With the release of Zenonia 4, developer Gamevil has made every title in their venerable action RPG series freemium. But if you shudder at the thought of them turning Zenonia into something like Farmville or Dungeon Hunter 3, then you’ll be pleased to know that Zenonia 4 wasn’t designed like your average freemium game. You never have to put a cent into Zenonia 4, and you’ll still get the full experience, with no limits, for free.
The Zenonia series is known for its excellent retro-inspired graphics, its deep RPG elements, its button-mashy fighting, and it’s fetch quest-filled gameplay. For better and for worse, all of those features are back in Zenonia 4. Aside from an ad that appears when you boot up the game and the ability to purchase in-game currency, you’d hardly know it was a freemium game at all.
A serious adventurer with a serious sword.
Like most Korean RPGs, Zenonia 4 is all about the grind. You’ll choose from four classes of characters to determine your fighting style (hand-to-hand combat, ranged weapons, or magic) and you’ll go on a quest to save the world form the clutches of a powerful enemy. To do that, you’ll wander from town to town, doing good deeds for villagers, like slaying a certain number of trolls or collecting a certain amount of ore. You’ll also kill loads of baddies by furiously tapping the attack button.
Killing enemies levels you up, allowing you to add points to your stats, and work your way though a long skill tree whose contents depend on your character’s class. You’ll also pick up items and equipment that your enemies drop, almost all of which you can use, strengthen, and repair. The developers at Gamevil have been making RPGs for a long time, and they’ve got these systems down pat. Newcomers might feel overwhelmed by all of the options, but gamers familiar with inventories and skill trees will feel right at home here.
In other words, stab them quickly.
If it’s remarkable how little the series has changed over four titles, it’s also remarkable how unintrusive the freemium options are. To make money on the game, Gamevil lets to buy gold and a new currency called ‘zen’ at any time from the menu screen. Spending money on these in-app purchases is totally optional, and allows you to make your character more powerful without grinding. Of course, if you’re not the sort of gamer who enjoys a grind, you’ll find very little to enjoy in Zenonia 4, as the game is full of fetch quests.
Which brings us to the game’s shortcomings. There’s virtually zero quest variety, and the story is as bland as it is incomprehensible. You’ll encounter typos and translation errors and clunky storytelling. But the biggest problem is that, at this point, the Zenonia formula feels very long in the tooth. We wish they’d put at least a little effort into mixing up the gameplay rather than relying on the traditional Korean RPG formula.
On the plus side, the game is free, it looks drop-dead gorgeous, and the controls work very well. If you’re a fan of RPGs, Zenonia 4 is certainly worth a download. You’ll realize fairly quickly whether you’ll want to stick it out for the long haul. And if you don’t, you haven’t lost anything.