Review: Partia 3: Knight of Partia20 Feb 2019 3
Review: Partia 3: Knight of Partia
Released 20 Jan 2019
You may never read another app description as resigned as Partia 3's. The developer, Dustin, laments the financial failures of the previous two entries, the cost of his vacations and weekends to the creation of this final chapter in the trilogy, and the likely mediocre response the new game will generate. Declaring it the 'last app store description he will ever write,' he signs it: "For the lovers only."
The Parthia series is the creation of a devoted two-person team who have been making console-style strategy RPGs with no IAP for seven years with little reward to show for it. For that alone it's worth a look - although unless you're a strategy RPG die-hard, maybe not much more than a look.
The first Partia came out in 2012 and Partia 2 followed in 2014. Five years later, the labor of love is finally complete. Unfortunately, in that time, not much has advanced in the games' design. Many of the criticisms given in PT's review of the first game in the series still hold true even seven years later. Now, you do have touch controls rather than an on-screen controller, and the field isn't pillarboxed into an approximation of a Game Boy Advance aspect ratio. But the UI is still frustrating, and the graphics and animations are limited. It would be nice if the gameplay made up for that.
The Parthia series has always been a devoted homage to Fire Emblem , which is known for its handheld titles on Nintendo platforms. Now there is an official Fire Emblem game on mobile, and a very popular one, albeit not the one fans were probably hoping for. Fire Emblem: Heroes reduced the size of the battlefield and dropped the series' signature character permadeath. Parthia, on the other hand, is orthodox in its presentation of traditional strategy RPG gameplay. Your units move freely around the large battlefields. They can carry different equipment, gain levels, and have their individual advantages and weaknesses. In between battles, you can manage your army, buying and selling equipment and recruiting new soldiers. Most importantly, permadeath remains a threat, encouraging you to play carefully with your favorite characters.
However, battles are tedious. First, it takes a dozen taps to enter a simple command. Tap to select the unit. Tap to choose move. Tap to choose attack. Tap to choose the weapon. Tap to choose the target. Tap to confirm. Watch the animation. And that's after turning off the default setting that requires double taps for each of those commands! Then, units too-frequently miss their targets or do little damage, making each battle a war of slow attrition. The AI does little to help the pace, preferring to wait to be attacked or otherwise being easily lured into bottlenecks and slowly whittled down one by one. Further, Parthia 3 doesn't do a good job of teaching the player the capabilities of the units, instead leaving the education up to trial and error. I'm still not 100% sure which units are supposed to be strong against which, or if there even is a big difference between them. The AI is never a threat unless a story event demands overwhelming enemy forces.
Battles are often driven by story events, which push some drama onto the map by suddenly manifesting new enemy or allied units. The story remains forgettable, although commendable in its ambition. It's trying to tell an epic tale of war and justice, but the large and thinly-drawn cast makes it hard to get a handle on why you should care. Not helping the narrative is the poor English used, which features grammatical or spelling errors in every other dialogue box. It's not enough to make comprehension impossible, but it is enough to be frustrating to read and drop you out of the tale.
Devotees of the console strategy RPG style of Fire Emblem may find a lot to like in Parthia 3 and its prequels, especially those disappointed by Nintendo's limited Fire Emblem: Heroes. This series was created by someone with a lot of love for a very particular kind of game. Now that the creator is freed of this obsession, I hope his next project can find the audience it deserves.