Turn-based role-playing games aren’t for everyone. They are a substantial investment of time and effort, necessitating hours of grinding, the study of statistics, and tests of strategy that can test the patience of even the most disciplined of players.
Dawn of Magic is not as substantial as other games in the genre, but it's still a turn-based marathon that subscribes to just about every cliché in the book. With its lacklustre story and low production values, it falls short of being a worthwhile venture.
The story deviates little from RPG tradition and focuses more on an escalating sense of crisis rather than on developing the characters and setting the scene. You control Jack, a young man from a small town who is thrust into chaos when characters with sinisterly enigmatic names like 'mysterious man' and 'evil woman' arrive.
They're searching for emblems owned by three chosen families, one of which is Jack's. Jack's father has neglected to tell him about this, but he has nevertheless conveniently taught him how to defend himself, and given him a message to take to a sage in a nearby town.
This is the first of many such quests, and to complete it you need to explore the gameworld. You control Jack by tapping where you want him to go on a grid, with menus and interactions with other characters initiated by another tap.
While developer Lakoo must take some credit for trying to make use of the touchscreen, trying to get your characters to walk in straight line on the grid is mystifyingly difficult.
Rules of Engagement
While towns are generally safe havens, dungeons and other areas are inhabited by monsters, and you'll spend much of your time in combat so that you can level-up your characters or remove them from your path.
Enemies are depicted by blue flames on the screen, which means that although you annoyingly can’t pick and choose them you can choose not to fight if you wish.
When you do engage in combat, you can issue a number of commands and attacks, including physical attacks, magic, and skills. The effectiveness of these attacks increases as you level-up, and you can purchase more powerful weapons, magic and equipment in towns.
The difficulty of these battles can be unbalanced, and levelling-up is required almost instantly, which may make combat unappealing to casual RPG players not in it for a long haul, though it'll keep you happy if you're fond of a grind. Battles can be repetitive, requiring little strategy beyond managing your AP and MP levels, and unique character skills are disproportionately effective.
The 16-bit inspired graphics are not unpleasant to look at, but basic animations and tinny background music make Dawn of Magic feel decidedly low-budget, while the underdeveloped story makes it hard to become attached to the characters, despite the promise of multiple endings.
RPGs don’t need to be too innovative if they have a decent story, developed gameworld, and an element of strategic combat, but Dawn of Magic is lacking in these key ingredients. Those looking for a slogfest may extract some joy from the game, but anyone looking beyond that should find better alternatives.