Hands on with the disappointing Orcs & Elves DS

Scaling up is hard to do

Hands on with the disappointing Orcs & Elves DS
| Orcs & Elves DS

In terms of the personnel involved, you'd have to say that EA's publishing muscle and John Carmack's brain power should have resulted in a killer combination when it came to bringing id Software's mobile role-playing game to the DS.

But actually playing Orcs & Elves DS has proved to be a surprisingly primitive experience. Maybe it's our fault, but when the press release came out saying the turn-based dungeon crawler was being ported to the touchscreen, we didn't appreciate that's really what it meant: ported. Frankly, this could be the worst-looking DS game out there.

And it's not just the visuals that haven't been touched. Despite the fact the DS can do much more, Orcs & Elves DS remains a semi-turn-based experience that has you moving one block at a time through a grid-based fantasy world. There's no strafing, either. You turn left or right as if your character is a paper-thin sprite, so there's no diagonal movement at all.

In fact, playing Orcs & Elves DS reminded us of GBA title Mazes of Fate. In the long run, that could be a good sign. Despite its relative crudeness, we actually enjoyed Mazes of Fate once we got into it. Still, it's fair to say we expected much more from Orcs & Elves DS.

In terms of the control method, you can either use the D-pad to move forwards, backwards, right and left, or there are four arrows on the touchscreen for those who prefer to use the stylus. In the centre of these is the 'use' button, which comes in handy for slashing at enemies with your sword or using your magic wand.

Once again, the animations for these actions are primitive to say the least, and combat purely consists of standing still and button-bashing until the opponent is dead. Well, with such a slow movement system, there really is no point in trying to do anything else.

Where the game gets slightly better is in terms of the puzzle-based elements. At one point, we had to work out the combination of a colour-coded door lock to continue into another part of the dungeon. The inventory system is well organised, too, as you can tap to gain access to health potions, swap weapons and check the map, but these hardly compensate for the underwhelming movement and combat systems.

Which is a shame because it means, suddenly, we're not really looking forward to Orcs & Elves DS so much. Let's hope we're proved wrong when the game is released some time during the winter.

Jon Jordan
Jon Jordan
A Pocket Gamer co-founder, Jon can turn his hand to anything except hand turning. He is editor-at-large at which means he can arrive anywhere in the world, acting like a slightly confused uncle looking for the way out. He likes letters, cameras, imaginary numbers and legumes.