Arvale: Journey of Illusion (from now on just Arvale) begins with a cutscene detailing the backstory of the world in which you, Duncan, an unassuming gardener, are living rather, well, unassumingly. The backstory details legends of dragons, magic, humans, and the conflict these all create. Typical elements of a classic RPG? Check. Upon entering into your new life, you are called to see the king, who quickly names you a Hero of Legend (we shall not give away any other essential plot information, so RPG fans, you can relax). Thus your adventure begins in this old medieval world full of danger and mystery.
The basic gameplay of Arvale is very intuitive, and it is not at all difficult to pick up. There are two different ways to move around the screen: one way is to use the conveniently large d-pad shown on the right-hand side. The other is to simply touch the screen where you want Duncan to walk, and a tiny green pulsing icon will appear where you touched, which Duncan will make his way towards as best he can… barring obstacles and vicious trolls brandishing clubs, of course. We’ve found both methods to be useful, and we usually alternate between them frequently without even noticing.
Also shown on the screen above are the primary buttons of the game. The Use button is your primary tool for access to the world. Think of it as the ‘˜A’ button (for console gamers). This button lights up red whenever there is something you can interact with close to you. You can use it to talk to people, investigate tree stumps and wheelbarrows, and look through people’s things. Yes, indeed, this RPG also has that oh-so-subtle encouragement for kleptomania by allowing you to walk into people’s homes and blatantly search through their things. What is unexpected is that the game talks back to you when you do these things, often with a taste of humor.
One of the cool features of the game is that you can talk to anyone at all. They may not have anything to say, and you may never know them as anything more than just ‘˜Man,’ but you can gain tidbits of information, friendly welcomes, or just downright strange interactions. For the most part, you play the standard mute character save more important plot conversations, where there is choice (albeit limited) of words, but occasionally you can choose a response in one of these chance encounters as well.
The Stats button launches you into an intuitive screen of all of your statistics, with access to your Quest Log and your Inventory. There are five basic stats for your character. Strength governs physical damage, Knowledge magical damage, Defense and Resistance how well you defend on those respective accounts, and Dexterity how well you hit and evade. There is also a very basic Level and Experience system–you gain exp. from each battle and at a certain point you gain a level, at which you are given one point to add to either Strength, Knowledge, or Dexterity. Defense and Resistance level automatically based on how much physical and magical damage you have taken since the last level-up. This isn’t very common in similar RPGs, and we like the idea.
The Inventory button brings you to a view screen of all of your things, also rather intuitive, but without any way of resorting. You have the options of using things or casting them haphazardly aside. A handy description comes up for any selected item too, which is nice. The Quest Log is also a nice tool. It keeps track of both completed and active quests, in case you leave for some time and need a reminder.
You can stock up your inventory in towns, all of which seem to have the division of labor pretty well understood. There is usually an Items & Magic store, a Weapons & Armor store, and an Inn & Tavern, the last being a place where you can pay a fee to sleep and regain health, and mingle with the locals.
Arvale’s battle system is turn-based. While it isn’t really exciting, it allows for more relaxed, strategic play. There are three types of weapons (swords, clubs, and spears) and three types of wands (earth, fire, and water) and each one is strong against another – rather like a game of rock, paper, scissors… except poor Duncan’s well-being is at stake here.
Weapons and wands don’t have to be equipped, however, and there is a convenient, if small, cycle screen where you can choose which weapon, wand, or item you wish to use (from your bag, which must be laid out next to you or something… at least the enemy is patient). Your armor & shield both have to be equipped beforehand.
Before we close, we should briefly mention the music: sadly, there is no option to listen to your own music, but the computer-generated classic RPG music can be fun, albeit repetitive. And the Menu screen music actually is surprisingly amazing.
Overall, we like the game for the casual, classic RPG-style it provides. Little enhancements like auto-saves, continues, and quest logs are well appreciated for the stop-and-go player. There’s lots of gameplay for a reasonable price ($2.99), so it’s definitely worth a look.
Editor’s Note: Riordan Frost won the Grand Prize in our User Reviews Contest under the name ForestDepths. Congrats Riordan!