Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Call for Heroes: Pompolic Wars Review

Call for Heroes: Pompolic Wars, developed by Quotix Software and published by Strategy First.
The Good: Cheap, a confusing map editor
The Not So Good: No tutorial, interface needs tool-tips, only two characters to chose from (and they are almost exactly the same), action-only unsatisfying grind gameplay, absolutely no story or dialogue, no mid-map saving, randomly spawning enemies makes it difficult, rudimentary AI and level design, curious mana requirement for all weapons, short
What say you? A budget action role-playing game that plays like a budget action role-playing game, only worse: 3/8

MY POORLY WRITTEN INTRODUCTION
A fantasy world thrust into chaos is the setting for many action role-playing games, where you must hack and slash your way past numerous foes and defeat evil throughout the land. Call for Heroes: Pompolic Wars is one of those games, where you take the role of a powerful warrior and collect Dark Souls to remove evil from the land. Will this budget title provide enough bang for its reduced buck?

GRAPHICS AND SOUND
Call for Heroes: Pompolic Wars features the outdated graphics you would expect in a budget title. The game does have a clean look to it, but the 3-D models and levels in Call for Heroes: Pompolic Wars are very basic. The special effects are few and far between, and overall the game looks like a game that was published six or seven years ago (or more). The sound is along the same lines: while the background music is pleasingly understated, the sound effects are repetitive. Really, the presentation is exactly what you would expect for a budget title: underwhelming. And as long as you don’t put an emphasis on graphics (and I don’t), then you’ll be OK.

ET AL.
Call for Heroes: Pompolic Wars is about, well, actually I’m not sure because there is no story or even dialogue in the game (just a backstory in the manual, and who reads the manual?). Yeah, a role-playing game with no NPC interaction. You’ll need to read through the manual, since Call for Heroes: Pompolic Wars lacks a tutorial or an explanation of the icons used in the game, as the game lacks tool-tips of any kind. Usually a hallmark of role-playing games, character customization is non-existent: you get to choose between two characters (a male “warrior” or a female “amazon”) that only differ in their special abilities. The title of the game should be Call for Hero, since you are really just one character and are never given backup against the AI. The one lone feature the game does have is a map and model editor, although I can’t really figure out how to use it. The game, which is single-player only, spans fifteen levels where you must collect all of the Dark Souls present in the level. There is an indicator showing the proximity to the nearest Dark Soul, so it’s just a matter of grinding through enemies and backtracking a lot through each map. The more Dark Souls you collect, the more they hurt your character; this makes the game easier at the beginning of each level. The levels are more like first person shooter maps in their design instead of a linear exploration type map that we see more of in role-playing games.

Call for Heroes: Pompolic Wars uses the mana convention found in most role-playing games; here, it acts as ammunition for every weapon. Yes, every single weapon in the game, no matter how basic, requires mana to use it. Why do you need mana to swing an axe? I’m not sure. Each level has numerous health vials, and you will need them because the odds are greatly stacked against you with tons of enemies to defeat. Even worse, the enemies respawn in a seemingly random fashion, most of the time right next to you and you won’t know they are there until they attack you. This is made worse by the fact that you’ll probably forget some Dark Souls and need to backtrack. The enemies are difficult because they gang up on you in strong numbers, and being limited in your weaponry by the mana requirement (which is only replenished by picking up vials) means you’ll be using inadequate weapons more often than not. The enemy AI is not good: they just shoot and move towards you most of the time, but if they did actually think the game would be downright impossible.

The special abilities in the game are really just long-ranged and powerful weapons; the gameplay of Call for Heroes: Pompolic Wars is really rudimentary. Normal weapons become more powerful as you use them, which is a neat features (one of the few in the game). You can collect coins that will make you invulnerable and souls that will grant you limited use of a super weapon. Icons for special ability use and stamina and health regeneration items are also available. You cannot save the game mid-mission (sigh), but you can collect rare respawn items that will allow for a continuation instead of having to start over from the beginning of a map. All of these things are listed on the map; this is a nice touch since you don’t need to open an inventory screen, but they are not labeled and the lack of a tutorial and tool-tips means you’ll have to glance back at the manual to remember what the wheel thing is for. Call for Heroes: Pompolic Wars is singularly hack and slash: no NPC interaction, no story, no puzzles, just kill, kill kill. Aiming in the game is difficult because some enemies appear on the ground and some are in the air, so you have to constantly adjust your field of view. There are some leveling-up attributes in the game, but they occur so infrequently that they are essentially meaningless.

IN CLOSING
There are too many limitations in Call for Heroes: Pompolic Wars to make it a worthwhile game. Yeah, it’s a budget title, but it should still be entertaining. Call for Heroes: Pompolic Wars is one of the most boring role-playing games I’ve played: it is repetitive to a fault, as there is nothing to break up the monotony of killing brainless monsters. The rudimentary level design never results in surprises while playing the game to keep you interested in the story. Well, actually, there is no story or any interaction with any characters other than killing things. The game is short, there is no tutorial, you can’t save mid-mission, and the gameplay is bland. There is simple no reason to play Call for Heroes: Pompolic Wars, even for a reduced price.