Epic Hearts is the latest from 4:33 Creative Labs—the devs who gave us an outstanding experience with Secret of Chateau de Moreau. Unlike that mystery-adventure, Epic Hearts is an RPG in the best tradition of the genre. Like Chateau, it may as well have been designed specifically to school the competition on how a game is supposed to be made.
Epic Hearts takes place in a gorgeous fantasy universe where the forces of good are dependent upon the millennial rebirth of a sacred dragon. Without this dragon, everything falls apart and the forces of the not-so-good get an upper hand. “Renobatio” is the name for this time of rebirth, and there is a paramilitary group of devotees charged with ensuring that world doesn’t crumble while the vulnerable new dragon matures. While the apprentices of Renobatio may differ in many ways, they’re the same in more important ways: dedication and courage. The player chooses among three classes, each represented by a different character with a distinct personality, and takes on the role of apprentice. From then on, it’s action, quests, and character development—just as an RPG ought to be!
Epic Hearts is a pretty well-rounded example of the genre, too, with just as much leveling, set collecting, special item, skill-learning goodness as any of its bigger platform brethren. Which is awesome until a game on the iPhone doesn’t take this into account when designing controls and menus. But Epic Heartshas no such issues. In fact, it has two very different controls systems available, and both are equally viable. They’ll appeal differently to different players, of course. One is a direct movement system, which allows you to determine the character’s path by holding a spot on the screen, and to attack by tapping. Special skills are represented by icons along the side of the screen. If having your hands all over the screen just isn’t your style, there’s also a virtual d-pad option.
So, a great story, a great set up, and smooth controls with multiple options. What doesn’t Epic Hearts have? Honestly, not much. There are eight fantastic worlds within this world to explore, literally thousands of items to discover, collect, and use, and over two hundred quests to complete. The game looks and sounds great. The only place it falls short (and falls hard) is the text. There’s a severe quality control issue with what I assume is the translation from another language. But it’s something that once I’m playing, I don’t notice. Misspellings and awkward grammar aside, there’s really nothing that’s difficult to understand.
And the text is the least interesting thing on the screen, in terms of appearance, anyway. Epic Hearts impressed me like few other iOS RPGs have. Not so much thanks to some kind of futuristic level of great graphics, either. Instead, it is the game’s overall balanced aesthetic, exceptional design, and professional appearance. It’s fun, beautifully detailed, and artfully animated. It’s a pleasure to see a game that gets the job done with quality rather than gimmicky novelties that get old fast. Each character is an expression of their uniquely developed personality, and each class in animated in its own delightful way, with distinctive special attacks.
Plenty of games with this sort of ambition arrive in the App Store in something like a trial mode. Just a couple of levels, a few items, a lot of repetition. Epic Hearts is the real thing. And surprisingly, it’s only $1.99 to download. It’s available right now, so why wait?