The App Store has been open for business for going on three years now, and we’re already on the third installment of Zenonia, a series of sprawling, quest-filled action RPGs styled after 16-bit games like The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past. This time around, the graphics look better than ever and a few convenient tweaks help streamline things, but we still can’t shake the feeling that we’ve played this game before.
Not that that’s a terrible thing. There’s a reason we gave Zenonia and Zenonia 2 Must Have scores. These games are gorgeous, highly polished, and full of enough content that they’ll keep you busy for many, many hours. The problem with the third installment is that in 2011, with competition like Aralon and Chaos Rings, the gameplay is starting to feel a little stale.
The storyline in Zenonia 3 centers on a young man named Chael, the son of the hero of the original Zenonia. One day while he’s horsing around outside, Chael and his fairy friend Runa get sucked into a magical portal that transports them into the middle of a war between the forces of heaven and hell. Unfortunately, the plot– told through heavy-handed and spottily translated dialogue– fails to engage. For most players it will quickly get to the point that, during the many talky sections, you’ll find yourself anxious to get back to the action.
Two seconds later, the purple bear barfed.
And the action has changed very little from the previous games. When fighting enemies, you’re mostly just tapping the attack button over and over again. This goes double, because the enemies often respawn even before you’ve moved to the next screen. To mix things up the game has a scattering of puzzles, but they also lack creativity– most of them just require you to push bricks onto switches in order to open previously inaccessible parts.
But this is a serious RPG as well, so you’ll level up and upgrade your character using a fairly dense skill tree. The special moves you learn are powerful and cool-looking, but they take longer to execute than regular attacks, so we found ourselves saving them for tougher enemies.
The customization doesn’t stop with the skill tree. At the start of the game, you can choose to play as one of four character types: a quick melee one; a slower, more powerful melee one, a missile-based one, and a magical one. Additionally, the game is packed with equipment and ‘titles’ you can use to beef up your hero. You can even assign attribute-enhancing items to your fairy friend. Suffice it to say that you can spend a lot of time expanding your inventory and customizing your character if that’s what toots your horn.
Ghost in the graveyard.
When you’re not fiddling in menus, you’ll be running around the world completing quests for townspeople. The game is packed with quests, some of which are required for the main storyline and others that are wholly optional side quests. Unfortunately, a large percentage of these quests– even the required ones– are fetch quests that require you to kill X number of enemies or collect X number of items. Worse, many quests require you to backtrack through places you’ve already been. The one saving grace here is that at one point you’re asked to seek out eight bundles of ghost mucus, which was a videogame first for us.
Beyond the main storyline, you’ll find several extra gameplay modes in Zenonia 3, from player-versus-player arena battles to online co-op room-clearing events. These will keep you entertained for a few minutes, but aren’t likely to keep you coming back.
Although we’ve been hard on the game, there’s certainly a lot to like about it. The graphics are colorful and gorgeous, and the deep menu system is fairly easy to navigate. They’ve even done away with the weight and hunger systems, so you no longer have to worry about how much stuff you’re carrying or making sure you eat well-balanced meals every so often. Also, with all the content they’ve packed in, you can play this game for a long, long time before you run out of things to do.
Don’t get us wrong: Zeononia 3 is a very ambitious and polished game. It’s just that we’ve seen this game twice before, and many of the major downsides still haven’t been fixed (the fetch quests, the translation, the repetitiveness). If Gamevil was capable of making Zenonia two years ago, they’re capable of making a better game today– a game with more of a focus on story, puzzle variety, and combat mechanics. That’s the game we want to see. However, if you loved the other two Zenonias, or you haven’t played one yet, Zenonia 3 is a solid buy.