Across Age ™


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Across Age Review

Games like Chrono Trigger and Day of the Tentacle revolutionized time travel in gaming, a concept that has since been used in numerous ways. The idea of being able to change how the future will turn out by fixing a problem before it happens has provoked the interest of just about everyone. Across Age does a good job of playing off this concept, but comes up short in its overall execution.

Across Age tells the story of two young and ambitious adventurers. There’s Ales, a confident young knight, and Ceska, a grand mage who at the start of the game has not yet been able to fully harness any of her powers other than time travel. They have a common goal: defeat an evil mage who has been erasing people, landmarks, and even entire towns from history. In order to do this, they must collect three hourglasses that will allow them to control time. It’s a pretty generic story, but it does have its moments, such as when Ceska’s only living relative, her grandma, gets erased.

The biggest gameplay change between Across Age and similar Zelda-like RPGs is your control over multiple characters. In order to proceed through dungeons and collect items, you must utilize the two characters’ special abilities. For example, Ales can pick up Ceska and throw her over holes and ledges so that she can release a bridge for him. Other times an enemy will be immune to one character’s attacks and must be killed by the other. You can split the characters up whenever you like, but to team up again they must be next to each other.

Super Nintendo, eat your heart out.

Time traveling also plays a big part in the game. Since only Ceska can perform this spell, only she can move through time. Portals allow her to go to the past or future and alter the state of the environment, removing objects or collecting items. In town, she can use the pool of rebirth to bring an item to another time period, thus altering it.

However, Across Age suffers from some major issues that keep the best parts from shining through. The most immediately noticeable problem is the controls. The tiny analog pad makes movement stiff and imprecise. People with larger hands will have a particularly hard time. The buttons are equally small, and the menus could use work, as they are quite clunky.

Exciting combat in an action-RPG is a must, but Across Age also lets us down on this front. Ales attacks enemies simply by running into them. The goal is to attack diagonally so that the enemy can’t fight back as much, but this doesn’t always seem to work. Ceska is a bit better, with multiple spells she can cast from a distance. Boss battles have you using both characters simultaneously, but switching between them quickly is a pain and often results in your death.

I just found an enormous Lego. Let’s go play!

Some elements of the environment also are poorly considered. For example, in many areas holes and water must be avoided, or else you must restart the room. Falling through these is far too easy and breaks the flow of the game. Enemy placement is also an issue, with some arranged so that Ales can’t come at them diagonally. Luckily, the game allows you to restart in a simplified version of the room if you die, but it doesn’t make up for unfair encounters.

Once an enemy leaves your line of vision it respawns, and due to the sheer amount of them, this can lead to tough situations. We don’t mind them coming back after leaving an area, but fighting through the same enemies over and over again due to excessive backtracking becomes a tedious and time-consuming task. The lack of a map can also send you wandering back through enemy-ridden rooms many times until finding where you need to go, especially in some of the maze-like areas.

Instead of aiming for the experienced, hardcore audience, Across Age is good for newcomers with its straightforward level progression and few distracting side quests. By taking out the need to micromanage numerous stats, items, and abilities, Across Age is great for casual play. Also, the ability to save anywhere is a big plus for any iPhone game.

RPG experts will definitely still find some enjoyment in Across Age, but otherwise we can’t recommend it at a high price point unless some of its issues are cleared up.

Across Age Hands-On Preview

We recently spent a few hours playing through the first part of FDG’s upcoming RPG, Across Age. It’s an action-RPG in the style of Zelda or Zenonia, but with several changes, good and bad, that we think help it stand out from convention.

The biggest twist is that you immediately have access to two playable characters, Ales and Ceska. When these two first meet, Ceska is a mage who has only mastered one powerful spell, Across Age, and nothing else. Across Age lets her travel back in time, but early on in the game she is completely defenseless. As a result, Ales has to hack-and-slash through the first few areas with his sword.

Surprisingly, Ales doesn’t have an attack button. When playing as him, you simply run directly into the enemy and trade hits until one of you has died. We found this combat system to be confusing, and it isn’t until you level up further that you’ll be able to survive for very long. Meanwhile, you have to constantly pick up the apples that enemies drop in order to stay alive. If you die, you respawn at the start of each section, so at least you’ll never get set too far back.

Ales’ combat system forces you to plow into enemies, instead of the more elegant swordplay in a game like Zenonia. While it’s certainly unique, we’re skeptical about how well this system will hold up over the entire game. There is a little bit of strategy involved, in that attacking from a diagonal position is less likely to be countered, and Ales can learn special moves later in the game to strengthen his frontal attacks.

Eventually Ceska will learn some offensive spells, and her magic attacks felt to us like playing a shooter. Blasting fireballs will drain her magic bar, so there is a tradeoff between firing from a distance and getting in close with Ales’ ‘in your face’ combat style. You gain experience points for both characters no matter who you use, so there is no penalty in switching. Some enemies, however, are only vulnerable to one type of attack.

While the combat system definitely takes some getting used to, we think that the big draw in Across Age will be the story and the puzzles. Ales and Ceska are very amusing characters, with Ales being the serious knight on a mission and Ceska the inexperienced mage. Their personalities clash from their first meeting, and we can tell that guiding the two of them on this quest will provide an interesting story.

As for the puzzles, some of them involve splitting up the duo, like one dungeon puzzle where both characters move at the same time, despite being in different parts of the cavern. Another puzzle forces you to go back in time to find a wise old sage two years before, when he’s able to actually help you on your quest. The first major dungeon was well designed, with a good mixture of traps, environmental puzzles, and swarms of enemies.

We can already tell that the combat system will be contentious for most players who are used to an action-RPG like Zenonia. The question is whether the puzzles and storyline will be enough to overcome the difficult combat. We’re still enjoying the game despite Ales’ unusual fighting style, so check back for our full review when Across Age hits the App Store soon.

Across Age Exclusive Preview

FDG Entertainment, a German company that has produced a string of popular iPhone games like Bobby Carrot and Parachute Panic, gave us the first look at their next game Across Age, which was made along with Japanese developer Exe Create. In what is sure to be good news for RPG fans, it turns out that Across Age appears to combine elements from both Zenonia and Chrono Trigger.

According to the game’s project lead Philipp Doeschl, Across Age is a fifteen hour action-RPG with time-traveling elements. Doeschl introduced us to the basic story, saying that “the kingdom is threatened by the evil count Agrean. Eager to upset these plans, Ales, a swordsman from the kingdom´s capitol, departs on his journey and is looking for the help of a mage master called Ceska.”

To help set the level design apart in Across Age, Doeschl also told us “it is possible to travel through time and there are cool riddles and events based on this feature.”

Along the way, you’ll always have a time-travel buddy with you. “The player controls a party of two characters from the beginning of the game (Ales and Ceska),” Doeschl told us. “It is possible to choose which one of them takes the lead at any time. According to which character is controlled, the player can use different skills.

“Sometimes it is even necessary that both characters take different ways. For example, when a switch is hidden on a ledge, Ales can give Ceska a leg up to climb the ledge. From this moment on, both characters will need to go different ways until they meet up again.”

Each character also has different weapons they can use, but they’ll level up at the same time. “Ales equips swords and armor,” Doeschl said. “He will also learn some special melee skills, which greatly help him in cutting his way through the enemy hordes. Ceska, as a mage, uses all kinds of staves, rods, magical wands and wears robes.

“Along with a standard long-ranged attack spell which doesn´t consume MP, she´s able to cast powerful fireballs, ice spells and more in exchange for MP. These element-based magics are also used for solving puzzles throughout the game.”

Hopefully, with lots of side-quests, Across Age should provide a lot of variety. Across Age will also have a linear storyline with just one ending, but the time-travel twist could help keep things interesting.

We’re also told you can “recycle” items via time travel, which is an interesting angle on inventory management. We’re looking forward to finding out more about how this works in the final game.

Across Age will be out this winter and cost $9.99. We’re hoping that for a premium price, Across Age will deliver the lengthy, in-depth experience we’ve come to expect from our RPGs. Now, we just wish we had a way to jump ahead in time to the day it’s available on the App Store.