Dawn of Magic was an action role-playing game released for Windows PCs by Russian developer SkyFallen Entertainment in 2007. It follows the story of a character’s banishment from the afterlife, leading him to a 100-year life on Earth in which he retains all of his memories, but none of his power. And it apparently did well enough to warrant a sequel, which was released two years later. The most important thing one should know about Dawn of Magic for the iPhone is that it is not that game.
Instead, Lakoo brings to the App Store a much more traditional tale of good and evil in the form of a typical Japanese Role-Playing Game. That is to say, it feels much like many a J-RPG before it, despite the developers being from China.
While not an outstanding piece of work, Dawn of Magic still has some good things going for it. In particular, while the story doesn’t feel like it is reaching for the stars, the characters are interesting enough to follow as you do the usual RPG things, such as running around delivering items and messages and fighting enemies in the wilderness.
One stab, comin’ up!
The character designs are good, even if they don’t do a whole lot to stand out from the RPG norm. Characters are also rendered on-screen with some nice, classic-style pixel art which is reminiscent of old-school entries into the genre. And in battle, a third set of designs are used, which render them in a big-headed ‘chibi’ style, not unlike that seen in Capcom’s Puzzle Fighter.
Battles are fairly standard fare: as you move around the map, you’ll see these bluish-white wisps that contain an enemy presence, ranging from giant spiders to wolves to thieves and more. You can fight them off with your standard weapons, such as a default sword (which unfortunately looks a lot cooler in promotional art than it does in protagonist Jack’s chibified hands), or you can equip magical gems into special sockets to increase stats and allow for access to magical spells, such as great balls of fire (goodness gracious).
Traversing the map is a bit of a mixed bag, though. You touch a spot, and Jack goes there by following a series of right-angles. Beyond the mild nuisance of having to do this several times to try to get where you are going, rather than follow a continuous path, you can also only touch specific spots where Jack can actually stand. Sure, it makes sense when you say it out loud, but actually touching those spots can be a little trickier.
In addition to that, it seems that Jack prefers to take the path of most resistance. That is, Jack frequently feels like he’s out to make contact with the nearest enemy along the way as he seeks to reach where you want him to go. If there is a path that leads around the enemy and one that goes through it, odds are he’s going to pick the one that goes through it.
Hi yourself, gorgeous.
This is further aggravated by the fact that you don’t need to simply run into the enemy; merely passing by any of the eight blocks around them will trigger a battle as well. And, as with many RPGs, you’re lucky if you are allowed to run from the battle. But on the bright side, successfully escaping means that particular encounter is removed from the map screen for the time being.
Communication within the game is another iffy spot. While some bits of dialogue are translated perfectly well, others are not so fortunate. It was at the point we were asked to leave a 5-star ‘reivew’ in exchange for some in-game currency that we knew translation must not have been a very high priority for the developers, no matter the context.
That isn’t to say that reading what this game has to offer is an altogether miserable experience; as noted, it seems rather mixed, and the odd spots of strangeness seem to come out of nowhere more often than not.
Other neat touches come when Jack is talking with the ladies. In addition to his girlfriend at the start of the game, he makes the acquaintance of three fighting females who will join him in his quest. They all tend to emote as they talk, with the dialogue cutting to small balloons over their heads, depicting hearts or smiley emoticons, which is an amusing touch that makes you feel like you’re getting a little more inside their heads than the standard portraits allow.
Overall, the game very much feels like a throwback to an earlier age of role-playing games on systems such as the Super Nintendo or Sega Genesis. Unfortunately, that also means that certain tropes come with it, such as grinding, not to mention a distinct lack of automatic saving. That’s right: it’s up to you to remember to save your progress as you go, and if you fail to do so… well, you had better hope it hasn’t been too long since you last updated your save file.
All said, most of what Dawn of Magic does, it does well. It doesn’t do anything to redefine the genre like Final Fantasy VII, or venture into bold or zany new directions like Breath of Fire V or Paper Mario. It is basically a new, old-school-styled RPG, and a pretty good one, for better or for worse. And if that is what you like, then you should find plenty to enjoy here.