Axion Logic has released a strategy RPG that is a cross between elements of Puzzle Quest, Critter Crunch, and turn based strategy games called chronoSgear. Most similar to the Nintendo DS game Might and Magic: Clash of Heroes, chronoSgear combines a match 3 battle system with an interesting and unique story line making for an engaging title. Leveling up units and yourself adds to the strategy as you embark on linear quests in a time travel storyline. Different factions with different abilities will keep you thinking for the best way to defeat an enemy.
Being a fan of the Heroes of Might and Magic series for some time now, I was immediately intrigued by the announcement of this title. It is the only and closest entry on the Appstore for fans of the series. In chronoSgear you play as Stark, an adopted member of the Amici Mafia. The head of your family sends you on quests that help them, and of course put you in peril. It all boils down to one fateful day where your enemy General Vincenti makes a move that the family is too late to stop. It is up to you to stop him and the only way is to go back in time. Luckily the Amici Family has a time travel device at their disposal so off you go to try and prevent the unfortunate events of the future.
Battling opponents utilizes a match 3 battle system while protecting Stark’s “Soul Zone”. Deplete the enemies’ soul for the victory, allow Stark’s to empty and he is defeated. Simple? Not really, since many different units are available for play and with different abilities, strategy is high. Decisions must be made to attack or defend and in some cases one choice is clearly the more beneficial. There are no weapons or armor to upgrade here, only Soul Zone points and Soul Cards that help in battle.
Battle System: Strategy is involved in the battle system as you try to match units of three. Only a set number of moves are allowed each turn and choices must be made to attack or defend. Each unit has a different attack rating. But those with the higher attack values need more turns to “mature” if you will. Choices between waiting a turn for the higher attack, or attacking with less on the next turn become crucial to winning and losing a battle.
Manga Art: Having not seen manga artwork in some time in a game of this caliber it is refreshing for a developer to take the risk and it pays off. Lots of Japanese influences abound with Japanese writing on the title screen. The cut scenes are very enjoyable with this style of artwork.
Controls: To move Stark in the overworld a d-pad appears wherever your finger touches the screen. This makes it easy to move around the portrait orientated map. Touch anywhere and you can move. Since moving around does not need to be precise, this works very well. Especially if you need to move in circles to encounter enemies while leveling either yourself or your units.
Balance: While in most RPGs I expect some amount of leveling up via grinding, it is frustrating in this game to face your first assignment by the family only to get obliterated immediately. Setting out to level up, Starck circled in place and battling enough enemies to level up not one but two levels before having success in that battle.
Another instance of too much too soon are the amounts of exp points needed to level up. Even at low levels, leveling up needs an average of 4,000 exp in some cases and battling opponents yields between 175 and 325 exp, leaving a daunting task in order to gain a level. There are also quite a few side battles to face to accomplish your goal. While a veteran of this battle style and game play will welcome the added battles, there has to be a middle ground for the new player. I can see frustrated new players barging into battle and encountering frustration as the enemy depletes their Soul Zone in one move.
Options Menu: Separate music and sound effects controls are needed in the options. Perhaps this is a personal pet peeve but for me it is a sign of a polished game that the dev took the extra step to finish off for the consumer. There are a ton of games that it is great to hear the sound effects but not the music and vice versa. I am not sure why this is not a standard feature at this juncture of the Appstore. While the game supports playing music from your own playlist, the music drowns out the sound effects. A separate volume control within the game option menu should be included to control not the overall volume of the game but instead the sound effects and the music separately. So many games have been doing this successfully I guess I have been spoiled.
Unit Selection: The battle screen is separated in two. The top half is your opponent and the bottom half is Stark. To make a match, select a unit to move from one column to another – in the style of Critter Crunch or DynoGems. With so many units on the screen the boxes and columns are pretty slight. This led to some false movements due to the wrong selection. The blue column highlight camouflages the color of the unit just enough so that orange might look purple and vice versa so a wrong move is discovered too late. With only three moves per turn, this can kill a battle against a stronger opponent later in the game. An undo button should be at the very least implemented in a future update since screen real estate is at a premium and the number of units on screen should not be sacrificed.
Length of game: The loading screen indicates this is a “prequel.” Each unit only levels up to 5, so paired with my gripe about the game being unbalanced it is also short. What the grinding seems to do is artificially lengthen the play. It will remain to be seen if there is a next chapter and if it is a free upgrade or DLC or a new title.
Overall, chronoSgear is a nice addition to the Appstore that takes some familiar game concepts and rolls them into one. With gameplay similar to a popular game series, and new elements introduced, this game should satisfy many needs. Seamlessly combining a strategic RPG, a puzzle and a turn based strategy game into one was not an easy task, but Axion Logic appears to have done just that with chronoSgear.