Orcs and Elves - Staff Review  

A Classic RPG Feel On Your Nintendo DS
by Jonathon Self

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Easy to Moderate
10-15 Hours
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   When Fountainhead Entertainment announced the adaptation of the mobile phone RPG Orcs and Elves over to the Nintendo DS, it would probably be easily assumed that most weren't overwhelmed with excitement. Mobile phone games in the United States are hardly known for being masterpieces. The mobile Orcs and Elves broke these assumptions by becoming a golden gem among mobile games, and Fountainhead Entertainment's attempt to enhance the title on its new platform is quite an accomplishment even if at times it's fairly obvious the game has roots on a mobile platform.

   The world of Orcs and Elves seems to have fallen out of a forgotten 1980s tabletop RPG, though that's not to say it's unoriginal. The beginning of the game throws the player into the entrance of the mountain city Zharrkarag. Apparently at some point before the game begins, Elli--the main character--receives a strange message from the Dwarven King Brahm. In fear of Brahm's safety, and in desire to further investigate the message, Elli's talking wand Ellon guides you to Zharrkarag, the homeland of the Dwarves. Upon arriving, you find out that an army of Orcs and Dark Elves have joined forces and overtaken the mountain. The primary quest of the game is to defeat the mountain's invaders and determine the location of King Brahm. Initially, the story may seem generic, but throughout the game it unfolds to be both an unpredictable and enjoyable experience.

   The mechanics of controlling Elli are very reminiscent of RPGs of yesteryear. Gameplay takes place in a first-person perspective, though you can only look and move in four directions: north, east, south, and west. It would be easy to believe that such limitations in the control scheme would be hindrance to overall gameplay, but these limitations fit perfectly within the traditional and old school feel that the game presents.

Spellcasting for Dumies Spellcasting for Dummies

   Moving, attacking, and item use can be activated by using either touch screen or conventional button control. In fact, touch screen or button control can be used both exclusively, though there are some instances where either can become clunky and unintuitive for certain tasks. Casting spells, for example, is exceedingly easier with a stylus. Without a stylus, you're forced to go through multiple menus just to perform this simple task. While it isn't completely frustrating, it discourages the use of spells to an extent that it's far more hassle than pleasure.

   Another aspect of the combat which may not immediately be noticeable is the fact that actions such as sword slashing or potion chugging occur in turns as opposed to real time. For example, if a monster is standing in front of you, it will not attack or move until you perform an action first. While it does seem like a strange decision to include such a feature in the title, it does have subtle advantages that only come apparent through lengthy playing. Precise decisions that have to be made during gigantic brawls between a dozen enemies can now be thoughtful and premeditated. Instead of scrambling to chug a potion at the last second before a final death blow, that potion can be calculated and planned. Again, the game brings a traditional feel of turn-based play that tabletop RPGs have created for years.

Dragons, Oh My! Dragons, Oh My!

   All of its strengths aside, the game has some definite faults. Ellon the talking wand speaks for the main character throughout most of the game. It seems humorous at first when Ellon is talking to a dwarf while you stare at a wall, but about five hours into the gameplay without any words spoken from Elli makes you wonder if he's a complete mute. Also, while the dungeons themselves look fairly spectacular in their three-dimensional glory, the monster sprites seem almost as if they are direct copies from a 1980s computer RPG. The audio really didn't step forward and show itself as a dominate feature either. While it wasn't detrimental to the overall experience, it was equally forgetful. These issues may seem insubstantial to some, but their overall impact on the game's story and visuals are both equally noticeable and tedious.

   Orcs and Elves is a title that will easily appeal to fans of old school dungeon crawling and tabletop role-playing, though the title does have issues with poor two-dimensional monster animation, its generic fantasy setting, and its relatively short gameplay. Even considering its short-comings, Orcs and Elves is a solid introduction to the Nintendo DS by Fountainhead Entertainment. Though many may be turned off by its deficiencies, the old school dungeon crawling feel the game presents creates an instant classic for the original fans of the dungeon crawling genre.

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