If I lived in a fantasy world with demons, zombies and magic, the last place I’d want to be is in a ‘sleepy little village’
Not only would I run the very real risk of accidentally being the chosen one with dormant powers and a tragic past, but my place of residence would have a better than even chance of being the site of an evil supernatural attack.
Zenonia kicks off, rather predictably, with your 16-year-old protagonist called - say it with a straight face, please - ‘Regret’ coming to terms with his father’s death at the hands of a demon. No points for guessing where this occurs.
But while the plot does at first appear to conform to Generic Fantasy 101, like with so much of Zenonia it belies an intelligence and cleverness that puts most other titles in the genre to shame.
Before the plot kicks off, you have the choice of picking from three character classes, each with their own strengths and weaknesses.
The Paladin can heal, but his powers are costly to use; the Warrior is the heaviest hitter, but is slow to swing; the Assassin is quick to strike, but doesn’t last long when surrounded.
The different characters don’t make too much impact on the gameplay, though, as it mostly consists of hammering the 'attack' button whatever character you choose. There’s the occasional stab on a quick-slotted special move or potion, but otherwise your right thumb gets a hell of a workout.
It sounds basic and un-engaging when written down, and in the hands of a lesser developer it would be. But Gamevil wraps this simple gameplay in some simply stunning graphics, animation, and pyrotechnics that put 99 per cent of the Android Market’s other games to shame.
Even the simplest strike in Zenonia is accompanied by huge explosions, with numbers zipping away from the monster. You'll even see a comic-book style ‘Ka-Boom!’ appear when a critical hit lands.
All these graphical treats did stress out the G1 I was reviewing the game on, though, and this will probably be the case for most low to mid-range Android handsets.
Disabling the sound from the in-game system menu sped things up considerably, albeit at the cost of some excellent retro music.
Will work for EXP
Combat is fast, frantic, and always entertaining, with even the more grindey sections of the story made palatable by the sheer pace of the action.
It’s also ridiculously moreish, with the next level - and therefore better stats, powers and equipment - only ever a few more minutes away.
The progression does start to grind down at around level 30, but by that point the character development tree will have fully opened up, offering promises of fantastical new attacks and stat bonuses if you only. Kept. Playing.
It’s not just about combat and levelling, though. Zenonia has a ridiculous amount of loot hoarding and inventory management to keep things engaging during the rare moments of peace.
Equipment can become damaged, magic items need to be identified, enchantments crafted, and the weight of your backpack carefully managed unless you want to crawl around for hours.
It can sometimes feel as if Zenonia is trying to fit a little too much in, though. The food system used to top up your maximum spell points, for instance, ends up being more of an annoyance than a feature, while a lot of the game concepts - like the DEX value for attacks or what the various resistances do - go unexplained.
Most frustrating of all, though, is the menu system, which relies on the virtual D-pad to navigate, as opposed to letting you use the touchscreen.
In theory this makes sense as the menu boxes are incredibly small and would be a pain to select, but they’re only incredible small because the screen has to display the virtual D-Pad at the same time. It was a problem in the original iPhone release, so it’s a shame it hasn’t been addressed for the Android version.
The fiddly menus don’t stop Zenonia being one of the finest games currently available on the Android Market. Fast, fun, great to look at, and incredibly addictive, it sets the benchmark for all subsequent action RPGs on the Android platform to beat.
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