Video games have a few go-to themes they go back to pretty often, regardless of genre. As a result of so many games using the trappings of science-fiction and fantasy, it's easy for gamers to feel a bit weary when they see any game draped in them. Even if you are tired of fantasy games, though, you should not shy away from Pocket Titans [Free], an interesting RPG/puzzle hybrid from newcomers Kumotion. It's an innovative title with a few flaws that keep it from greatness, but it's well worth your time and money if you're looking for something fresh.
The orcs have invaded, and all of the fully-trained titans have been defeated, so it falls to the trainees to drive back the orcs and rescue the kingdom. You'll start off with a mage and a warrior, but will eventually recruit six more, each with their own unique talents and abilities. You can also earn and buy new equipment that will power your characters up. Of course, you can't take everyone into battle with you, so you'll have to choose the characters that best fit your playing style. So far, so ordinary, but the actual gameplay has a pretty interesting spin to it.
The turn-based battles take place on a five-by-five grid. You have no direct control over your team, instead being able to slide the rows and columns of the grid to move your titans or the enemies into optimal attacking position. You get two slides per turn, and once you've set things in place, your characters will take what they think is the best move available to them, and the enemies will do the same.
It's an interesting way of doing things, but it does bring some baggage with it. As with almost any artificial intelligence, your characters will sometimes perform completely logical actions which also double as stupid, nonsensical decisions like healing themselves instead of delivering the finishing blow to a dangerous enemy. It's rare for the AI to completely mess things up by doing this, but when it does, it's incredibly frustrating.
You'll venture through four chapters, each containing an assortment of stages before making you face off with a powerful boss creature. Enemy orcs can come in any of the flavors your heroes can, with the same restrictions and rules governing their attacks. There are some extra twists with the orcs, but I'll leave that for you to see for yourself. There are also other types of enemies, such as wolves, spiders, and elementals, and you'll have to learn how each of them tick to take them down effectively. Until you hit the last chapter, though, the game is very forgiving, so even when you encounter new enemies, you should be able to handle them easily in that very fight.
As is typical for an RPG, your characters will earn experience points and level up by defeating monsters. You'll occasionally earn equipment from defeating enemies, but more often, you'll earn some coins. These coins can be used to buy new equipment from a shop accessible from the world map, and they are also where the IAP comes in, if you choose to use it. The game is balanced such that you really don't need the more powerful equipment from the shop, though, and if you really want it, you can always grind previously completed levels to earn more coins. I would recommend against it, however, because there's really no need for the most powerful set of equipment.
Pocket Titans is a fairly breezy affair in single-player, and I suspect most players will have things wrapped up in under three hours. Apart from the aforementioned late game spike, the difficulty is pretty low, which is on the one hand good because it gives you the chance to experiment with the various characters and use who you like, but on the other hand is not so good because it rarely tests your reasoning ability terribly much. If you're an experienced strategist, you probably won't get a ton of excitement out of the single-player mode of Pocket Titans.
Luckily, there's a multiplayer mode, and it's very fun if you have a good opponent. The various characters are balanced quite well, and it's enjoyable to see how other people approach the game. I have a couple of bones to pick with how this mode is implemented, however. There's no penalty for skipping out on a match mid-game, and everyone out there who's played a multiplayer game with that kind of situation knows what that means. There's an overwhelming tendency for people to skip out as soon as they're losing, and, in the words of a famous blue hedgehog, that is no good. Curiously, if you leave the lobby before the match has started, you will be penalized with a loss on your record. It's a very odd design choice, to be sure.
The art is bright and colorful, and the costumes of the characters and the enemies make their job classes easy to distinguish. I'm not a big fan of the gibberish voices, but they're infrequent enough that they never really got on my nerves. The UI and controls are both quite good, though one thing I would like is if there was a setting to confirm your turn is over, as I accidentally released my finger sometimes on my second slide and messed up my intended move. Sausage fingers, I know, but a turn-based game really should be able to mitigate my clumsy fingers.
The developer says they'll be adding a new mode to the game, so that might be something to look forward to, but in the meantime, it's an enjoyable, clever game that you'll certainly have fun with while it lasts. People in our forums have really had a good time with it, too. If the onus is on the multiplayer to give Pocket Titans legs, it needs to be tweaked a little bit, but I think there's more than enough here already to satisfy.
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