Fans of the classic Milton Bradley/Games Workshop role-playing board game HeroQuest who are looking for a similar experience on mobile have a few decent choices available to them. There are games that use the basic concept as a springboard for a larger, deeper adventure such as Heroes of Steel [$3.99] from the Trese Brothers. Rodeo Games has their version of the official Games Workshop follow-up Warhammer Quest [$2.99]. If you happen to be searching for a more straightforward interpretation of the board game, however, the Arcane Quest series from Nex Games Studios is the way to go. The first game in the series, which released on Android and Windows Phones, was a pretty direct translation. Arcane Quest 2 [Free], the first in the series on iOS, built sensibly on that foundation, while Arcane Quest Adventures [Free] used many of the same gameplay mechanics but applied them to a different style of game.

The latest game in the series is Arcane Quest 3 [Free], which brings the series back to its HeroQuest-inspired roots. Just as the second game did, Arcane Quest 3 adds a few of its own ideas and fleshes out the solo experience more fully, to the point that the series is starting to develop its own identity apart from its source. Oh, you're still doing all the things you would expect to be doing, like leading a small party in a turn-based exploration of dungeons, using special dice to battle enemies, and searching rooms for treasure. But Arcane Quest 3 feels less like a board game adaptation than it does a normal video game RPG. It's a positive and probably necessary step forward for the franchise.

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Framed for a murder, your once-respected guild has fallen on hard times. You've been banished to a new land, and if you have any hope of repairing your tattered reputation, you're going to have to earn it back bit by hard-earned bit. You'll do that by taking on mission after mission, trying to restore peace to the land and cull its significant monster problems. While there are some variations, most of these missions will have you going into a dungeon area, battling through monsters until you reach a boss, and possibly collecting some sort of key treasure. The dungeons vary in size, but even the smallest of the lot has several rooms to clear out. In addition to the enemies, you'll also come across traps and treasures, so you'll want to seach each room carefully in order to maximize your yield from each map.

Collecting experience earn you level ups that allow you to allocate some skill points. You'll also learn new abilities that will help you fend off increasingly challenging monsters. While you'll occasionally find items during your travels, most of your spoils will come in the form of gold that can be spent on equipment, upgrades, and other items between missions. The base game, which is free, allows you to play through the whole main story, but you'll be limited to the barbarian, dwarf, wizard, and ranger as your party members. Other characters and side-quests are available via IAP, with a pack containing all of the game's additional content going for a very reasonable $2.99. If you don't buy any IAP, you'll also have to contend with a video ad as you exit each dungeon.

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As is usually the case with this series, the gold balance is set at the point where it's just right where it needs to be and not any more charitable than that. Of course, that means that if you spend it foolishly, it's easy to end up with less than you need to keep up with the latest gear. If you find yourself strapped, you can spend some time repeating sub-quests, or you can buy gold via IAP. Arcane Quest 3 is a pretty challenging game on the whole, but while buying gold will certainly make things easier for you, it feels like the game's difficulty curve was designed to match the player who is earning their gold in-game.

One of the benefits of escaping the boundaries of the board game genre is that dungeons can use a variety of backdrops and layouts. Arcane Quest 3 doesn't offer a ton of different locales, but it has enough that it doesn't have to fall back on text to separate a dungeon from a cave. In general, the graphics have received a huge bump. Previous games used fairly simple 2D assets which worked fine if you considered the whole thing as a digital board game, but Arcane Quest 3 makes the hop to full 3D polygonal graphics and animated characters. The audio side hasn't seen quite the same strides, but it's passable enough. My biggest knocks on the presentation of the game are mostly connected with how generic it looks. The dungeons are especially plain. I suspect the developer had limited assets to work with, however, so I'm not going to get too upset about it.

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You'll definitely want to pop into the options menu before you really get going. Interactive objects don't stand out very well until you activate the feature in the options menu to highlight them. The default movement speed is also painfully slow, but there are two faster options in the menu that alleviate this issue greatly. The developer even included some graphical settings to play around with so that even players on older hardware can join in on the fun. The game includes two difficulty modes, and the hard mode certainly lives up to its name.

There are a couple of other exciting features in the game, but neither of them has really reached their full potential yet. First is that you can play multiplayer, cross-platform no less, but only in specific missions designated for the mode. Still, it's a start. The second interesting feature is a Quest Edit mode. This is only available on the PC version, but once a level is created and uploaded, you can get access to it on your mobile device. It doesn't seem like a lot of people have used this editor yet, but it could potentially be a major feature if it picks up in popularity. Arcane Quest 3 also includes Game Center support for achievements.

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Even with all of the additions and the somewhat high level of difficulty towards the end, Arcane Quest 3 is a really accessible take on this genre. That's likely owed to having its feet planted in the mechanics of a board game designed for the masses, but however it comes by it, the ease of learning Arcane Quest's fundamental rules make it an attractive choice for those who are searching for a strategy RPG to play but are put off by the somewhat opaque gameplay found in many other examples of the genre. Hardcore strategy players will want to head to the higher difficulty setting right away, but even then, they might not be satisfied with the level of depth on display here. That said, we've got plenty of hardcore strategy RPGs on iOS, and quite a few simplified ones, too. A game like Arcane Quest 3 that scratches the itch for something more substantial while also being approachable is a rarer treat.

Since Arcane Quest 3 is free, it's simple enough to see how well it fits your tastes. The first couple of missions past the tutorial should give you a good idea of what to expect from the rest of the game. I personally think it's a rather excellent off-shoot of HeroQuest that lays down a foundation for even greater advancement in the future. The dungeon layouts and character builds show a lot of consideration beyond simply adhering to what HeroQuest did before, and I really liked how the story glued everything together. I'm not sure I could have asked for anything more out of a sequel to Arcane Quest 2, but I'm sure Nex Games Studios will find a way to prove me wrong with whatever they're cooking for the next game in the series.

TouchArcade Rating

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  • Marco

    Thanks for the fair and nice review Shaun, I will do my best to get that fifth star in the next chapter! 🙂

    • runesnatcher

      Looks perfect to me, and I am happy to pay for games - especially if it keeps games like this on the App Store, and developers like this in business.

      • runesnatcher

        Having played this for a few nights now, I thought I would add some more details. Plays superfast - The environments are beautiful, and the game is incredibly smooth on my iPad air gen one. I just discovered a button that lets you move your whole party at once – remember in Warhammer quest when you would take a wrong path and spend three minutes tapping your way back to a previous intersection? Well this streamlines things nicely. Really loving this game.

    • Lickzy

      Hi Marco,

      Awesome game! This was an insta download, with immediate IAP purchase to unlock all characters. I love your work and how your games have evolved and I am confident you will soon get that 5th star. : )

      However, to appease the masses, in the future, please ensure the following:
      - your games are totally free
      - console quality
      - hire the world's most expensive writer for the storyboard and Berlin philharmonic for the sound
      - do not put any ads in the game
      - absolutely no IAP
      - massive content updates biweekly at absolutely no charge

      Please don't forget your place. You're a game developer. You owe US. You don't need to earn a living or eat or support yourself or your family. All your efforts should be exhausted to appease us, without financial gain or recognition.

      Troll off.

      Great job Marco, keep up the awesome work. : )

  • Jaxal65

    Does this require wifi connection?

    • stubbieausi

      Nope, and it is a great game as well.

  • err404

    Content unlock IAP? Yay!
    Consumable Gold IAP? Nope. I'll pass.
    I've been burnt too many times by scaling that pushes IAP currency after the first hour or so.
    Other than that it looks great. Good Luck!

    • bilboad

      Did you read the review? According to Shaun the IAP gold never feels needed, and really is just for the impatient.

      • err404

        Doesn't matter. I don't play games with IAP currency. Period.
        Too many games have started out fine, only to fall apart after leveling a bit or after updates.
        This game makes it worse by having premium content unlocks. I don't want to pay for content in a game that may have IAP related progression issues down the road.
        Sure, this game may be the exception, but it's not worth my time to find out.

      • Marco

        That's your choice. But as clearly stated in the review, IAP gold is optional and only for those players who can't wait and want skip all the side quests and go straight for the main.

        I don't understand your comment about having premium content: the game is free to download, so everyone can play it. IAP only unlocks additional heroes (and not 4$ per hero, same as other titles, but 2.99$ for everything), you expected it to be free and full contents enabled? Anything else? 😀

      • bilboad

        Welcome to the forums. There's a certain contingent who think that as soon as they've paid any amount for a game, that it's an outrage for the developer to charge for anything else in the game, even if it's completely optional. They make no distinction between paying $1 or $60 -- just on principle as soon as a developer charges more than $0 for a game, they've forfeited their right to charge for anything else related to the game. From my experience there's no getting through to these people, but I think most people will realize that your game is completely reasonable with regard to payments.

      • Tito Piccolo

        you need to understand that people are traumatized by freemium games 🙁

      • err404

        To many games have consumable currency that ruins the games progression. Ramping up after you get into the game to a point that the game is hindered if you don't buy occasional currency. This makes games unsatisfying to play if you pay because the is no sense of earning your way through. But if you don't pay the grind devolves into frustration because the progress is balanced to encourage sales. While this may not be true for this game, it is far too common a trend for me to bother with games that include it.
        That said I want to pay for good games and I feel that unlock packs for content are great. I would love to pay 4$ per hero and pay more over the life of a game as new content is released. But first the game needs to enjoyable and IAP currency nearly always leads to games I don't enjoy to play.
        I hear this claim of fair IAP currency all the time and every time I fall into the trap the same things happens; I invest time only to find that later in the game progression stalls out unless you pay. So my policy is to pass on these games.
        This doesn't mean that this game is bad. In fact this game looks great which is why I commented. It's just not for me.

      • Carabak

        Hi. Allowing for the fact that your game MAY be the exception, we've all heard this argument that IAP gold is not needed many times before and ended up getting frustrated. I must say I downloaded the game before I knew it had IAP gold and the graphics look stunning and gameplay excellent. If it was a free lite version and paid full version, or free with a one off charge to remove ads and get full content people would probably be falling over themselves to buy it at any price under about £15. Again, it may be your game is the exception to what has become the norm, forgive us for being understandably cynical.

      • bilboad

        Oh, I get why people are suspicious when they see that a game has consumable IAP. I've tried plenty of games which technically don't require you to buy anything, but when you play them it becomes obvious that they are designed to be very tedious to play unless you buy stuff. The thing is I've also played games which seem obviously balanced for playing without buying any consumable stuff, but which still offer consumables for sale. Warhammer Quest is one of my favorite examples of the latter, where the option to buy gold is clearly just there for impatient players.

        The question is, how do you know the difference? You could try the game yourself, but I understand why you wouldn't want to invest a bunch of time into a game only to find it effectively has a paywall. The other way is to read reviews by reviewers you trust. In this case, Shaun has written a review after playing through the game, and according to him this game is obviously balanced for players who aren't buying IAP gold. Since Shaun is a reviewer I trust based on having read many reviews by him, I'm comfortable getting this game. I respect that if you're not familiar with Shaun then maybe the review isn't enough to set your mind at ease. I'm less respectful of the position that it's never ok for a developer to sell optional IAP items regardless of how the game is balanced.

      • Carabak

        Been burned so many times it makes one very wary. Hopefully the game will do very well- looking at the graphics etc it is certainly very well put together. A certain other GW board game really dissolved my trust and was bigged up despite its freemium shenanigans. This is a very nicely polished game and I hope it does well. Again I personally would buy it at a higher price if there were no IAP gold. Titan Quest is a beast of a game and IMO sold too cheaply- a true premium RPG.

      • http://twitter.com/JaredTA Jared Nelson

        "If it was a free lite version and paid full version, or free with a one off charge to remove ads and get full content people would probably be falling over themselves to buy it at any price under about £15."

        HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA good one.

      • Lickzy

        Would you turn down a free motorized bicycle because you COULD put gas in it if you wanted to go faster with no effort? How about decline it because it runs the risk of breaking down sometime in the future? Or would you refuse it by virtue because there exists upgrades you could buy for it, such as a bell to notify those you're approaching on your high horse, or a napsack to carry around your sense of pride and entitlement?

        How about just enjoying the free bike and pedalling along because it works fine without gas?

      • err404

        This is a bad analogy, but I'll go with it... How many times should I take a free motorized bicycle when every one I have had in the past provides a bad experience? On some I have to peddle to hard to get anywhere and some I can only ride it a 1/4 mile a day. Sure I could put gas in, but I don't find that fun. I want to get some exercise and the free bike doesn't let me do that.
        The bike next to it isn't free, but it is fun to ride. The gearing is better and I can ride as long as I want. Just dont try to sell be a bell for it that only works once.
        There is no "sense of entitlement" because I am not demanding that this free bike be fixed. It looks pretty but I strongly suspect that it has the same flaws of the other free bikes and it's not worth my time to find out. I would rather pay for a model that gives me the experience I want, even if that is expensive.
        In short the economics of "free" effect the GAMEPLAY in a way I dont enjoy. The price is irrelevant.

  • Carabak

    Looks from the forum like this really is one of those games where the IAP is optional , in which case the price for unlocking everything is extremely cheap. I guess some of us get nervous when we see that pricing model.

Arcane Quest 3 Reviewed by Shaun Musgrave on . Rating: 4