Rimelands: Hammer of Thor [$4.99] is a new tactical turn-based RPG from developers Dicework and Crescent Moon Games (of Ravensword [$3.99/Lite] fame). We previewed a hands-on video of the game about a month ago that explained how the turn-based combat worked as well as showcasing some of the games many items and weapons. With Rimelands now available, we’ve been able to experience these first hand, and came away impressed with how well the different elements of the game come together. The dice-rolling combat mechanic gives it an old school pen-and-paper feel, while the dungeon crawling and loot collection offers plenty to discover in the game. Couple that with an interesting story and top-notch visuals, and Rimelands is one of the best RPG experiences you can have on the iPhone.
Humans have squandered the resources of the world, throwing off the balance of the ecosystem and turning their once beautiful lands into an uninhabitable frozen wasteland. They are forced to move into underground vaults for a thousand years, and when they finally emerge they find that a new race called the Fair Folk have taken over the dominant role above ground. Humans try to reclaim their territory, and war ensues. An uneasy peace is finally reached between the two sides, and they are able to precariously coexist together above ground. This leaves countless underground vaults filled with treasures of the last millennium, ready to be explored and exacted by you, treasure hunter Rose Cristo.
The story in Rimelands sets the stage perfectly for a dungeon crawling adventure. You’ll play the role of Rose as she travels to the many towns and vaults in Rimelands discovering treasures, completing quests, and evolving her character with the multitude of items and abilities available. The game is played from an isometric viewpoint and combat and movement are grid-based. This can take some getting used to as you’re only able to move in four directions rather than being able to move around the world freely. Coming within striking distance of an enemy allows you to engage in the turn-based combat which is a mixture of long-ranged and melee attacks. An interesting dice mechanic determines your offensive and defensive effectiveness, and playing Rimelands feels like an interactive board game where all of the dull pen-and-paper stuff has been automated for you.
An overhead map lets you travel to the towns and vaults that you discover during the game. Quests are obtained by talking with characters around the world much like your typical RPG. There is a main storyline to follow as well as many side quests to pick up and complete. The dungeons in Rimelands are full of dangerous enemies, as well as many unique treasures. Traversing these dungeons feels very Diablo-esque, as there are many rooms to explore and a ton of loot to obtain, although with strategic turn-based combat instead of the hack ‘n slash variety. Making your way through the dungeons is incredibly fun, and I found it hard to stop playing until I was sure I’d explored every nook and cranny of each in order not to miss any lucrative treasure chests.
One of the high points of Rimelands is the extensive variety of items and weapons in the game, as well as the various skill trees for your character. Defeating enemies earns you gold and experience points, and upon leveling up you can choose a new ability from one of three skill trees. Barbarian brings melee effects, Assassin boosts your ranged abilities, and Shaman covers magical abilities. There’s quite a bit of diversity with how you want to build your character, and good reason to play through the game multiple times focusing in different areas each time. An engineering dynamic is in the game as well, allowing you to build different weapons with blueprints that you find. It’s an interesting idea, but not totally necessary due to the many excellent weapons you’re bound to come across in the game anyway.
Graphically Rimelands is a beautiful game. The characters and enemies are fairly detailed, and their animations are excellent. The environments are also very attractive, with snowy terrain when you are in the above ground areas and dark dungeons with nice lighting effects when you go underground. The in-game graphics do have a slightly jagged look to them, but nothing overly detracting. Retina Display support is a possibility down the road, as is a native iPad version, although nothing has been finalized. Rimelands runs just fine in 2x mode on the iPad, and players in our forums are definitely enjoying the game this way. The story is told via static illustrations and text, and by in-game dialogue between characters as well. There isn’t any full motion video or animated cutscenes, but the story is engaging and the illustrated bits look great.
There are plenty of other nuances to Rimelands, and it really is a game with a grand scope. You can expect to get about 8-10 hours out of one playthrough, and there is good incentive to go through multiple times and try out different character builds. Plus, this should only be the first chapter in the Rimelands universe, as more content will be coming down the line via updates as well as planned sequels. Dicework and Crescent Moon have a winner on their hands here, and I’ll be looking forward to seeing more from this series. I don’t typically love turn-based strategy games, but Rimelands had me hooked almost instantly. It’s easy enough to get into whether you enjoy the strategic combat, loot collecting, character leveling, or just want to uncover the story in the unique steampunk universe. For fans of these elements, or any gamer in general, Rimelands: Hammer of Thor is a solid choice.