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.

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