You don't have to be nerdy to play here, but it helps. Check out the first two sentences in the introductory text of Orcs & Elves:
"An orc army has joined with a Dark Elf sect known as the Vaettir, shattering King Brahm's Dwarven forces. Your talking Wand's ancient magic has led you to Brahm Hall to investigate strange messages and to find King Brahm."
Elves? Check. Orcs? Check. Dwarves? Check. Talking magical items? RPG BINGO! Do I win a +3 Sword Of Charisma? No? Oh.
If you giggle at fantasy cliches, EA's new mobile game ain't for you. It's by no means humourless, but it does rely on you having more than a passing interest in mythical races, magic potions and getting pissed with dwarven spirits (in both senses of the word). It's hardcore stuff.
A confession: I spent a happy few years as a teenager playing Bloodbowl and Warhammer, loitering in Games Workshops, and exploring dungeons in a bunch of PC games levelling up mages. Yeah, I grew out of it at some point, but it's still lurking deep inside, ready to be revived at the first sniff of an orc, or indeed, an elf.
It's latent RPG-heads like me who Orcs & Elves will appeal most to. Us, and anyone who still goes weak at the keyboard at the mention of its designer John Carmack, who was one of the key people behind Doom and Quake (and the subject of a two-part Pocket Gamer interview last year)
His first mobile game was Doom RPG, which took the famous first-person-shooter and turned it into an almost turn-based role-playing game. Now he, along with developer Fountainhead Entertainment, has developed the game engine into a proper fantasy RPG.
So you and your talking wand set off to track down the King, dispatching as many monsters as possible while trousering loot to buy new stuff from the friendly local dragon shopkeeper. Yep, keep suspending that disbelief please.
Along the way you get to smash up some scenery, take potions, level up your character to get more powerful, and meet dwarf ghosts who unaccountably talk like pirates. You can consult a map at any time to see where you've been, while a Quest Log stores important information like codes to get through locked doors.
The control system and overall gameplay works pretty similarly to Doom RPG, too. You move one turn at a time, which in battle means you take it in turns to swipe or shoot at the monster opposite.
Like Doom RPG, it works really well, is fast-paced, and also means you can take a breather during hectic battles to heal yourself or glug another potion, which is handy.
What's more, Orcs & Elves feels meaty. As you progress you can acquire new weapons, armour (although shame on EA's translators for leaving this in as 'armor') and magical rings, and there's a great varity of monsters to fight. There's also a bunch of secrets to hunt down while travelling through the levels, which should provide good replayability.
If you run a mile from RPGs, Orcs & Elves won't change your mind. And it is basically Doom RPG in different clothes, which may be a selling point if you've been gagging for another slice of mobile Carmack, or may make you wince at a lack of ambition.
But if you're still an RPG-nut, or at least a latent one like me, Orcs & Elves is one guilty geek pleasure you shouldn't feel ashamed about enjoying.
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