Battleloot Adventure was recently made available free for a limited time on iPhone and iPad - what better reason to try out a promising fantasy turn-based combat with a fresh twist? You're in charge of a party of adventurers clamoring to win a year without taxes in a tournament spanning the entire kingdom of Kameloot. As you might expect, the lust for fame and fortune feature prominently in your heroes throughout the story's progression.
As you play, you earn experience points and level up, unlocking new abilities. Gold is spent on new gear, such as weapons and armor, which contribute the four attributes of each character, as well as their primary scores (health, energy, and damage). Every piece you equip is faithfully represented on your characters in game, making that ridiculously oversized helm just as much of a fashion statement as an implement of protection. As you might expect, you can buy gold through in-app purchases to accelerate your progress, but seeing as it's a single-player game, I don't see that advantage being particularly unfair to anyone. Besides, you still have to level up in order to access the real good stuff. The talent system is simple enough, and offers a decent amount of customization.
Combat is a simple series of taps - tap your dude, tap the bad dude, and he attacks. You only get one attack per turn, so be sure to chose who's doing the swinging wisely. Once your turn's up, the opponent gets a shot. There's a slight real-time element involved, whereby you can tap your own team members to initiate blocking during combat, or get other team members to assist a primary attacker on your turn. If those assists stack up to enough attacks, a star will spawn afterwards that you have to tap to collect before a short timer runs out. Every character only has a limited amount of energy which regenerates over time; blocking eats up that energy, which can leave you too winded for a follow-up attack. If your party gets wiped out, you can either start the mission over again or pay to have your party revived.
The real tactical element comes into play with the Edge advantages. It's basically a game of rock, paper, scissors where some classes get an additional attack against others. Soldiers have the edge against sages, sages against mages, mages against rogues, and rogues against warriors. This cycle is what really forms your attack strategy and helps you figure out how to budget energy, how to compose your group, and which enemies to attack.
You eventually get access to up to 8 characters (two variants of each class), though you have to pay in gold for access to them. You only get three to use in your party and any given time, and have to assign them to a tactically advantageous position - front, flank, or rear. Every character has unique special skills that are automatically used throughout combat, such as the bandit's grenades which reduce accuracy, as well as active ones that require using the stars you accumulate in combat. Each character also has their own inventory that includes potions of various kinds, but don't worry - you don't have to resupply after you use them. Inventory items only require a single purchase, and are restocked between battles.
The graphics are sharp, animated, and really unique. The gigantic heads have a distinct anime feel to them without going overboard. The cutscenes between acts in the storyline include great cardboard cutouts, which is consistent with the gameplay animation style. The music is as whimsical and charming as the art style. There were a few minimal glitches I experienced through gameplay, such as an occasional extra attack animations from enemies, and no pop-up in the help menu. It would be nice if hit points in combat were represented on a bar rather than (or in addition to) numerically, like the energy bar, but on the whole, I was really happy with the graphics in Battleloot Adventure. There isn't Retina iPad support, which was cut in order to save on file size. Personally, I'm okay with the trade-off, but not everyone will be. Unfortunately the compromise doesn't go quite all the way, since there are still separate versions for iPhone and iPad, meaning there isn't any syncing your progress between iOS devices.The dialogue peppered throughout battles is full of humor and well-written. Encounters usually involve several waves of enemies and are spread throughout a number of regions that you progress through in a more or less linear way. You can always revisit encounters to earn higher scores (marked in a three-skull rating system) and get more gold. There are also feats to achieve in each encounter if you can win within certain conditions. Eventually you have to pick a city to represent, and as you gain fame with those cities through specific quests, you unlock unique items for the classes they represent. Of course, you can always change your allegiance whenever you want. Finally, there are a few gladiatorial quests that offer the chance at big prizes, but you've got to pay a registration fee up front.
Fun, unique art style
Classic RPG combat
Not optimized for Retina iPad
The bottom line
While the classic RPG mechanics are a familiar sight, there are a few real-time twists on the turn-based combat that keeps players on their toes. The cardboard cutout art style is definitive and unique - the big bobble-heads, as goofy as they are, really grow on you. Between weapons, armor, equipment, talent, and hero selection, the amount of customization is absolutely great. All in all, Battleloot Adventures provides a fine mix of old mechanics and new twists; lighthearted art style and deep gameplay.
It's free for the time being, so what have you got to lose? Try it out!