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   Orcs and Elves DS- Review  

Why do all the Dwarves Look the Same?
by Stew Shearer

PLATFORM
DS
BATTLE SYSTEM
4
INTERACTION
3
ORIGINALITY
2
STORY
3
MUSIC & SOUND
2
VISUALS
3
CHALLENGE
Moderate
COMPLETION TIME
Less than 20 Hours
OVERALL
3/5
+ Quick, fun, trip into an old fashioned dungeon crawler.
+ Simple, easy to pick up controls.
+ Low price tag at most stores.
Click here for scoring definitions 

   Having been born and bred on today's cinematic, melodramatic, and technically advanced RPGs, playing Orcs and Elves was a delightful if limited excursion into the Role Playing of yesteryear. Orcs and Elves does little that hasn't been done before, and better by other games on other systems, but it is nonetheless a quick, fun trip into a style of role playing that is long past its heyday.

   Orcs and Elves is a rather bare bones affair. The game follows the exploits of the elf Elli and his talking wand Ellon after he receives a mysterious message from the underground Dwarven kingdom of Zharrkarag. This is about as deep as the story gets, but luckily for the player the game doesn't last long enough for the scant plot to detract much from the overall experience.

   The gameplay is easily the highlight of Orcs and Elves. While the entire game is spent trekking in the first person through the catacombs of Zharrkarah, the turn-based gameplay is actually really fun. Initially when one hears the words turn-based, images of slow-paced, menu driven battles may come to mind. This said, the fighting in Orcs and Elves is actually pretty fast paced and to some extent strategic. Every single action, be it moving, fighting, casting spells, or using potions costs the player a turn. When you engage an enemy in battle it tends to be over relatively fast. You trade blows until one of you has fallen, and while this may still not sound appealing to more modern RPG fans, the action can actually get tense depending on how many foes you're up against.

   The turn-based combat also allows for a shallow degree of strategy. You're not going to find anything too deep, but after a few turns, a watchful player can usually determine what kind of pattern each enemy is going to follow and the best way to counterract that. Most of the time its easy to determine the best moment to use a potion or switch weapons. Mentioning weapons, it must be said that Orcs and Elves sports a slew of them. Swords, crossbows, and a myriad of other magical items can be found and bartered for in the game. The great shame is that most of them are limited in their usefulness. You have a number of projectiles at your disposal, but for the most part they pale in comparison to the magic wand you have from the start of the game. Even the wand is not as useful as the various swords you'll equip during the game, and while you eventually find a good substitute for your sword toward the end, its reliance on your limited magic power restricts its usefulness. Accompanying your weapons are an assortment of potions that you will collect in such abundance that you'll rarely ever find yourself lacking.

Caption

   All of this can be controlled via both the stylus and the traditional buttons. While the player can choose to use either one exclusively, the best option is probably to mix and match. For instance, the more basic actions such as movement and combat can be controlled most easily with the d-pad and a/b buttons, but when navigating the various menus that manage items or drawing the symbols required to cast more powerful spells, the stylus is much better suited. There is barely any learning curve with the controls and a novice player could learn even the finest intricacies of Orcs and Elves within a good five to ten minutes.

   While the game maintains a certain level of charm in most departments, it suffers in the audio and visual. The music is ambient at best but generally completely forgetable. You won't find any sweeping pieces of epic greatness here. The action sounds aren't distracting but they are primitive. One could almost imagine some of them being faithfully produced on the original Game Boy. While they more than suffice for the duration of the game, they are nothing special.

Caption

   This description fits the visuals as well. They are a mixed bag of sorts. The environments are technically 3D but in the most basic way imaginable. There are an assortment of repetitive and bland textures that look like they came straight from the original Doom. The objects and creatures that populate them, contrastingly, are generally a mixture of ugly and average 2D, save for the dozens of identical dwarven ghosts that Ellon meets throughout the course of the story. Orcs and Elves is not an horrible looking game, but the fact it was originally made for mobile phones shows and some more graphical updates might have been appreciated.

   The best part of Orcs and Elves is its briefness. This may seem like a strange statement, but the way the game plays makes it one that is fun for a while but at the same time something that could easily become tedious if given enough time. The game strikes the right balance of difficulty (or lack of), entertainment value, and length to make it worth the twenty dollar price tag at Gamestop. By the time it's done the player is ready to be, but the game stays entertaining long enough to merit some moderate praise. The DS has seen a number of dungeon crawlers in the past few years and while more difficult titles like Etrian Odyssey might hold more appeal to more experienced gamers, Orcs and Elves is perfect for a player looking for an easy entrance into RPGs or just someone looking for a brief but entertaining escape.

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