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Monday, May 23, 2011

Review: Dofus Battles (iPad)

Dofus Battles tricked me. The iPad App store shop had the game’s description in French, making it hard to figure out what exactly the game was about, but the fact there were cute anime characters on a square grid board make it look like a Tactics RPG.

Looks like a Tactics RPG, right? Looks are very deceptive


Let this reinforce a lesson that everyone already knew, but we all sometimes forget: read reviews and look at video footage before buying a game. Dofus Battles is not a Tactics RPG. It’s a tower defence game, and it’s not even that good at it. Mind you, this one goes out of its way to be deceptive about what it is, so consider this review a warning.

Each level involves stopping the enemy from reaching the little dragon at one side of the grid. Enemies come in waves, just like a tower defence game, and you have a handful of units at your disposal, and just like every other tower defence game, those units have their own unique abilities. Some heal wounded units, others do area damage; there’s the physical beater, the archer, the ‘slow the enemy down’ unit and so on.




There’s a thin attempt to bring some RPG elements into the game – you can buy equipment upgrades for units and they all level up with battlefield experience, but it’s ultimately a limited system that doesn’t involve any real decision making – grind away to get money to buy the most expensive items. That’s not exciting stuff.

There’s also a handful of minigames, but they’re universally terrible in execution. Playing them once is more than enough. And that's about all there is to say about the game. Nothing about it is especially original or creative. Unit types are standard, there's few attempts to build an engaging world to interact with, and the three difficulty levels scale as expected. You're in for a tough challenge with the hard mode, but unless you're a tower defence tragic, the really big challenge will be staying interested in this game enough to get around to playing on hard.

What the game does get very right is the visual presentation. The sprites are well drawn and colourful, and there’s a lot of variety in the enemies (though there’s not much variety in how the enemies behave). Music is bright and charming.

The action can get heckic, but it's still ultimately a shallow game

Of course, that’s let down somewhat by some very poor translation, and a plot that is silly, but not in the good way. But by the time I got around to considering the story, I was well and truly let down by the whole experience anyway.

There’s nothing overly wrong with the game, but it’s terrible, simply because it’s so disappointing. Dofus itself is a MMO with a very local following. Why the developers didn’t go to a bit more effort to bring social elements into the game, or offer up a proper Tactics RPG when the style of the game is perfectly suited for that genre, I’ll never know. Having exhaused Battle for Wesnoth, it still looks like we'll need to wait for Final Fantasy Tactics to see that genre get some support. Dofus could have made a killing by being a high profile Tactics RPG and standing out. As it is, it's lost amongst a sea of superior tower defence games.

Given the really excellent Two Worlds II: Castle Defense was just released, there’s really no reason to get this over that game, even though it’s a little cheaper.


Review: Dofus Battles (iPad)
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