Let me start this review by saying Braveheart isn’t the Braveheart you might be expecting. This has nothing to do with William Wallace or Mel Gibson in any way. Why it was called Braveheart is beyond me. It doesn’t feel like it was designed to cash in on some sudden trend of Scottish historical games, so I think the name was chosen by the developers for some other reason that has yet to be revealed.
I didn’t really have any expectations on this one, as I tried it out for this review without knowing anything about the game, but once I started playing the game, it kind of felt…odd. I found myself wanting to play it more, but I wasn’t interested enough to bother continuing. It’s like if you want a pizza, and you could have a pizza, but you just aren’t hungry or energetic enough to make the pizza. That is Braveheart in a nutshell, but let’s take a deeper look.
Braveheart finds you playing as Richard, a brutish manly man sent off to find the Holy MacGuffin Holy Grail. His claim to fame is he uses a flail and various other similar medieval weaponry to spin a violent and bloody path through enemies throughout the game. There is the plot folks, and really it isn’t that important. We are here to spin in circles and make a gruesome mess of all that oppose us.
The game wastes no time in getting down to the wonton violence that you paid for, and it does it pretty well, at least visually. The graphics are very well done, the menus clearly touch friendly and designed from the ground up for your iDevice. In game, Braveheart is played from a slightly tilted top-down perspective similar to games like Diablo, and enemies come at you from all directions, often just wandering right into your whirling death trap without regard for their own well-being. The framerate remains stable through hordes of enemies attacking you, which is something not seen too often on iOS games.
This action sounds all well and good, except for when the controls get in the way. You have to constantly be drawing circles on the screen to keep Richard spinning his vortex of death, as well as swiping or tapping to move. When it comes time to use ranged weapons, the two-finger aiming/shooting mechanics are simply uncomfortable for most 5-fingered humanoids. As you kill waves of enemies, you gain levels which give you points to improve Richard’s stats making him even more deadly than his drunken self was before. You also gain gold throughout the game which can be used for new weapons and power ups. The RPG-lite mechanics are a lot of fun and keep this game from becoming intolerable. Unfortunately while the weapons are all explained adequately, the perks and stats are barely touched on and you find yourself wasting points as you level up trying to find out what stats are worthwhile.
Now when I am trying to decide what to play on my iPod, I find myself at a crossroads.
I look at the Braveheart icon, become tempted to play and think it through;
One one hand, I love the simplicity of the game’s combat, which works pretty well when it works, and I enjoy the RPG elements used to keep the game fresh.
On the other hand, the game is incredibly repetitive, each level throwing a minimal variety of enemies at you, which you smash through with very little difficulty, and do I really want to draw lots of circles on my iPod right now?
What I realized I was doing is playing in 5 to 10 minute bursts at random times, and enjoying those bursts but never feeling like I wanted to play it in a marathon session, or pushing forward to make progress in the game. The thing is I wanted to be addicted to it, that is the odd feeling I referred to at the opening of the review.
I want to want to play.
Maybe I feel that the game has more to offer that I haven’t discovered, or I will suddenly fall in love with the Richard character and sing songs about his contributions to global population control throughout the land. Neither have happened in multiple hours of the game, and that makes it hard to recommend Braveheart as a must-buy.
Braveheart does have Game Center integration, which is definitely a plus, and thankfully there is a lite version which will help you decide if this is the game for you. Most people will decide in minutes whether they love or hate the constant spinning mechanics, so by all means, try the lite version if you are into action RPGs or looking for something with unusual mechanics.
The game could be better, and that is kind of frustrating to me. Seeing the potential that Braveheart has, but not ever reaching that point of either hardcore gaming or casual play, it sits in a limbo that I feel prevents Braveheart from becoming one of the shining examples of gaming on the iOS.
* This review is of the iPhone release only, but the iPad release should play similarly.