When you want an entire world to immerse yourself in, these titles could each provide you with months of gaming on your iOS device.
If you’ve been lamenting the lack of a really meaty, old-school and gloriously geeky roleplaying game on your iOS device, look no further than this semi-remake of one of the 1990s true classics.
The game does sometimes betray its originals - the busy interface and tiny characters can be awkward, as can the save system. But stick with it and you find an adventure of uncommon breadth, with some great characters (both serious and ridiculous) and massive flexibility in terms of your party of heroes and their abilities.
It’s the complexity and sprawl that really hits home with this old-timer. So while it may not look as exciting as more modern fare, this is a game that offers weeks, if not months, of tactical combat, agonising choices and frenzied goblin-bashing. And if you find it does eventually pall but you hanker for more, the sequel is on the App Store, too.
£9.99 | For iPhone and iPad (Universal) | Download Baldur’s Gate
Casual description does this painterly action-roleplaying game few favours - games about beating up beasties in exchange for experience points are a dime a dozen on the App Store, after all.
Where Bastion differs is in its storytelling. A near-omniscient narrator commentates your progress as you play, picking up on your decisions and mistakes as well as furthering a sombre, opaque tale with a voice that redefines the very concept of gravel. It adds a huge amount of character, as well as lending Bastion the eerie sense that it’s watching you.
A beautiful game both visually and in atmosphere, Bastion is fortunately not so bogged down on its own grandeur that it forgets to be a reliably compulsive stream of action too.
£4.99 | For iPhone and iPad (Universal) | Download Bastion
While other RPGs can require lots of time and skilful thinking, Crashlands is designed for the casual player. There’s an unlimited inventory, so you can scavenge where and when you want without worry. And it’s Minecraft-esque in ways, offering a build mode that lets you fashion a personalised base from the ground up with various benches for crafting weapons, armour, elixirs and more. Because of the unlimited inventory, if you want to move your base somewhere with more resources, you need only pick up all the pieces to your base and put it in your bag. Simple.
The tap-to-interact aspect of the game takes time to get used to, especially when battling the many monsters you’ll come across on the alien planet, but it’s effective. You get a toolbar for quick access to equipment like potions or weapons - with varying cooldowns for each - and a world map, which enables you to zip between telepads at no cost. This makes exploring the massive open world easier, as you can nip back to your base to recover/build new equipment on the fly without worrying about wasting time.
In all, it’s an accessible take on the genre, which should have wide appeal.
£3.99 | For iPhone and iPad (Universal) | Download Crashlands
Death Road to Canada
Road trip! Only the roads on the way to the safety of Canada (from your native Florida) are packed with the undead. Eek! Your aim is to not get eaten, which isn’t easy. It turns out Death Road to Canada is aptly named.
The game is a mix of arcade fare and multiple-choice decision-making akin to a Choose Your Own Adventure book. The top-down arcade parts involve your little gang looting buildings and fending off the undead with whatever comes to hand, or timed ‘sieges’ - claustrophobic affairs that prove tense and terrifying, despite the blocky, cartoonish graphics. The more adventure-oriented bits mix snippets of story with multiple-choice decision-making, both of which can hugely affect your ongoing quest.
There’s a lot of randomness - sudden deaths are commonplace - but also plenty of knockabout humour. This is more oddball 1980s videogame than The Walking Dead: a place where zombies co-exist with dogs that can talk and make Molotov cocktails, and where you should never trust a supposedly injured moose. Buy it. Play it. But don’t imagine you’ll be seeing Canada any time soon.
£11.99 | For iPhone and iPad (Universal) | Download Death Road to Canada
In this idiosyncratic turn-based roguelike, you’re the administrator of a hamlet beset on all sides by evil creatures. You resolve to send various fantasy archetypes into the villain-riddled swamps, forests and mountains nearby to sort things out. Each time one of your disposable heroes goes on a quest, a dungeon is randomly generated, and it’s up to you to work out the best way of coping.
The game is chess-like in nature - almost as much puzzle as RPG. The trick is to work out which monsters to attack in which order, so as to gain enough experience, collect enough equipment and conserve enough health and mana to be able to take on the boss at the end. There’s also an actual - and brutally difficult - puzzle mode, in which a range of pre-prepared scenarios must be navigated in precisely the right way.
As threats are neutralised and loot piles up, you’ll be able to build or upgrade new facilities and thereby unlock new character types, equipment and monsters, all of which has an appeal of its own; and the writing is consistently witty. But it’s the slow-paced, deceptively brain-bruising dungeon crawling which gives Desktop Dungeons its unique charm.
£9.99 | For iPad only | Download Desktop Dungeons
Legend of Grimrock
Ah, the sweet taste of old-school RPG action.
Legend of Grimrock, a sort of modern remake of Eye Of The Beholder (or, going further back, Dungeon Master), is a fantasy dungeon crawler, meaning that it takes place amongst the neatly right-angular grid of an underground catacomb.
The action takes place in the first person: you see through the eyes of your four-character party (made up of wizards, fighters and thieves, with the nicely weird option of having them be giant insects or minotaurs as well as humans), and tap big chunky buttons to make them walk forward or back one tile at a time, turn, swing swords and axes, shoot bows and cast spells.
The graphics are quite lovely - although true again to EOTB in the walls of each section of dungeon being crafted from three or four identikit tiles, adding to the sense of exploratory confusion, particularly if you select the harder mode in which no automap is created. The movement and combat are fast, smooth and frantic. It’s pretty tough, too, with some mind-bending puzzles and plenty of monsters who can wipe you out in a few swipes, and more than long enough to justify the price tag.
£4.99 | For iPhone and iPad (Universal) | Download Legend of Grimrock
The Bard’s Tale
This iOS port of a classic and much-beloved PS2-era RPG is memorable not so much for its sparkling graphics or revolutionary gameplay (though both are perfectly serviceable, and even sort of charming) as for its absolutely fantastic writing.
Imagine a mix between The Princess Bride and Robin Hood: Men In Tights; this game sets out to skewer just about every fantasy and RPG trope it can get its hands on. The Princess Bride comparison is helped by the fact that the titular scoundrel is voiced by none other than the inimitable Cary Elwes, who bickers constantly with the snarky, fourth-wall-breaking narrator (points if you can spot which classic Disney villain he voiced).
The gameplay is fairly standard real-time RPG hack-and-slash fare, based primarily on summoning various support characters to provide buffs and aid in combat. However, focusing on gameplay in a title like this would be inconceivable.
£2.99 | For iPhone and iPad (Universal) | Download The Bard’s Tale