Role-playing games have had a long and prosperous history in video and tabletop gaming, but haven't quite repeated this success on mobile and tablet devices. From the minds at Ngmoco comes Skyfall, a free-to-play social RPG that aims to execute in three key areas: exploration, combat, and co-op play.
Is it WoW in your pocket? In a word, no. But it's certainly shaping to be the next best thing.
Skyfall (iPhone, iPad, Android)
Exploration is a big part of Skyfall, an RPG staple that mobile games have been limited in representing. The world of Skyfall is sizable, offering dungeons to raid, crafting ingredients to discover, and quest to complete. From a top down view, players move across a grid based map encountering enemies, dungeons, and new towns as they go. If you have previously visited a location, it can be fast traveled to by simply taping on the grid you want to go to. It's a clever system that fits well with mobile, letting players cut down on travel time and get straight to where they need to be.
Combat is equally streamlined, but still carries depth in its own right. The core of Skyfall's combat is its combat bar. Functional similar to the kickoff meter of Madden, Skyfall's combat bar has players tap on the bar just as a narrow gauge hits the right spot. Hit the generously large green areas and you land a hit. If you manage to hit the narrow sliver of red, though, and you land a critical hit.
The combat bar also adjusts for different weapons and classes. In this demo, my rouge had no problem landing regular and occasional critical with melee weapons, but switching to the bow made landing criticals tougher as the red area was much more narrow. When using a mage, rather than having the critical in the center, the combat bar will actually have breaks in between, making standard and critical hits that much more challenging. If you find combat getting to difficult though, you can always enlist the help of a friend for co-op play.
Co-op play in Skyfall works very differently then what you would expect. In fact, calling it co-op is a bit misleading. You can enlist another player to help you raid a dungeon or what have you, but the second player isn't actually playing alongside you. Rather, you just have that player's character to control. In practice, it feels more like having another party member than co-op. That doesn't mean it isn't a useful feature though. With a co-op partner, players can explore new, tougher areas, and some dungeons require that you have a teammate for a chance of success.
In my demo, my rouge character fared well against most enemies solo, but having a mage as backup against a dragon proved helpful as party members can give useful buffs and offer extra attack power. It's an interesting way to approach co-op, and while players who lend out their characters currently don't get anything out of it, Ngmoco is experimenting with different reward systems.
Since this is a free to play game, players do have the option to just buy their rewards. Without getting too crazy with micro-transactions, Ngmoco is monetizing Skyfall in a pretty clever way. As you adventure in the world, players can come across keys that open chests scattered across the land. With varying degrees of rarity, players can choose to either open chests with keys they've acquired or purchase keys with real world currency.
The chests themselves have a nice trading card feel to them to, as you don't know exactly what items you'll be getting, just their level of rarity. If you're the type who's strongly opposed to buying in-game items, that works to. Players have to option to pick chest locks, so be sure to invest in related skills as you level up.
Even at its beta stage, there's plenty good to find in Skyfall. If any of the above statements catch your attention, go head and hop into the Android beta, it's free after all. Skyfall will be coming at a later date to iOS users, but iPhone and iPad owners should definitely still keep this one on their radar.