By Eric Chetkauskas / December 9th, 2014
|Title||Rollers of the Realm|
|Release Date||November 18, 2014|
|Platform||PC, PS4, Vita|
|Age Rating||ESRB – Teen|
One downside to witnessing the indie games scene expanding at an incredible rate is that it has become hard to find ones that stand out. There are so many games being developed that take elements from all the classics and mash them together. That doesn’t mean those games are bad, but there really isn’t much that separates them from each other. That’s why I became instantly intrigued when I first heard about Rollers of the Realm, which was actually an iOS game developed by Phantom Compass, who later teamed up with ATLUS to publish a more polished version for Steam and PSN (playable on PS4 and Vita).
Rollers of the Realm is an RPG set in your typical RPG fantasy world. You travel around exploring castles, towns, forests and dungeons, you pick up traveling companions and even buy stat-boosting items and equipment from shops. The difference is the battles aren’t your typical RPG fare. Instead of turn-based fighting or a hack-n-slash attack system, you play Pinball. Each location is a uniquely-designed pinball table with your party as the balls and the enemies set up across the table. Using the flippers, you send your pinball into your foes to do damage based on that character’s stats.
The layout of the battlefield depends on where you are on the world map. Forest stages will have trees and rivers, while dungeons will be dark. There are also objects on the playing field, as well. Things like boxes, jars and barrels can all be broken to earn gold or Mana, which you spend to cast a spell or use an ability. Rocks are often used as obstacles that block your way, forcing you to either find another way around or destroy them to open up a direct path. Enemies are also sometimes set up so they block a direct shot. This is especially so in battles where they are defending something, like the castle gates or a boss. Enemies that play this role more than likely have shields, if not full armor, thus making them impervious to an attack from the front. In these cases, you either need to find a way to hit them from behind or use ranged attacks to whittle away their HP. There is a wide variety of stage types in the game; some are set up to be a generic battle, while others are more puzzle-like, forcing you to use secondary flippers to access another area. For the most part, defeating all the enemies on the field will open up the exit, but there are stages that have different victory conditions, such as reaching the bottom level of a dungeon, collecting a treasure or earning a certain amount of gold within a certain time. Needless to say, the battles don’t get boring, and they’re not very difficult, as long as you’re a decent Pinball player.
The final stage, however, is a boss gauntlet, where each can only be damaged by — well, to avoid spoilers, let’s just say “doing a certain thing.” It can be tedious, and these fights take a while to finish. It was made especially difficult by the fact that you’d need to redo all of them if you died at any point. Fortunately, during the course of my reviewing this, an update was released that added checkpoints between each of the boss fights, so that death only meant you had to restart at the beginning of that specific fight. This made the final chapter of the game a whole lot easier.
Because this is Pinball, you may be wondering what the enemies do besides make good targets. Well, this game is also part RPG, so they do what all good RPG enemies do; they attack. Your party doesn’t take damage, per se, but getting hit by an enemy’s attack will alter the ball’s course. Dying is actually quite easy, however: having the ball go through the flippers is an instant death, and that character is unable to play until he or she is revived or the stage is cleared. One way you do take damage, though, is through your flippers. Enemies who actively attack will target your flippers, either with ranged attacks, or by advancing toward them and pummeling away. As your flippers get damaged, they get smaller making it tougher to keep the ball in play. I would assume that when your flippers are fully destroyed, it’s Game Over, but I never let it get that far, so I have no idea.
The party members themselves consist of most standard (and some non-standard) RPG job classes, and their traits translated very well to Pinball. The Rogue is your standard thief — quick and agile — and has the ability to steal gold from a NPC when she hits them from behind. The Knight can deal a lot of damage, but is big, slow and heavy. He can’t fit through some smaller places, but he can knock over even fully-armored enemies if you fling him hard enough. The Healer will restore your flippers’ health as she earns Mana and gives the party the Revive ability to bring back fallen allies. The Hunter uses his bow to shoot arrows at enemies he passes by. The Alchemist also uses ranged attacks by launching chemical explosives at nearby foes. Finally, the Barmaid will throw kitchen utensils at enemies she passes near. Swapping these characters in battle is easy and can be done when you’re holding their ball against the flipper.
The story of Rollers of the Realm is, admittedly, rather basic. A young lady, The Rogue, is thieving around town when her dog is kidnapped by the town’s leader. Her simple quest to rescue her furry friend slowly turns into something much bigger, as she meets new companions along the way. None of these characters are given names, and are only ever referred to by their class. The locations on the map aren’t given specific names either, only called The Town, The Wood, The Keep, etc. You would think this would make it hard to take the story seriously, but I found the interactions between the characters gave them a certain endearing quality. The world may not have much detail to it, but the story makes good use of the realm’s lore as a driving plot point. Overall, it came together well and held my interest.
The artwork is really bright and colorful. There are no animations during the cutscenes; only character portraits for dialogue and beautifully-drawn still images. The game’s soundtrack is very pleasant. It sounds like something from a Renaissance Fair. All the tracks are easy to listen to, but they can get repetitive if they play for too long. The voice acting in the game is hit-or-miss. The best aspect of it is the diverse set of accents used by the characters, most coming from the British Isles, but there are other more exotic accents, as well. As for the controls, I used an Xbox 360 controller and had no issues whatsoever; all the button responses were tight. The only downside is that the on-screen instructions gave keyboard controls, so it took a bit of figuring out at first.
Rollers of the Realm is one of those games that is really easy to just pick up and play. It doesn’t throw too much at you to start, and the difficulty ramps up quite evenly. It took me a little 17 hours to beat all six chapters of the campaign, although that was with a lot of dying on the last stage before the checkpoints were introduced. There is also an Arena Mode, where you can complete challenges on any stage and post your high score to an online leaderboard. The amount of content packed in along with the fact that this title is different from most other games — it’s not totally unique; we did have Pinball Quest for the NES — makes it well worth the $9.99 price tag. And, if for any reason you consider that too high to consider, keep your eye out for sales, because, if RPGs and pinball are things you like, this is a game you won’t want to miss.
Review copy supplied by publisher.
AtlusPhantom CompassRollers of the realm