Basic Path Drawing & RPGs Meet in Battleheart for iOS

BattleheartBattleheart from Mika Mobile is a deceptively simple game for iPhone and iPad that does a great job of making tactical, action role-playing gaming fun.

Users assemble a small party of heroes, then send them out to battle. Using basic path-drawing features, combined with a whole lot of chaos, it’s a game that that ensures that its core battle premise is one players will not soon forget. Other parts of the game are less memorable, however — many of the characters and spells are drawn from elsewhere.

There isn’t much of a story to be had with Battlehearts. As best we can tell, users are some person who is commanding heroes against the hordes of darkness. A classic fantasy RPG premise, but there isn’t really much beyond that. The whole point of the game is to control a party of four characters as they battle it out with large quantities of goblins, orcs, ghouls, and other such fantasy creatures.

ChaosEssentially, the game consists of going from battle to battle, defeating all enemies, then leveling up. During each engagement, players are ably to control everything that their party members do using simple path drawing and screen taps. By touching a character, users can direct them to any point on the battlefield (which does have a significant purpose to be mentioned later on) as well as target enemy or friendly units.

Regarding targeting, players merely draw a path from the friendly unit to the enemy they wish to attack and that character will continue to damage it until it dies or is given a new command (also, enemies within immediate proximity of a character will be attacked automatically — though it would be nice if the distance didn’t have to be so close). As for targeting friendly units, this is done the exact same way, but is reserved for the use of support classes and beneficial spells. For example, should players have a cleric class character, they can target allies and they will receive healing until a new command is issued.

This is where the chaos begins to set it. As players progress through each battle, more and more enemies will appear on the screen from all different directions, targeting nearby party members. Each party member will have different strengths and weaknesses, but the most basic is “armored” versus “unarmored.” Obviously, players do not want the latter being targeted (as they will die very quickly), thus players must attack enemies with their armored characters. These siege, or tank, class party members will automatically be attacked by the enemies, but when half a dozen are on the screen, the user is constantly moving their weaker party members out of the way, while trying to attract enemy attention with their higher defense ones.

Special AbilitiesBattles get better still. Occasionally players will need to fight bosses, which come with a slew of special abilities that the user must be aware of. Unlike most small-scale RPGs, these bosses boast more than just more health and damage. Periodically, they will use special abilities to target different members in the party. For example, the first boss will randomly toss bombs at a single party member, forcing the player to consciously move them out of the way, or charge across the screen multiple times, forcing users to scatter their forces.

To help mitigate some of the challenge, each character class comes with a sort of talent tree, à la World of Warcraft. Every five levels, users can choose one of two special abilities that their characters can periodically activate in battle, allowing them to begin customizing their play style. Unfortunately, Battleheart begins losing points for originality, as many of the spells are virtual identical, in both name and effect, to those found in the previously-noted MMOG.

The game also uses the standard set of RPG character classes too, including warriors, monks, rogues, wizards, and so on. But that’s not a huge deal. Since there are so many different classes, players can very highly customize their party of four to fit the style they prefer. In fact, customization is further enhanced by the ability to find, buy, and upgrade weapons and equipment.

TreesUnfortunately, this is a double edged sword, as the characters never really seem to change a whole lot with new equipment (weapons are different at least). On a functional level, they do get stronger, but there is no real visual reward. Players like to see their avatars change, grow, and actually look stronger. In fact, it’s a gratifying element that keeps many players hooked on games like World of Warcraft in the first place.

Nevertheless, Battleheart is still a great deal of fun, so this is really a comment more along the lines of making good, great. That said, the game does have a bit of a frustrating usability issue. In order to activate special abilities or give commands, players have to be able to actually touch the character avatar on screen. The problem is, that when there are large quantities of monsters, or when party members get clumped together, it becomes exceedingly annoying to select the correct character in a timely manner. They just always end up covered up at some point. While there isn’t much to be done about the path drawing element, some simple character portraits on the side of the screen would help immensely in the ability activations.

Despite complaints, Battleheart is a fantastically fun and addictive game for both the iPhone and iPad. Between the two, however, the $2.99 app is definitely easier to control with the large screen size of the latter. Though the game lacks a little bit in terms of its ability and class originality, and suffers from some annoying usability and control qualms, none of it really takes away from the overall package.