not a happy camper. Shut down the app, then double click your iphone button. This will bring up a scroll line of recent apps. Hold down the Exitium icon until it wobbles. Then click on it until it disappears. Then close the scroll line and reopen the app from the main page (I had this same problem with Infinity Blade - froze regularly) 

    • Angaro

      At the moment I am trying to use the portal to return to town and I have the dialogue box "Return to town?" Yes. No. And it has frozen. Looks like I will have to wipe the game and reload it and loose all my progress to this point. Not a happy camper. Shut down the app, then double click your iphone button. This will bring up a scroll line of recent apps. Hold down the Exitium icon until it wobbles. Then click on it until it disappears. Then close the scroll line and reopen the app from the main page (I had this same problem with Infinity Blade - froze regularly) 

    • Angaro

      At the moment I am trying to use the portal to return to town and I have the dialogue box "Return to town?" Yes. No. And it has frozen. Looks like I will have to wipe the game and reload it and loose all my progress to this point. Not a happy camper. Shut down the app, then double click your iphone button. This will bring up a scroll line of recent apps. Hold down the Exitium icon until it wobbles. Then click on it until it disappears. Then close the scroll line and reopen the app from the main page (I had this same problem with Infinity Blade - froze regularly) 

    • Videogamebrian

      if you fully exit the game and come back fixes this

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/YVEC6YVEOYTHJJINCXJRRIQGPY Chris Holbert

    i like leveling up the skills and watching them look cooler and becoming stronger. its best game

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/FGWUKCO4COYWKWMGK2OBDM336Y joe

    im level 99 beserker and i beat the game. There are 6 quests which are all repeats. There are no new quests but there still are areas which are locked. Has anyone been at this point and can anyone help?

Exitium: Saviors of Vardonia Reviewed by Thorin Klosowski on . Rating: 3