Wraithborne Hands-On Preview

Recently, Crescent Moon Games formed a separate label, Forest Moon, for its more casual iOS games. The creator of epic RPGs like Ravensword and Aralon is now publishing simple, straightforward shooters and puzzle games like J.A.M., Hairy Tales, and Deep War through Forest Moon. Wraithborne is the first new Crescent Moon game (along with Topia World Builder) since the initial Forest Moon titles were released, so we wanted to find out which side of the spectrum it ended up on.

The answer is that Wraithborne seems to lie right in the middle. It’s slightly more complex than the Forest Moon titles, but a good deal more streamlined than Crescent Moon’s normal fare. In our time with the first hour of the game, we found Wraithborne to be an enjoyable (if fairly routine) Diablo-esque beat ’em up.

You play as a rune-mastering warrior called a Wraithborne, one of the last remaining humans in a world where magic has returned and destroyed the old way of life. Your weapon of choice is a giant warhammer, but you can also trace runes on the screen to summon magical attacks.

Controls are handled by a virtual joystick in one corner of the screen, and two attack buttons and a block button in the other corner. When it’s time to activate a rune, you’ll have to take a hand off the bottom corners of the device in order to trace a shape, which isn’t a very elegant solution in the middle of a tough fight.

Like in Diablo, the enemies in Wraithborne love to surround you and peck away at your health meter. The first few encounters with goblins and wolves may test your patience, as you try to fight back at a much slower pace than your numerous enemies. The best strategy seems to be a generous amount of blocking, followed by a quick strike. For all his apparent strength, your hero seems to be easily overwhelmed.

Despite our issues with the controls and combat, we still think Wraithborne has a lot of potential. The graphics are powered by the Unreal Engine, and they allow for lots of rich details, like individually rendered leaves on trees or rocks on the path. Plus, Wraithborne’s story unfolds through text as you reach checkpoints, which seems to suggest that your hero’s place in the world will be more than just a smasher of goblins.

We still have to wait for Ravensword 2 before we get to play a truly deep RPG from Crescent Moon (and fortunately, the wait is almost over). Wraithborne seems like a decent hack-and-slash game, and it certainly looks great on iOS. But for now, we’re not convinced it’s got the depth that core gamers will expect from a game that bears more than a passing resemblance to Diablo. Wraithborne will be available next Wednesday night on the App Store for $2.99.

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