Oraia Rift: Oracle of Oraia: iOS Review (iPad Mini)

     I recall first hearing about Oraia Rift back in August of 2015, and got a hold of a copy shortly after.  Although I must applaud Compassgames' effort because getting into the industry and making games is hard for indies, and for such a small team they put in a decent job.  I think it was just one person, which is impressive in itself.  That being said, the game isn't good.

     Some sites had been saying that Oraia Rift was very much like The Legend of Zelda series and as far as I can tell it only has minor similarities, such as going on quests, finding spells to unlock new areas, and a few secrets laying around.
     You play as one of a handful of characters on a truly vague and generic quest with few accurate details about what exactly you are doing other than pushing Rift Dwellers out of the world and back to where they came from.  Same old save the world storyline as pretty much every other game ever.  There's also a whole bunch of nothing filling the strange world(s) you are travelling through.  Seriously, the game feels very empty and open, and the map-less level design compounds the problem greatly.  Getting lost is easy when everything looks the same.  A few scattered NPCs wander back and forth with little to say, a lonely vendor with minuscule upgrades (1 per vendor), and enemies that spawn randomly to hit you pretty hard if you don't constantly backtrack to break jars to refill health and mana.

     The overall game is very sparse and the action is quite clumsy.  To kill even the most menial enemy, you have to button-mash for too long, as they are insanely durable, and the stuns placed by spells knock them so far away that by the time you get over to them to attack, they've already recovered and retaliate.  There's enough hacking at enemies to get tedious instantly, the spells can have long delays in activating, and the characters get caught on ground geometry and stopped from moving with a very high frequency, and the camera is frustrating as hell to use.  The game boils down to a tolerance of the monotony of constantly trekking back and forth across the world on fetch quests and relies on the shallow and boring combat gameplay to fill in bits here or there.  Oh, yeah, and there's some simple puzzles to solve to access new things like opening doors with a wind spell, or lighting torches with a fireball to open a gate.

     Because I don't want the review to sound too harsh, I have to list some of the good things.  I really enjoyed the washed out art style.  And I really like some of the monster designs, specifically the turtle guys and the water temple sentinels (both can be seen in my screen captures).  The great designs are at least a good sign for the future games Compassgames goes on to make.  It is pretty easy to tell which zone you are in just by the overall color scheme.  So you might be lost in a level, but at least you'll know which level you are in.

     I played Oraia Rift and keep returning to it to see if there's been any progress since it released.  Honestly, there's been a lot of small things changed, including the addition of a roll button- separated from the attack/talk/open/etc button- as well as moving the 4 spells from the bottom to 2 on each side of the screen which is far more helpful than I thought it would be.  The game has been steadily getting better and better, but it still isn't quite good enough for me to recommend it to anyone.
     Despite these changes the game is still sub par.  There is a lot of work that needs to be done, and plenty of improvements could be made, to make it worthwhile.  This might have been a great 3-4 hour game, but it was stretched out to 10 hours and it kills any enjoyment that may have been had.  Keeping the game short would've helped players tolerate or overlook the flaws.

     Oraia Rift feels like what it really is- the learning experience of someone who was focused more on the process of making games than the homage to Playstation 1 games it could have been.  Which I think is actually good, because Compassgames' next game looks to be far superior already, and it appears they've learned a lot.  I look forward to seeing a much tighter, better playing game experience from this developer.

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