John Carmack’s small development studio, Fountainhead Entertainment, has put out a fair bit of mobile content. First there was DOOM RPG, then they quickly followed up with Orcs & Elves. This D&D-ish game used the same mechanics as DOOM RPG, but it took place in a setting dreamed up by Carmack and his wife, Anna Kang. After the release of this mobile phone title, the game was ported to the DS. Now, a direct sequel has come out for mobile phones, and it’s just as good as the first one.
In Orcs & Elves II, you play as a thief named Valin. The elders of your town have sent you on a quest to steal the talking wand “Ellon” and bring it back to save your town from an impending horde of evil. So, the hero whom you control is new, but the talking weapon remains the same. Also, he doesn’t like you very much, considering you stole him from a much kinder, less rogue-like, elf. But, despite your thief-hood, your quest is somewhat noble, so Ellon eventually comes around.
The dialogue, of which there is slightly more in this game compared to the last, is mostly humorous. The game is filled with laughs, up until the ending, where things get life-or-death serious (of course).
Graphics vary in the same way a PC game’s graphics vary. If you have the high-performance machine, you’re in business. As for me, I own a pretty low-end phone. It just barely meets the game’s minimum requirements, so I experienced a lot of lag and ugly pixel-junk. Sound includes some of the same issues, though even the high-end phones are lacking a quality soundtrack. This continues to be a problem for the Fountainhead titles.
What kept me coming back for more in this mini-RPG (which took, roughly, six hours to complete) was the addictive dungeon-crawler gameplay. Using the first-person perspective, the simple gameplay mechanics have now been bolstered to include some new features. What new features? Lock-picking, escaping from prison, controlling your pet mouse “Bob,” and throwing some new weapons into the arsenal. Good times are to be had in this game.
Carmack’s small-scale games are in the position to get a lot of attention, what with names like EA and id Software behind them. And, indeed, Orcs & Elves II has consistently won “mobile game of 2007” awards from a number of sites. It’s not just the name-brand association though. “Casual gaming,” the staple of mobile content in North America, has reached a new low. In contrast, Fountainhead Entertainment strives to create fun, creative, challenging, and aesthetically appealing content for the tiny screen. And while Japan is leaps and bounds ahead of North America in the mobile gaming market, it’s good to know we have something worthwhile coming to us. That something, thus far, has come exclusively from Fountainhead Entertainment.
Orcs & Elves II gets the same score as its predecessor: 83%. There’s still plenty of room to improve, but given the platform, the game is definitely a worthwhile addition to your RPG repertoire.