Gaming Today Reviews: Orcs and Elves (DS)
Recently I had the opportunity to play the newest RPG to hit the Nintendo DS, and while I was a bit skeptical of the title, I can say with relative frankness that Orcs & Elves is probably one of the best handheld RPGs that have come out in forever and a day. Granted, the term RPG is being used loosely with Orcs & Elves, because unlike more traditional role-playing games you cannot choose your character’s appearance, class, faction, name, or any other means of personalization that are familiar to RPG titles. Nevertheless, Orcs & Elves is indeed an RPG and although it is an RPG in its most basic form, this only adds to the sheer amazement fans of the original mobile game will feel when popping this into their DS.
In the game, you play a nameless hero dungeon crawling his way through a vast Dwarven citadel wielding a talking wand. Your quest is to rid yourself and the world of the rancorous enemies blocking your path of vengeance for the kidnapping of your king. Your wand, Ellon, may remind you of Navi from Ocarina of Time at first but you will quickly learn that Ellon is not near as annoying as Navi and instead of wanting to punch Ellon for talking too much, you are instead lucky to have him/her along with you on your adventure. Ellon comes in very handy when you need to cast a spell, even if sometimes it takes forever to recharge, but Ellon is essential to the storyline – especially in the areas where you need to interact with an NPC. These characters are mainly drunken dwarves who have long since perished and funnily enough, they speak a language only Ellon can understand.
In typical dungeon crawling fashion, you will not only encounter the prerequisite evil rat-being but a few puzzles, hidden doors, treasure, and the occasional ghost of a Dwarf. Everything in Orcs & Elves is turn-based whether you are fighting, drinking a potion, switching weapons, solving a puzzle or performing any other sort of action. The turn-based combat is typical RPG, although it is also seamless and simple. You have many familiar melee weapons at your disposal to cut your enemies down such as: crossbows, spells, swords, and other magical weapons. The grid-based outline is also straightforward in its simplicity and the ease and fast pace in which you navigate through the world is refreshing for a handheld game. Your map is easy to navigate and understand, and while it sometimes gives away where a secret chamber may lie, you eventually get over the ease at which you will find these as sometimes the map is the only way you will not get lost in the vast amount of twists and turns.
Orcs & Elves for the DS gives players the option of using either the stylus or the D-Pad to play the game. Personally, I preferred using the D-Pad only because it felt more natural to me, but either way works just as well as the other. Pulling up your map screen is simple, and so is scanning your inventory and journal. All are well laid out and navigating them is a cinch, but be warned that while perusing your inventory does not take a turn – choosing an item and then using it does. The stylus is important when using the map and your inventory, and it is required to scan through the journal.
The original mobile game featured decent 2D graphics, and the DS version did not get too much of an overhaul in that department. Granted adding the 3D environment gave more depth to the game, but it is not any more esthetically pleasing than the original because the monsters are all still in 2D form. That being said, the combination works well and after a few minutes of playtime you do not even notice it anymore.
The different sound effects and music throughout the game can become a bit repetitive, but all in all they coincide with the actions occurring very well. While Ellon’s voice may be a tad annoying, we cannot expect a talking wand to sound like James Earl Jones.
Playing on a 90-degree rail system the majority of the time can become tedious as you cannot venture off the rails too often to check things out, but you cannot expect too much from a handheld in that department. Every action occurring in the game has the player in mind with its ease of design and execution. Leveling up your character also levels up the monsters in the game, so expect to be either equal or inferior to most enemies throughout your adventure.
Replay Value: 4.5
While Orcs & Elves is a fun game, I highly doubt that you would want to pick it up again once you have beaten it. There are no other unlockable characters or quests once you have beaten the main storyline and the mini-games, so the idea of wanting to play through the game once more should never cross your mind. However, the first play through is excellent.
With a bevy of big names like Electronic Arts, Fountainhead, and iD Software behind such a title, the feelings of trepidation would be omnipresent in the world of gaming – but surprisingly this is not the case. All three of these well known names in gaming did a fabulous job with Orcs & Elves, and have created a fun and sometimes difficult world where the player can lose themselves for hours on end. Orcs & Elves is probably the most fun I have had playing a game on the DS in the scant few months that I have owned it. iD Software has done a fantastic job of transferring the game over from John Carmack’s original mobile port. Although there’s not a lot of replay value to it, Orcs & Elves is still a strong tile. With old school RPG games going the way of the dinosaur in the age of dazzling special effects and equally savvy gameplay, it is nice to know that sometimes, you really can go home again.
New more DS game reviews? The Super Scribblenauts review can be found here.