An action-strategy RPG, the story goes that four crystals and that many heroes are the last hope for the town of Thaladon. In a mysterious land where monsters rule, you command the heroes – with conveniently complementary talents – in an effort to take down the unstoppable hoard and reunite the crystals before Thaladon is lost to darkness forever.
Your team is comprised of your strong arm, the Gunner, the sniping Sharpshooter, a Fire Mage and her companion an Ice Mage. Each is strong against certain enemy types, like ghoulish zombies, heavily armored sorcerers, or fiery foxes. As you wage war across forests, haunted plains and volcanoes, you must use your characters’ unique abilities wisely as well as make use of the purchased spells.
Spells, as well as character upgrades, can be purchased in the shop (or in this case, “shoppe”) between stages. Ranging from “Heaven’s Chorus” which can resuscitate a fallen member of the party, to a spell that clears the battlefield of ghouls, I had the hardest time with the strategy of choosing not only which spell to buy, but which to implement on the battlefield – and when. There always seemed to be plenty of gold for upgrading my characters, which I was eager to do since those upgrades are permanent. However, the spells once purchased are expendable, and rife with far more variables.
You control your party by rearranging them in the four slots on the left side of the screen, each corresponding to a row of attacking enemies. After each move the characters will be a little dizzy so you can’t just throw them around willy nilly. Controlling all four plus an arsenal of spells makes gameplay pretty frantic, so it’s good that the controls are a breeze (if a little in favor of righties over lefties).
Having played Airship Two’s previous offering, I like that I can see a certain aesthetic consistency. The presentation is clean, succinct, and charming. I like the paper cartoon style and the campaign mode’s minimalistic storytelling between stages. Each scene serves not only to advance the story but to give you the necessary information to tackle the next battle with the right strategy. Implementing that strategy, however, will not always be easy.
Beginning at about stage seven you can anticipate some very formidable encounters. Show-stopping, throw your phone, quit the game and curse its name and where it came from type encounters. While the cut scenes do make it very clear how to tackle the opposition getting the job done can still be an enormous feat. However, should you soldier on, reunite the sparklies and save Thaladon, well then you can play Challenge Mode where fresh brutality awaits.
At only ninety-nine cents, Crystal Alliances packs a pocket sized punch of value. A neat package of good visuals, compelling action-strategy and all the brutality of a more hardcore offering, fans of action-stratey RPGs will love this addition to the library.