Fair cop. But there are two reasons we need to take a closer look this nifty little app. First of all, it's really good. And secondly, Dicework plans to port it to the PC and Mac by the end of the year (after showing it off at Eurogamer Expo 2011)... where it'll likely be more expensive than its mobile debut. When Dealspwn gets the review code, they'll need something to compare it to.
You see, Rimelands is a bit big for iOS - where big adventures tend to falter compared to forgettable and fun little diversions. Players control a treasure hunter loosed upon a post-apocalyptic Victoriana steampunk world (how I've longed to write that exact sentence); the objective being to delve through dungeons, fill your coffers and gain experience to specialise your heroine. And of course, there's a conspiracy and an enigmatic past to unravel as you do so.
The proceedings play out in classic three dimensional isometric fashion. You'll move around the gridded surroundings, explore some labyrinthine vaults, engage enemies and choose skills to kill them with. However, as you'd expect from a Diceworks title, the countless calculations that power videogame combat are yanked from their traditional dark corners, screaming, into the light. The figurative dice rolled when every character attacks, defends or uses a skill are represented by actual dice - and though there's plenty of strategy to consider, rolling lots and lots of skulls is generally a good thing.
Skills and tactics are paramount in Rimelands: Hammer Of Thor. Gaining levels allows you to choose between melee, ranged and magic specialisations; unlocking new abilities, passive buffs and extra dice (which, let's face it, are the most powerful force in Rimelands' universe). These skill trees are surprisingly large and varied - encompassing physical combat, gunslinging assassination and magical lore - which encourages you to try out different combinations between playthroughs and create a character that's entirely your own.
There are a couple of minor shortcomings, none of which is more damning than the lack of side quests. Rimelands' treasure hunting framework would have lent itself to procedurally generated levels and tons of optional missions, but you can count the entire list of secondary objectives on both hands. With fingers to spare. The inability to grind also has the knock-on effect of creating a horrendous mid-game difficult curve that will punish characters with weaker specs. Seriously, defeating some of the common mid-game enemies will require you to exploit the AI more than or own tactical prowess. At least competing the game unlocks two long and respawning vaults to enjoy with your high level hero.
Bear in mind, though, that the main story is a little too short.
But at the end of the day, Rimelands: Hammer Of Thor is an incredibly addictive and deep experience that benefits from paying put it's mechanics for all to see. Lovers of role playing and yahtzee will get a real kick out of this one... and we can't wait to see whether the PC version can improve on the formula with more than just improved lighting effects.
- Well-crafted and accessible RPG experience
- Surprisingly deep and replayable
- Graphically impressive
- Strange lack of subquests and voluntary grind
- Occasional technical hiccup
- Story falters towards the end
Summary: Rimelands: Hammer Of Thor is a refreshingly hardcore roleplaying experience with a touch of deceptively simple dice rolling. Well worth a look if you like your mobile gaming nuanced, tough and replayable.
Developer: Dicework Games
Compatibility: Compatible with iPhone, iPod touch and iPad. Requires iOS 3.0 or later.
Price: £2.99 - App Store