Turning the clocks back to early 2011 brings us to the original release of Mika Mobile's Battleheart [$2.99]. It's hard to forget for me, as I was living in Paris for a few months at the time, but instead of doing all sorts of Parisian things I was pounding away at monsters on my iPad. It was impossible to put down, as Battleheart did something totally unique in that it allowed you to effortlessly control a whole party of dudes in a MMO-feeling boss encounter, with fairly complicated boss gimmicks, without ever feeling frustrating. If you haven't played it, I still highly recommend the game- Or at least reading our review of it.
For all the incredible things Battleheart did, there was one super-valid complaint: It was hard to escape the feeling that Battleheart was a basic framework for a more advanced game that was hopefully coming in the future. A couple other developers borrowed some of Battleheart's control mechanics to try a make a similar feeling game with increased depth, but like most "inspired" games, they all lacked that je ne sais quoi that made Battleheart so damn good. Historically, Mika Mobile's games have been a little on the basic side, largely because their strengths have always lied in their stellar art and animation. So, looking at their back catalog, it seemed overly optimistic to think it'd be Mika Mobile that'd bring us the evolution of Battleheart that fans of the original so badly desired.
I'm absolutely elated to say that didn't turn out to be the case. Battleheart Legacy [$4.99], by Mika Mobile, has exceeded my expectations to a point that the only way I can rationalize how this was even possible involves, well, aliens. Or something similar. If you, like me, wished the original had more depth, you'll be happy to know that Legacy has enough depth to dig a hole all the way to China. In fact, if that was your complaint of the original, feel free to stop reading this review now and just grab the sequel.
Backing things up a bit, like the original, Battleheart Legacy is controlled exclusively through tapping and dragging, with a familiar quick bar at the bottom of the screen with virtual buttons to tap to execute the various moves your character can do. Instead of controlling a party of guys, you're controlling a single avatar inside of the game world. Classes are gone, and instead are replaced with a stupidly flexible character stat and skill training system that allows you to quite literally be whatever you want to be in the game… And it's all balanced in a way that makes sense.
So, as you play you'll gain experience and level up. When you level up you get points you can dump in to your character stats. In town you'll find trainers that can teach you new abilities which are gated by stat requirements. Spend your points on strength and you'll likely meet the minimum to learn some skills from the knight. High in dexterity? You'll qualify to learn some rogue skills, and so on. What's nuts about this is that you aren't railroaded down a particular skill tree at all. Want to build a character that's a two-handed weapon wielding lightning shooting battle mage who also can charm monsters like a bard? Go nuts. In fact, discovering the skill synergies that result when you dabble in training from multiple classes is an amazing part of the game.
If this skill training system were the only new thing in Battleheart Legacy, I'd have been pretty satisfied. But, remember the whole hole to China thing? This game doesn't stop there. Using your ultra-customized character you'll meet an entire game world full of characters who, like most RPGs, typically want something from you. Multiple dialog options with decisions that can actually have a drastic impact on the game are everywhere. You could be sent on a quest to kill some bandits in a cave, and really, the game could've stopped there. You would've had a ton of fun dungeon (err, cave) crawling, killing bad guys, collecting loot, and completing quests… But Mika Mobile takes this a step farther.
Instead of killing said bandits, why not negotiate with them? Make the right choices and instead of killing them and completing one quest, you make a new bandit contact which opens up additional quests that you never would've discovered if you just went in with your crossbow firing. It's these kind of things that make none of the decisions you make in Battleheart Legacy feel like simple throwaway dialog options as you never know where they could lead you.
Replay value is off the chain too, as with each successive play through you can choose to do different things, build your character a different way, and end up using a whole different array of equipment in the game. It's truly incredible, and while comparisons to games like Skyrim may seem pretty lofty, it's hard to think of anything else to liken Battleheart legacy to when it comes to complexity, customization, and branching choices in the game world.
On the technical side, the game looks and performs beautifully. There's no load times to speak of when going in and out of buildings (Which may even make this game, dare I say, better than Skyrim?) and it's pretty crazy how they managed to take the same art style and spell effects from Battleheart and make them not only work in a 3D world, but also retain all the charm of the original cartoonish graphics. Additionally, there's not only multiple save slots, but they also handle iCloud in the ultra-intelligent way we're always asking for.
Anyone who has lost a game save to iCloud knows just how irritating the "automatic" sync iCloud does is. Instead of trusting that whole thing, each character slot has buttons that allow you to upload and download your current character to or from iCloud. This way, you can both use iCloud as a backup every once in a while, or use it to easily move your dudes back and forth between your iPhone and iPad. It works great, and I wish more games would implement a system like this… As nothing is worse than losing dozens of hours of gameplay to an iCloud sync. (*cough* Infinity Blade *cough*)
I could seriously go on forever gushing about this game. I loved the original, and my expectations for a sequel have been so significantly exceeded I'm not sure how to even properly convey it all without just rambling on forever about all the neat things this game does. People in our forums love it, and there's even a spinoff thread exclusively for discussing character builds and other strategies.
Battleheart Legacy is easily among the best games I've played this year, and I can't imagine a reality where it isn't still high in the running when we get around to doing all of our game of the year stuff in December. Battleheart and Battleheart Legacy are games you must play.
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