When it comes to mobile gaming, hack n’ slash RPGs are nothing new, especially those of the dungeon-crawling variety. For years now, Gameloft have dominated the genre on tablets and iDevices with its Dungeon Hunter series. Its third iteration, a free-to-play arena-based RPG saw the franchise stumble before Dungeon Hunter 4 launched this year, reclaiming its former glory. Though accessible and carrying hours of content, not even the platform’s most refined dungeon crawler has reached the heights or popularity of PC substitutes such as Diablo or even Torchlight.
In many ways, Iesabel -from developer, Forever Entertainment- attempts to bridge this gap. The result is a much more mature approach to dungeon-crawling and one that allows better customisation, bigger battles, and in-depth character development. However, when all is said in done, if you want to get the most out of this gritty action RPG, you’d be better off downloading it for Mac or, even better, wait for it to pass Steam Greenlight.
It may have substance yet Iesabel’s narrative isn’t integral to the overall experience. All you need to know is that there are four fabled heroes, an army of darkness and you, a hapless adventurer who unwittingly becomes the game’s lead protagonist. It’s run-of-the-mill and, in some places, flat yet never intrudes on gameplay.
In Iesabel, you have a choice of two classes; the brutish barbarian or the roughspun witch, their combat styles immediately separable. Where the barbarian favours close-quarters combat, the witch prefers picking off enemies from afar with her grimoire of incantations. Aside from play style and appearance, loot is largely defined by class with most items being specifically tied to either the barbarian or witch.
Though played from a top-down perspective, Iesabel isn’t really the hack n’ slash game some would call it. Yes, there are swathes of enemies to cut through yet the game is more of a hybrid between action RPGs as well as click and command games such as Baldur’s Gate. To initiate combat you simply press the attack button, either tapping a chosen target or having the game do it for you automatically. Still, button presses do no correspond to the speed of attacks. Whether witch or barbarian, the pace is slightly more tempered and could even be compared to MMOs or MOBAs with similar combat systems.
As you kill enemies, gain experience, and gather loot, your character will grow. Each level brings with it points which can be spent on new abilities with coins being exchanged for weapons and armour. Iesabel even has a crafting system, allowing players to combine scrap loot into potions and runes. It’s surprisingly in-depth and continues to expand throughout the game.
Though fairly linear in parts, Iesabel has a quest system and maps that can revisited via teleportation checkpoints. It may not add a lot to the overall experience yet still acts as a meaningful diversion, granting XP and gold for those who dare to stray from the beaten path.
However you play Iesabel, you’ll still have the opportunity to customise the game to your own preferences. Maps can be toggles, as can action slots and health bars which can also be rearranged to create a UI that suits you. This feature comes particularly in handy when playing with NPC parties or online, with up to seven other players.
Iesabel is a competent RPG and one that offers just enough depth and diversity to keep things interesting. Impressively, Forever Entertainment have managed to instil the markings of a fully fledged dungeon crawler into an iOS title. However, the odd technical hiccup and sometimes unwieldy touch controls will begin are still there and, sadly, can never be amended. If you want a pure, un-adulterated dungeon-crawling RPG this is as close as you’ll get without searching on a PC or Mac.
View on iTunes: https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/iesabel/id666232910?mt=8