With the slightly bad taste of The Chronicles of Inotia still fresh in the minds of some gamers, the announcement of Inotia 2: A Wanderer of Luone [App Store] was met with some understandable concerns. The first game in the franchise was plagued with a terrible menu/inventory system, boring battles, and extremely limited RPG elements, so is Inotia 2 (pronounced “In-oh-tee-ya," for those curious) even worth taking a glance at? After spending some considerable time in the world of this sequel, I can confidently say that it’s a completely different game than its predecessor in all of the best ways.
Inotia 2 isn’t really bringing anything new to the table, even in terms of the app store. Games like Dungeon Hunter and (more similarly) Zenonia have already pioneered the action-RPG genre on the platform, but Inotia 2 makes up for that by being more polished, more accessible, and arguably deeper than any that came before it.
Progress is made through the completion of main-story quests and the leveling up of your character, a concept that should be familiar to many gamers. All of the regular trimmings like a skill tree that you can use to customize your character as he/she levels or collectible loot is there, but it’s the mercenaries system that really sets Inotia 2 apart. Over the course of the game, players will be able to hire up to two mercenaries, which they can then take with them on all their quests, level up and customize as they grow, and actually manually control while in battle.
This allows for experimentation with each of the five character classes in a single playthrough, regardless of which character you chose at the beginning of the game to be your main. Item customization is another feature that adds to the depth of Inotia 2, as it allows players to attach enchantments (or upgrades) to their weapons and equipment via scrolls found through various methods in the game.
If plot is your main concern when delving into action-RPGs, Inotia 2 is going to disappoint you. The story is cliche-filled and poorly written, with bad dialogue making the already uninteresting conversations between characters only bearable because of the ability to quickly tap your way through them. It does not matter if you choose to play as a male or female character in this game, because everyone in the game will refer to you as though you are male, regardless of actual gender. This is all probably due to the fact that the developers, Com2uS, are from Korea and it seems like quite a bit may have been lost in translation.
Non-Player Characters (NPCs) are scattered about environments and towns with quests to give and generic lines to spew, as is par for the course in games of this genre, but they all seem dead due to their complete lack of animation. Since the NES era, NPCs have always had small movement animations, just to make it clear to the player that they’re alive. This is not the case in Inotia 2; NPCs are so still that they could sometimes be mistaken as parts of the environment.
Addressing a common problem with both its predecessor and other games in its genre (I’m looking at you, Zenonia), Inotia 2 has a fantastic menu/inventory system. While the game does limit the number of items that players can carry along with them on the field, it also offers plenty of room for expansion, potentially to quadruple the number of inventory slots available at the start of the game. Touch navigation of the menus makes accessing all of the options, information, and character customization methods easy to get to.
The actual battles in Inotia 2 are extremely well-designed, and there’s a lot of fun and satisfaction to be had by taking part in them, especially later in the game, when you’ll be managing three characters at once, each with their own complete skill sets. Movement is controlled either by touch or virtual D-pad, the latter of which I found to be much more responsive.
There is a large attack button on the right-hand side of the screen, and tapping this button once while in attacking distance of an enemy will simultaneously auto-turn your character in the right direction and initiate a series of constant attacks until either your character or the enemy is dead. This sounds rather brutish and indelicate, but strategy comes into play when you take advantage of your (up to) four special attacks on your quick menu and the combined skills of your unique party members.
For the first part of the game, I controlled a mage (my main character) and a templar, the latter of whom served as both my healer and frontline. I controlled the templar and led the way into battle, creating a safe environment for my mage to attack from a distance behind me. At first, the only skill that my templar had access to was a basic healing spell, but with a broadsword and careful attention to the health bars of my party members, I was able to make it through most situations with ease. Later, I added a knight to my party, which added even more strategic options due to the fact that my templar was now freed for full time healing duty while my knight charged headfirst into enemies. The combination of class types in my party gave me a lot of wiggle room for experimentation with strategy, making the game much more than a simple hack-and-slasher.
Unfortunately, mercenaries do not have the same potential as your main character. Players are limited to the use of only half of their mercenaries’ skills trees, the other half of both passive and active abilities are locked. I suppose that the developers’ intentions when designing this system was to increase replayability and encourage second playthroughs as a different character class, but since the game is easily 40+ hours anyway, this is more of an annoyance than anything else. I strongly urge the developers to create some way to open up access to the second half of the mercenaries’ skill trees; it’s something that everyone who buys the game will want.
Inotia 2 is not lacking in online features, with a ranking system that shows your worldwide rank as measured by either player level or the highest level enchantment on one of your weapons. Players are also given the ability to take their party online in a versus-style environment called “Match Up Mode."
I would generally advise against participating in this mode until you have a full three person party, as you’re likely to get totally owned, otherwise. This mode is really nothing more than a fun diversion to take part in after completing the main storyline in the game, but it will add to the overall value to the really hardcore players who pour in the dozens of hours required to fully level their characters.
Visually, Inotia 2 is a real treat, with large, high-quality character portraits that appear during dialogue and an all around clean, top down 2D graphical style that looks several leaps ahead of what was possible on the Super Nintendo, but while still keeping that same sort of feel. The actual animation of characters aren’t quite up to par with the art and retro graphics in the game, but they do just well enough to not really be noticable.
The audio is a bit forgettable, with a score that seems uninspired and generic when compared to the approximately 12 million other games that use a fantasy setting, but the option to turn off individual aspects of the sound are allowed via the in-game menu, and music from your iPod itself can be activated in its place.
So is Inotia 2 worth a purchase? With the absolutely enormous story mode, numerous possibilities for customization (whether that be through party configurations, skill sets, or weapon/armor choices), and the online play options, this is by all means a complete package. The level of visual detail and overall fun factor provided by the game is only slightly diminished by weak writing, a problem that most games in the action-RPG genre share.
Casual gamers who are unfamiliar with games of this sort will most likely be turned off by the complexity of the game’s inner workings, but those who know what they’re getting into and enjoy similar games will probably agree with me when I say that Inotia 2 is one of the best action-RPG’s on the App Store.
App Store Link: Inotia: A Wanderer of Luone, $7.99