Review: 9th Dawn21 Jun 2013 0
...then the lady at the Snack Shack says to Scooter, right after he's back from catching waves with that half-orc half-masseuse from Cali, she says- oh, hey 9th Dawn! What are you doing back here? Thought you were doing first shift on Sundays. What's up? Just hangin'? Right, right. Totally. Uh-huh. Doing some laid-back style action-RPG stuff, yeah? Workin' it. Those bandits in the apartment down the hall still giving you crap? Pfff. Dudes need to relax, if you catch my italicized emphasis.
Oh, you looking to hang tonight? Well, I would, but Jenn and I are doing this "date" thing, and I have work tomorrow. I know, so adult, but still... raincheck it, yeah? And keep pluggin' away at that dyed-hemp pentagram carpet. Thing definitely looks close to improvement maybe. Mark and I will catch you sometime. Anyway, like I was saying, right in front of this green bastard...
Dude, 9th Dawn is super-chill. Chill for an action-RPG, at least. For a genre whose emotional spectrum ranges from "AHHHHH CLICK ALL THE THINGS" to "AHHHHH SELL ALL THE THINGS," 9th Dawn is uncharacteristically, pleasantly low-key.
Things start, as they often do, with your choosing between a fighter, ranger, or mage. (But, heh, all joking aside, between the ranger and the mage.) Then you're in, moving around the open world with the sort of faux-analog setup you've seen done to varying degrees of success in other iOS and Android titles: the virtual left thumbstick moves you around, while the equally-virtual right thumbstick controls your attacks.
It's worth mentioning here that this oft-misdone setup works, and that 9th Dawn is yet another game (like Slayin' before it) hinting at a future where touch controls could replicate the responsiveness of a gamepad or keyboard. Maybe this is also a future where Ray Kurzweil is god, everyone's been turned into grey nanocomputer pudding, and roads are, if not completely unnecessary, at least much less useful.
Point is: moving and hittin' bads is easy. Particularly satisfying are the ranged weapons, with each twack of an arrow pegging a goblin in the flank the result of a careful pulling back of the right thumbstick, away from your target (you know, like a bow), matched with a well-timed release. Tricky, but rewarding.
And it's good that 9th Dawn gets its basics down, because, well, there's not much else to 9th Dawn other than basics. Experience points and levels come quick, and with them the opportunity to increase your attributes. Specifically, just the two or three attributes your class needs (weapon skills increase automatically with use). The ones these classes always need. Could you guess that your wizard should be both wise and intelligent? Or your fighter both brave and of a hearty constitution? Next stop: SUCCESS!
Questing is similarly straightforward. Dotting the world are towns. You can, if you wish, walk anywhere you please from the start of the game (assuming you can survive the beasties between one settlement and the next). People are in these towns. They might mention some junk they're working through right now, or that they're all stressed about these monsters or whatever hanging around their neck of the woods. You want to help these folks work through their issues? Jump on it, Captain Planet. You don't, and nobody will judge you for it.
Enemies and incidental dungeons are plentiful enough where you can easily level up without playing the hero. Besides, isn't it always nice when you come across a goblin fortress or bandit encampment on your own, accidentally, without having some giant golden arrow pointing towards the SECRET BAD GUY HIDEOUT mission-zone on your map? 'Course it is.
Now, how 'bout that loot? Well, it's certainly... here. (And, as it happens, incredibly difficult to sell. One of the few truly bad design choices in the game is its inventory system, with no easy way to compare stats and an infuriating prompt which asks you how much of an item you want to sell even when you only have one copy. Gah.) Play 9th Dawn and, as time passes, your bronze daggers and old wooden bows will turn into steel shortswords and crossbows and fireballs and satin trousers. Which is to say they'll get better without really affecting how you play. At all. And that actually says much about 9th Dawn as a whole.
RPG leveling without any skill choices or branching paths. Relatively tight controls employed in an endless kiting dance, trying to keep enemies just out of attack range while you pepper them with arrows, spells, or the very tip of your melee weapon. An open world without anything in the way of landmarks or attractions. Loot for loot's sake, and nothing more.
It'd be wrong to say 9th Dawn isn't a complete package. It hits all the points it's supposed to hit. It's well-rounded. Slick, even. But it almost seems like a pathological lack of ambition, to do everything just well enough, and then... stop. And, true, that's not much of a complaint. 9th Dawn is a fun but borderline shallow game that just needed the tiniest sliver of ambition in order to be great and lasting. As is, it's a weekend friend you're totally down to have crash on your couch, as long as they know you like to lock the place up and catch the early bus on Mondays.
The game was played on the iPad 2 for this review.