The word “sacred” in the title of Gameloft’s latest iPhone game refers to the pieces of a shattered grail that the main hero, Ayden, must collect across the world. But it could also refer to the reverence gamers have for Sacred Odyssey’s inspiration, the Legend of Zelda series. Did Gameloft find a way to bring Zelda to the iPhone?
Sacred Odyssey has a lot in common with the 3D Zelda games. You play as a character who gains new items and abilities that let him solve environmental puzzles and find secret treasure chests. Some of these items serve as a grappling hook and boomerang. And through it all, you’re on a quest to make your way back to a golden-haired princess.
Sacred Odyssey’s inspiration is so recognizable that the developers even threw in a nod to Zelda’s creator, Shigeru Miyamoto. Ayden’s two horses are named Miya and Moto.
Gameloft’s attempt to recreate Zelda’s magic wouldn’t work if they weren’t successful in a number of areas. The story has to be interesting, the combat has to be exciting, and the puzzles have to be challenging. Sacred Odyssey is moderately successful with the first two, and enormously successful with the last.
The story starts with Ayden, who lives with his uncle on a small farm, setting out on some errands like goat-herding and checking on the neighbors. Along the way, he encounters a beautiful woman who is held captive by orcs. After freeing her, she reveals herself to be Princess Lyanora, and this is where the free demo dramatically ends, urging you to pay $7 to continue playing.
And continue you should. From there, the story introduces new characters, like the eagle-headed merchant Mycek and the ancient tree spirit Dentoras (who seems similar to the Great Deku Tree from Ocarina of Time). You’ll also complete quests in a huge overworld, which you can ride around freely on horseback, and three linear dungeons.
My heart’s a-flutter.
The combat in Sacred Odyssey is pretty good, but we know Gameloft is capable of better. Hacking and slashing with your sword isn’t nearly as fun as the combat in Hero of Sparta 2 or Spider-Man: Total Mayhem. Ayden’s animations aren’t as smooth, and he doesn’t have as many flashy moves. Plus, you’ll only face a handful of enemies, mainly orcs, kobolds, spiders, and evil mushrooms.
Where Sacred Odyssey is outstanding, though, is in its level design and environmental puzzles. The first temple you fight through is a cinch, serving as a basic tutorial, but the next two temples are lengthy and complicated. In one, there is a central light-bouncing puzzle that occupies two floors and a dozen mirrors, and you’ll revisit this room three times before you’re on to face the boss.
Many of the quest items you pick up have multiple uses, like how a golden arm will let you pummel enemies and smash through rocks and ice. You can also search the world for hidden treasure, which will unlock new bonus abilities. If you take the time to find every last artifact and complete every side quest, you could add hours to the four or five-hour main quest.
I lava you!
This is also one of Gameloft’s best-looking games. Though it stuttered a few times on our 4th generation iPod Touch (and it won’t play on anything below 3rd generation), the environments and characters look extremely good. The faces in particular are very high-res, and most of the landscape will stream in with only a few seconds of load time.
The combination of a quality story, good combat, tough puzzles, and amazing production values make Sacred Odyssey: Rise of Ayden well worth your time and money. There’s nothing quite like it available in the App Store, except maybe the sprawling RPG Aralon: Sword and Shadow. $7 for two deep, Zelda-like temples and a huge open world is a worthwhile trade.