Crescent Moon's iPhone RPG Ravensword remains one of the better examples of an Oblivion-style world on the App Store, but its next game Rimelands takes the action into more traditional role-playing territory.

Developed in conjunction with Dicework Games, Rimelands: Hammer of Thor is the first of a planned series of turn-based games set in the same steampunk universe, in which the world has turned icy and people only survived by going underground.

Since creating a new technology called Steam, humans have constructed the Overwinter Vaults, leading to a new ascension of mankind. However, the world has changed with the arrival of the faerie - something that's sparked racial conflict, now only held in uneasy check by The Exalted Chamber, a place where members of both races can meet.

As for the first episode in this gameworld - Hammer of Thor - the background is this peace is starting to unravel, while, more specifically to your character, you're exploring abandoned vaults to appease your grandmother's appetite for riches and trying to find more about your shrouded past. .

What's in the game?

In terms of gameplay, Rimelands is a fairly traditional Rogue-style RPG.

Movement through the tile-based environments is controlled using a D-pad. This feeds into the combat system, which is split into melee, ranged, and magic attacks.

All your combat options are managed according to how far you are from your target, with single tile-range melee options being mapped directly to the D-pad, while ranged and magic attacks have their own dedicated touch buttons, which light up when they are available.

Combat is turn-based and uses dice.

The number of dice you throw for each attack depends on how you've levelled up your character in terms of the barbarian (melee), assassin (ranged) and shaman (magic) skill attributes and the respective weapons equipped for each option. Obviously, you can create a specialised character in one class or a well-rounded one, which is average in all areas.

Offensively each dice can either be a hit - double or single skull - or miss - shield or cross. The damage of an attack is your character's melee power plus the weapon damage. However, each character also gets to roll defensive dice. In this case, a shield acts as a block, while the others don't have any effect.

Whether rolling offensively or defensively, you have the option to re-roll any failed dice as well, although this ability is limited by the number of mana points you possess.

Tactical balance

It all sounds a little complex, but after a couple of battles you quickly get the hang of it. Basically, you're trying to wear down your opponent(s) hit points to zero, earning experience points to level up - you get to decide how to apply them across the three classes - and gaining items and gold, in the process when you win.

You can also use health and mana potions mid-battle to keep yourself topped up with these attributes, or rest for a turn to gain one mana. Choosing in which order to attack your enemies is another important element.

Additional facets of the game include armour items for you to equip, and there's an engineering option, where you can experiment with, and combine, the items you acquire during your journey.

Pretty pictures

Hammer of Thor looks graphically strong, with decent 3D graphics viewed from a fixed isometric camera angle, and with neat effects such as snow particles and atmospheric lighting.

Levels are split between pre-designed situations - driving the storyline - and randomly created maps relating to sidequests and other less important locations.

Travel around the entire world is carried out using a typical map view where you can select where you want to go, with the main city of Asgard acting as the central hub as well as providing a shop so you can buy and sell items.

Due for release in early August, Rimelands: Hammer of Thor is certainly shaping up to be a game that RPG fans will be spending many hours playing through. It might prove to be a little heavyduty for a more casual audience however.

Even with a detailed tutorial taking you through the first ten minutes of gameplay, you have to have your wits about you. File it under 'epic' rather than 'pick-up-and-play'.

You can check out the Rimelands's website for more details and get some idea about the setting in the following video.

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