Poor Controls & Usability Problems Hurt The Relic’s Potential
Chillingo division Clickgamer has released a new dungeon crawler on iOS called The Relic for both iPhone and iPad. An action role-playing game of sorts, the title is a loose, watered-down rendition of the popular Diablo franchise. Again, however, the comparison is used very loosely as this title is far from being release-worthy.
In the past Clickgamer has released quality titles, such as Modern Conflict, so it was a surprise when the iPhone and iPad game, The Relic turned out to be a distinct disappointment. With few action RPGs on the iOS, it was a game that could have been great. But it’s practically a lesson in what not to do in terms of design and basic playability.
The premise is a classic fantasy plot that some ancient force is resurfacing again. A thousand years before the start of the game’s story line, “The Relic” granted immortality at a “terrible” price and caused the downfall of an ancient civilization. As the unnamed hero, players must venture into the dark places of the world to uncover it. Must they destroy it? Use it? The game isn’t entirely clear. For the most part, it goes, “Here is an axe. Please smash the nasty looking things.”
Using virtual analog controls, players steer a stick on the left and attack with buttons on the right in a top-down dungeon environment. As enemies appear, players automatically target the closest creature they are facing and that is about it. There are about a thousand skeletons, dozens of obnoxious mage-like enemies and spiders that fight from range. Hordes of them show up and players wipe them out by smashing a single button or two.
As kills are racked up, players upgrade to new spells, but there isn’t a good way to actively control them. Everything is context-sensitive. For example, if you hit the attack button and the enemy is in melee range, the avatar will swing the axe.
If you have the spell “magic bolt” and hit the attack button, and the enemy is far away, the avatar will shoot a spell. There are other area-of-effect (AOE) abilities and defensive shields that are activated with secondary “magic” buttons. One such spell is “Divine Touch,” which is a circular wave of damage that can be activated after users get an attack multiplier (this appears to be killing enemies in rapid succession) bonus.
None of the abilities feel special though. Most just feel like they were pulled from other fantasy games. In Diablo — which is arguably one of the premier dungeon crawlers — each spell was distinctly different, and activated at the player’s suggestion. This allowed them to play with their own style and make tactical decisions accordingly.
What this means is that combat isn’t fun. It’s boring. It’s repetitive and even enemy bosses aren’t that different than the regular fodder. To make matters worse, there isn’t even a real goal. Some ghost tells the user some arbitrary facts about the past and this “Relic,” but all players do is go from Point A to Point B, finding keys to open doors and occasionally destroying a boss.
To add to the issues plaguing The Relic, the controls and overall usability of the application are appalling. To start, the movement controls are unresponsive, clunky and twitchy. The player spastically moves about the map getting stuck on everything. Moreover, the sporadic movement of the avatar makes targeting a nightmare, leading the player to attack enemies at, essentially, random.
Not enough? When upgrading spells, not all are displayed. Users must hit a smaller “More” button which is next to a massive “Resume” button. Now there are two ways to access this system. One is at a pillar of light that players will sometimes come across and others are when they finish a level by going up or down a flight of stairs. The second is the more frequent, but hitting resume takes the user out of the menu and right back into the game with no way to go back! Due to the size and proximity of the resume button, players will hit it unconsciously most of the time. There are not many spells. As such they should be placed on one page, or the resume button placed in a less convenient spot.
There are more issues as well: Animations are jerky, visuals are simplistic and there are user interface elements that are unexplained (such as gold, which we’ve yet to need). The app also doesn’t autosave! Players must manually save, and if they quit, the app doesn’t say that game data will be lost.
Overall, Clickgamer has left us disappointed. The dungeon-crawling action RPG is rarely represented on iOS. Interesting as it sounds, the game is a sea of mistakes and poor design choices. Nothing is redeeming about The Relic, and some serious updates will be required before this game is even playable.