Review: Qvadriga

By Kelsey Rinella 30 Jun 2014 0
The dead horse and flipped chariot probably aren't omens or anything. My charioteer enters a turn at ludicrous speed. The absence of a "soil oneself" button among the available orders seems like a failure of verisimilitude.

Have you ever wanted to race chariots in the Roman Empire? No? Excellent–your prudent approach to risk would do the I saw a lot of red. The real-time (ish) interface kindly color-codes the highlight on your selected order according to the probability that you're about to screw up.[/caption]

The races essentially play out in real time, but you may input commands once every ten seconds which control your charioteer's behavior for the next ten seconds. These include moving in or out on the track, avoiding attacks, accelerating, whipping your horses for an extra speed boost, and whipping your neighbor or bashing him with your chariot. If that seems like a lot of options, I quickly discovered a way of dramatically simplifying things: roll your chariot by taking a tight turn too fast, and your charioteer's only options become "sand off your face while being dragged by a team of horses" and "attempt to walk off the track without being run over". You can either set it up to allow you to input a new command as the prior one resolves, or to pause the game every ten seconds, but the difference is much less important in practice than a strict real-time/turn-based dichotomy would be, because even the more real-time of the options doesn't allow more frequent changes of plan.

The game sports some pleasing touches which wouldn't be worth having in a board game, but give Qvadriga character. For example, when you whip your neighbor, he might manage to grab your whip and pull it away, depriving you of the option to whip anyone else or your own horses for the rest of the race. There are three stadia in Rome; normally, travel from one stadium to another is expensive, but among these three, it's free. The thoughtful little touches to the game system really help sell the theme as integral to the experience, rather than a manipulative bit of tacked-on wonderfulness.

The Praesina faction gives me more durable charioteers, which was quite helpful, given my unintentionally sadistic playing style. The management screen gives me the option to do things like hire a doctor or buy a new chariot for the poor fool who flipped in the last race.

Though the racing interface is clear and functional after a few plays, the rest of the interface was, sadly, ported poorly. Tap detection on buttons is terribly inconsistent, and little attention seems to have been paid to tailoring the interface for touchscreens. Frequently, it seems as though tooltips were the intended method of delivering help, yet they are unavailable in this version. Perhaps the most egregious example is the vestigial close button cluttering up numerous upper right corners of windows, a software solution to a problem already solved absolutely consistently and transparently by a hardware button. It's so foreign on the iPad that I thought it was simple a crash bug the first time I tapped it and was kicked out to my home screen.

Fortunately, though there are puzzling irritations with the interface, they detract more from the perception of quality than from the substance of the game. Qvadriga offers a big world with many strategic options and an evocative tactical racing experience which is quick enough to retain the tension and danger of a brutal sport, yet still allows you the opportunity to make decisions deliberately. Though the simultaneous order input mechanic in the races is often used to put the focus on out-thinking a live opponent, in this single-player-only game it keeps your mind on the racing. Well, that and the not-dying.

Qvadriga was played on an iPad Air for this review.

Review: Qvadriga

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