Korean developer Com2Us‘ The Chronicles of Inotia is one of the longest running and most notable Action RPG series on iOS.
Its first entry, Legend of Feanor [$0.99], released in late 2008, only months after the app store’s debut. The game was rough around the edges, but also the app store’s first notable role-playing game. The 2009 sequel, A Wanderer of Luone [$2.99], upped the ante manifold, adding multiple character classes, a party system, vastly improved mechanics, a larger world, better story and remarkably detailed graphics. The game wasn’t perfect, but earned NoDpad’s highest rating and our enduring admiration.
At the time its release, Legend of Feanor was unchallenged in the app store and stood out as a unique product. A year later, A Wanderer of Luone entered a more crowded market but stood apart from the competition on account of its substantial merits and vast improvements over its progenitor. The game really raised the bar, and even today holds its own against the very best Action RPGs on iOS.
Understandably, we were eager to get our hands on Inotia’s third, Children of Carnia [$4.99].
But with A Wanderer of Luone having set the bar so high, Children of Carnia has a lot to live up to. In some ways it succeeds, and in some ways it does not. Overall, Children of Carnia is a game worthy of the Inotia name, but it doesn’t offer much improvement over Inotia’s second and is really just more of the same. For anyone who enjoyed A Wanderer of Luone, that might be enough to spark interest.
Children of Carnia is a Korean Action RPG, which means — you guessed it! — grinding! And fetch quests! Hurray! The player steps into the shoes of Lucio on his day of ceremonial adulthood, who — in typical RPG fashion — is quickly swept into an adventure on which pivots the very fate of the world. Lucio may be assigned any one of six classes at the outset — Barbarian, Templar, Rogue, Shadow Hunter, Priest or Arc Mage — each with different strengths and skill trees, and able to use different types of equipment. The game then gets off on the wrong foot by asking you to kill deer to collect 8 scraps of leather to be sewn into your ceremonial clothes; yes, the moment you begin you are given a tedious fetch quest.
After completing this “quest” and performing a few other menial tasks about town, it’s time for your ceremony into adulthood alongside your childhood love interest Ameli, and the ball finally gets rolling. And here is where the game stands apart from A Wanderer of Luone:
In the previous game, your character was essentially a generic player in the larger tale. The player’s choice of class dictated not only the main character’s abilities, but also their appearance and gender. When additional party members joined up to fight alongside you, they were nameless mercenaries without any role in the story. The overall effect was that the characters participated in the story, but were not a part of the story. Children of Carnia brings the story more to the fore by developing a cast of characters who interact with each other, who relate to one another, and who each have a part to play in the larger tale. The game attempts to put a stronger emphasis on narrative than in the previous game, and for this I applaud Com2Us’ efforts.
When during their ceremony Lucio and Ameli discover a fallen orc in the forest, Ameli administers to his wounds while Lucio gathers the materials she requires to heal him. The orc is no sooner on his feet again than he is murdered by mysterious interlopers, but not before placing his charge — a set of gauntlets — into the youngsters’ hands, petitioning their assistance in completing his mission, and instructing them to hide from the approaching threat. And so the tale unfolds …
As in previous series entries, the bulk of the game will be spent exploring maps filled with monsters to be slain and running errands for characters met along the way. Some of these errands will advance the story and reveal significant plot points, while others will be rather trivial. Combat is frequent and consists of selecting a target and pressing the attack button; your party will then pound on the creature until it dies. At any time during combat, the player may use their character’s skills to turn the tide of combat — inflicting greater damage, striking multiple foes, buffing the party or healing its wounds — while AI controlled characters will use their assigned skills of their own volition so long as they have MP enough to power them.
The Party System: The party system first seen in A Wanderer of Luone returns in Children of Carnia with welcome improvements. Where party members were largely left to chance in the previous game, Children of Carnia provides a large cast of characters from which to choose, and allows the player to swap party members in and out of action at will from the menu, ultimately giving the player much greater freedom in choosing the lineup of their adventuring party than before.
An Emphasis on Story: Children of Carnia exhibits a greater emphasis on story and characters than in previous games. And while the story is ultimately lacking in originality, it is still nice to have personalities with whom to empathize during the journey, rather than the cardboard figurines of previous Inotia games.
Quest Indicators: The game not only puts quest indicators on characters you need to talk to, but also on doorways leading to characters or events. It’s a nice touch and ensures players won’t bypass quests without realizing they are there, if for example a quest is in a potion shop that I otherwise wouldn’t go into because I don’t need to buy potions.
Art Direction: By no means the worst looking Action RPG on the app store, Children of Carnia is far from attaining the visual splendor of its predecessor. A Wanderer of Luone was and still is one of the prettiest sprite-based RPGs on iOS, and a personal favorite for art direction in video games. Children of Carnia just looks beaten and bruised, smeared in the mud by comparison.
The characters are super-deformed, with heads disproportionately large to their bodies, and everything is far too cute. For example, the character art for the orcs shows them to be hulking and tough; their in-game sprites, however, look more like orc plushies.
The game’s use of color is also very subdued, seeming almost monochromatic compared to the both use of color as seen in A Wanderer of Luone.
Grinding and Fetch Quests: Typical of modern role-playing games, and of Korean role-playing games in particular, grinding and fetch quests have become a popular method of artificially extending the length of your game by forcing the player to dally in one location for far longer than they otherwise should have to. This is typically achieved by blocking story progression until certain conditions are met (usually too many conditions), or by populating the area ahead with opponents so overpowered that the player is forced to level-up their characters before having any chance of survival. And so you will often find yourself traipsing back and forth through the same areas fighting rabid badgers for the 200th time either because someone asked you to kill X-number of rabid badgers because they just don’t like badgers, or because someone asked you to collect 15 jelly beans and jelly beans are only carried by rabid badgers and so you will have to kill between 25 and 50 rabid badgers in order to liberate those 15 jelly beans from their dirty, greedy, jelly bean mongering paws. Having then collected said jelly beans, you might be asked to carry them across the street to Nancy, because Nancy loves jelly beans and doesn’t give one thought to the dead badgers who had to die to attain so many jelly beans …
Blatant Disregard for Animal Rights: If ever you’ve wondered how elephants made it onto the endangered species list, Children of Carnia should clear it right up for you. Much of the game is spent slaying adorable forest creatures. Kill deer to collect hides for leather. Kill Ostriches for their combs. Slay rattlesnakes for their venom. Also, bears, armadillos, wolves and more. Last I checked deer were relatively nonviolent creatures. Is everything in this world rabid? I don’t mind slaying countless droves of monsters, undead and the like. But I have to drawn the line at bunny massacre. Children of Carnia is far too much about the murder of innocent forest creatures, to the point that I would have serious hesitation handing the game off to a child for fear the impression it would make.
Interface and Menus: The beautifully crafted d-pad and buttons of the previous game are gone, replaced now with gaudy neon indicators that suit the game not at all, except to further promote the ugliness that abounds. The menu system is pleasantly informative, and it’s fairly easy to manage your party and whatnot. But it’s ugly as well and can be frustrating at times. For example, it is no longer possible to compare items in inventory to items equipped, and information windows for items and skills often obscure other things I’d like to be able to access (like the button to exit the menu). Interactive buttons for items are uncomfortably close together, and it’s a bit to easy to inadvertently make input mistakes, such as dropping items instead of using them.
Item Identification: Most of the weapons and armor you will find in your travels will need to be identified before they can be equipped or sold. Early in the game, though, equipment sells for far too little to recoup the expensive of having it identified, and most of the items you find will end up being worthless. It feels like the game is punishing you unnecessarily for finding items.
Universal Support is a Joke: Children of Carnia is listed as a universal app for both iPhone and iPad, but on the iPad essentially plays like an iPhone game in 2x mode; just without the 2x mode. In no way is the game optimized or designed to be played on the iPad.
The Chronicles of Inotia: Children of Carnia is a solid Action RPG for iOS. Not ground-breaking in any way and certainly flawed, but entertaining nonetheless. For gamers who found A Wanderer of Luone enjoyable, Children of Carnia is an easy recommendation; on the flip side, those who did not enjoy that game will likely find nothing of additional interest here. Compared to its predecessor, Children of Carnia offers some minor gameplay refinements, but it’s all rather similar. The game lacks the online multiplayer component introduced in A Wanderer of Luone, but I never much indulged in the feature and don’t really miss it; some players might.
Bottom-line, Children of Carnia is an enjoyable role-playing game, though it becomes occasionally tedious with its fetch quests and grinding. If you’ve played Korean RPGs in the past, you will pretty well know what to expect; Children of Carnia is one of the app store’s better entries to the genre. But if you haven’t yet played its predecessor, A Wanderer of Luone, you might save a few dollars and try it first.
The Chronicles of Inotia: Children of Luone [$4.99] is developed by Com2Us. Reviewed at version 1.0.3 on an iPhone 4 and iPad.