While action-adventure games are commonplace on consoles, they tend to be more rare on mobile because they take a far longer time commitment from developers and players alike. Nevertheless, Gameloft is taking a stab at the genre with a recent release of Sacred Odyssey: Rise of Ayden for the iOS.
A Zelda’esque game, Sacred Odyssey marks one of few iOS apps within this mobile action-adventure genre. Technically sound, the game suffers dramatically from Zelda envy. Even if you look past this, the game’s frustrating camera and twitchy movement controls can drop the fun factor.
Players take the role of Ayden, a lazy, teenage farmhand who starts his day off like any other — doing chores. Why does this sound so familiar? Well, it’s because Sacred Odyssey takes on the classic fantasy story of the peasant becoming a hero through stopping an ancient evil from returning. For the record, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with this, but the game never does anything significantly new with it (character or plot-wise). Every major plot point seems taken from the fantasy-writing handbook, making everything predictable. Here’s a quick break down: Lazy boy does chores. Boy finds orcs. Boy saves princess from orcs. Boy goes on errand for princess. Orcs invade land (again). Boy loses home. You probably know the rest.
Essentially, after the cliché Act I, players embark on a Zelda-style journey to recover some artifact to defeat an ancient, returning evil. The play is fluid, and even fun at times, as users dart around using basic attacks (triggered by tapping an icon). As the game progresses, combat becomes harder, and players will often need to dive or defend from attacks. Moreover, players can actually rearrange all of the button icons to wherever they like on the screen.
As players progress, more enemies of greater difficulty appear, as well as the occasional dungeon boss. The bosses themselves tend to be more entertaining than normal creatures, but follow a distinct Zelda rule set. For each one, players must utilize some new item found in the dungeon in which they reside to weaken them, then hack away with their sword until they get back up. Then its time to rinse and repeat.
Unfortunately, this is where the wretched camera becomes an issue. Even before the first boss battle, the movement controls are extraordinarily twitchy — as are most of the animations. It can be difficult to move Ayden with any sort of precision. In addition to this, the camera is controlled by sliding a finger across the screen, yet its sensitivity is unable to be changed. Assuming the player is holding their iPad or iPhone like a traditional gaming device, moving the camera will be done with the right thumb and will take multiple swipes to rotate. Because of this, the player is often put in a position to where they cannot see enemies or target them in a timely manner; a significant problem when fighting boss creatures.
The list of qualms continues, but now they point to a blatant disregard for originality. For all intents and purposes, Sacred Odyssey is nothing more than a reskinned version of The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time. Let’s count the similarities: There’s a princess that needs you to save the world because she can’t. Players get a grappling hook and boomerang that, though named different, work about the same as their Zelda counterparts. Controls are about the same. The first dungeon involves cleansing an evil bug from a giant talking tree (The Great Deku Tree). The player’s guide is a fairy! But at least she doesn’t say “Hey, listen!” every 10 seconds.
The game can’t go for more than five minutes without feeling like Zelda in every way. That said, the play, except for the camera, is not too terrible a substitute until Nintendo gets on iOS too. It does have its impressive moments from time to time, and the voice work is pretty good too; even if some of the dialogue is a bit cheesy.
What is also interesting about Sacred Odyssey is that the game is marketed as a free application. Of course, as a full length action-adventure game that’s nearly 400MB to download, that wouldn’t be a great way to monetize it should it remain so. Still, players are able to get a fair chunk of story and gameplay from the free rendition before the demo ends and they have to buy the rest. Also, unlike games such as The Stroke of Midnight, the developers explicitly note that only the first steps of the game are free. After that point, the game costs $6.99. Moreover, players of the free version even get to muck around with a simple mini-game were they must slay little gremlin creatures called kobolds.
Regarding anything else worth noting, the visuals of the game are decent and there are a couple impressive elements, but overall the aesthetic falls short of what it could potentially be. With games like Dead Space on iOS as well, the expectation for 3D games has most certainly raised (especially with environments).
In the end, Sacred Odyssey: Rise of Ayden is your average action-adventure type of game from a play perspective. However, upon closer inspection, it might as well be Zelda reskinned for a mobile device. Granted, such a game is rare on iOS, but as with the criticisms of many TeamLava games, just because the original title isn’t on a platform, doesn’t mean the idea is ripe for the taking — especially without significant additions or changes. Translated or not, there is no real originality, and even if there were, the twitchy controls and horrid camera take away most of the remaining pluses about this game.