Is it possible for a game to make something of itself using both the engine from the frankly disappointing ‘Alphadia 2’ and a new freemium model? Surprisingly, there are some good ideas stirred into this strange soup, but are they enough to save it?
Released not through Kemco like their other games but directly by CxC Create, Warlord Revival is something of an unknown quantity. Strangely the price of removing adverts is also not listed in the game at all-making a blank purchase something of a risky investment given the nature of the developer and kind of title this is. The title is in fact an updated port of one of CxC’s oldest titles, developed for feature phones in Japan and upgraded for iOS and Android release. What makes the game stand out against a sea of titles using similar engines and published by Kemco is the blending of the warring states period in feudal Japan with more common RPG tropes, lending a historical atmosphere to the adventure.
Graphically this title uses 2D sprite art and chip-set backgrounds that resonate an early SNES style as seen through the colour pallet of a modern day handheld device such as the iPhone. These are sharp and well-drawn, though assets see a lot of re-use and characters on-screen have an excellent sense of belonging to a feudal world. Character portraits are a mixed-bunch however, with some drawn in styles completely different to others in the same conversation and a few even having been painted. This miss-matched approach is quite jarring and can take you out of the game somewhat, though sprites match this art perfectly at all times. The limitations of the engine housing the game are apparent, and much like Alphadia 2, bare a step back from those seen in the original Alphadia. For example large bars crop the screen well below the size of a 3Gs, with controls sunken into these borders and a completely redundant map on display. Full screen support wouldn’t have been expected for newer devices, but an additional border behind the existing border feels sadly pointless as it only serves to make the central playable area feel much smaller. Pop up adverts in banners across the top of the screen further reduce the size, though these display as empty when playing offline (which the game does with no trouble at all). Stick to using the virtual pad for playing to avoid accidentally tapping one of these.
Sound effects have been taken directly from Alphadia 2 and are something of a let-down given the setting of the game, more traditional oriental themed noises would have added a lot to the environment. Musically the game manages this however, with short looping pieces that employ synth instruments and do their best to produce some interesting arrangements. Sound as a whole isn’t spectacular but it is functional and provides what you expect, if not always what you want from the game. Scenarios with a story event always follow the emotional path of the narrative and are suitably happy or sad when needed. Some Japanese voice samples are used in battle, which work very well in collaboration with the setting.
In terms of narrative the game sees a pair of incestuous foreign invaders on Japanese soil raising the spirits of dead warlords from their history to fight for them. Your character, alongside a few other notable historical warlords such as Nobunaga, Nobushige and Masamune, rejects the offer at a second life but before you can be cast back to the afterlife an opportunity to escape presents itself and you take it. Whilst far from historically accurate (as the games sales pitch would have you believe) the mixture of faux-historical Japan with magic and other such tropes of the RPG genre works quite well. A few miss-steps aside, such as the translation being overly wordy in places and attempting (literal) toilet humour in others. Themes of honour, loyalty and the changing face of Japan as represented well however, and the games world lends itself to high-adventure. That historical warlords had very different personalities and ideas of what was right or wrong also makes for an excellent basis for inter-character relationships and is probably the key draw for most players.
Gameplay is standard JRPG turn based fair with standard overhead exploration and a few interesting additions. The games overworld map is made up of points liked by roads that alternate in colour based on the regularity you can expect to be attacked on them. The more you fight on these roads the easier they will become until you can progress smoothly in the future. The game’s true ending is linked to this system, with pacifying the world map a key aspect of this and being able to see your progress of saving the land visually with distinct ramifications adds a lot to the game’s charm. In towns you can take on mini-quests from NPCs, which range from ‘have you got an item?’ to ‘Speak to this person please’ but serve to add padding to an otherwise linear adventure. You can also buy items (no ‘potions’ here, everything is named as real-world items) equipment and sleep in inns to recover HP and MP. Chests are also strewn about to reward exploration, with many tucked away at the town’s edges or in houses. You can select the sex of your hero or heroine, but the in-game sprite has been designed to match both, only altering the face on the larger artwork shown in conversations, and this choice affects the game’s dialogue to an extent. Party members have a ‘trust’ stat toward you that is affected by the actions you take and choices you make narratively. Letting a character fall in combat or leaving them out of a party are trust issues, as are seemingly innocuous choices when speaking to NPCs. Trust is important because it both unlocks optional skits with those characters and adds teamwork to battles, with high trust party members joining in your attacks or boosting stats temporarily, vastly increasing damage output. Levelling immediately adds points to HP and MP stats but a handful of points are given to the player to decide how the other stats evolve. Toying with this system allows for versatility in a party’s build and also unlocks hidden skills that get added to your pool of commands in battle. Additional commands are learned randomly by taking hits in battle in an enemy-skill-like system. Sadly the game is quite easy and many of these skills won’t be useful to the player in the same way they would have been had the difficulty been cranked up to a higher degree. Most encounters can be defeated with auto-battle turned on, whilst bosses may require a little preparation or your active involvement. Running to 12 hours or so in total for the full edition of the game (hidden behind that pay wall but after a generous demo section) the game is short in length, possibly because of its original design for phones with smaller memory capacity that more current systems.
Overall, Warlord Revival is a great game, hamstrung by a lacklustre translation team and the use of an engine that just isn’t that good. Some of the systems in place that set it apart from regular JRPGs are truly excellent and it’s strange to think that in some ways CxC backed away from these advancements to make less interesting titles rather than pushing forward on this front. The pricing amount for a full unlock is stated online as $7.99 (no English currency total given but it’s roughly £6) which is quite a lot of money for a game of this age when ‘Alphadia Genesis 2’ will only set you back £3.99 and is far more current. I’d recommend this title as a demo only and allow players to make up their own minds as to whether they want to invest in the full edition.