We love a good turn-based strategy game, as evidenced by our reviews of Battle for Wesnoth, Reign of Swords: Episode 2, and Transformers: G-1 Awakening. The Pantheon Cycle: Shrouded Aspect is a lengthy strategy game, but it’s got a few issues that keep us from considering it to be one of the best on the iPhone.
The Pantheon Cycle starts with a Tolkienesque prologue read by a woman with a soft Irish accent. In essence, the land has been divided into a long-running war between the forces of light and death, and the gods have taken sides. You start as a couple of brothers (and their pet wolf) who meet a young woman named Betha, who wants to warn the nearby kingdoms of a gathering peril.
We didn’t start the fire.
The two brothers (and the wolf) are completely unessential to the story. They can all die in the subsequent missions, and you’ll constantly receive new party members with no background or story to replace them. New playable characters often come with advanced weapons, armor, and skills, but the more you use old characters, the more skills and loot you can give them.
This mechanic of swapping in and out party members is mostly, to us, a drawback. Characters are expendable, unless you’ve been building them up over time, and we felt no attachment to any of them except as useful tools. Betha, who guides you on a quest to rally the nearby kingdoms, does not appear in the game as a playable character. She exists only in the text-based cutscenes.
As a result, The Pantheon Cycle feels a bit distant with its characters and storyline. We’d have preferred a story that develops as you play, not in sudden bursts of text and narration between battles.
Don’t piss off the longshoremen.
Combat is the main part of the game, and the controls are about as simple as they come. Each character has action points, which are used when they move, attack, or cast spells. To fight, you simply tap on a character, tap on an enemy, and choose your attack. When every character has moved, you tap over to the party menu and select “end turn”.
This is fine for combat, when you want to carefully coordinate a group attack. But when the enemies are all dead and it’s time to search for treasure, this careful movement can become a drag. Massive levels can take a very long time to explore, since you can only move a few steps before having to end the turn. Maybe it’d be better if we could skip the turn-based aspect, just when there’s no enemies around.
Son, we live in a world that has walls.
Another problem we had with the game is that the enemy A.I. is extremely predictable. For example, once we acquired a flying archer, all we had to do was park him over the water to annihilate a zombie army that couldn’t reach us. And by using a beefy “tank” character to absorb damage, plus an ability called Battle Cry that made you an enemy magnet, the battles lost their challenge.
If you’ve played a lot of turn-based strategy games, especially those we listed at the top of this review, you’ll probably have a great time with The Pantheon Cycle. It has a lot of missions, which helps justify the high purchase price, and it will continually surprise you with new characters and foes. We especially liked the boss battle against a crocodile mama who hatches baby crocs out of a catch of eggs.
But if a slow pace and shoehorned storyline don’t appeal to you, you may not enjoy The Pantheon Cycle quite as much. It has its fair share of flaws, mostly due to its rigid turn-based engine and lack of elegance when it comes to character development. If these seem forgivable to you, then give it a try.