Per hallowed Korean RPG tradition, a gigantic war has given lots of heroic types an excuse to take up swords and wave around magic wands. This time it’s happening in the world of Vardonia, where seedy Arkan and holier-than-thou Abylon vie for control of a fiercely contested border region. Four would-be heroes have been summoned up to the front, two fighting on behalf of each faction. Kiron, a veteran who’s already completed one tour of duty, is all too happy to fight again for Arkan now that the opposing kingdom has torched his hometown. Soon he’ll be trading suspicious glances with the novice mage Galen, who’s arrived at the same outpost to assist his wounded master in some pretty far-out arcane shenanigans. Moseying into the opposite camp are the evangelist Alia, who’s eager to convert Arkanian heathen or send their souls straight to Hades if they fail to comply, and the goody-two-shoes paladin Jasen, who’s arrived to fulfill his role as a dutiful Abylonian knight.
That makes for four viewpoints in Exitium (Out Now, $1.99), doubling the number of player characters we’ve seen in some of the best genre offerings on iOS so far. The team at Minoraxis deserve serious kudos for knowing how to play up this fundamental strength, devising the save system to end all save systems so players can switch scenarios practically on a whim. Rest assured that this means Exitium is also the meatiest KRPG in its price range; having spent ten hours spread across all four scenarios, I don’t feel that I’ve even scratched the surface of the mysteries driving its backstab-heavy plot. With the technical quality seen in Fantastic Knight reaffirmed and even improved upon here, this is probably all diehard KRPG fans need to know before reaching for that “buy” button.
Alas, quantity doesn’t necessarily make up for quality when it comes to RPG storytelling, and real quality is what the KRPG subgenre desperately needs to hang on to veterans who’ve tired of the formula, and attract curious RPG fans who might be new to this style. In my estimation, Fantastic Knight‘s narrativesuffered from the problem of rushing plot points too quickly; Exitium ironically suffers from just the opposite extreme. None of the player characters are movers and shakers in their world, rather acting as glorified go-fers for shadowy superiors. This means the much-dreaded “fetch quest,” typically bearable in KRPGs where they’re relegated to sideshow status, form the very core of each character’s story. Plot points and characterization are furnished piecemeal and at an achingly slow pace as they fulfill order after order, zooming between battlefields and their respective bases.
That its story falls entirely flat isn’t a fault of Exitium‘s translation as much as it is a fault of the game’s basic structure; you can only pack in so much character development when the stars are constantly gusting in and out of their home bases like overworked pizza deliverymen. The writers and translators at least toyed with the situation as best they could, letting the characters bemoan their constricted fate — a rare opportunity for players to commiserate perfectly with their onscreen avatars. That said, Minoraxis still has the occasional script typo to fix in updates too.
Longtime KRPG vets might be sad to see Level Up points and multi-branch skill trees go by the wayside in favor of linear progression here, but in most other ways Exitium is a genre fan’s dream. Its user interface feels largely inherited from Fantastic Knight, which means the characters do a great job navigating around rough ledges and the virtual D-pad is perfectly responsive — though it’s worth noting that the player must tap at its edges to use it as intended, and avoid holding at the center as he or she would a virtual joystick. I was so highly impressed with the system Minoraxis developed for adjusting the UI that it edged my review score up half a notch all on its own — everything from virtual button placement to the size of the virtual D-pad is completely under the player’s control via the in-game options menu. Developers, please copy Minoraxis when it comes to things like this!
In addition to their hotlinked skills, each character can make use of a regular attack chain and a charge attack if the player holds the attack button for about a second. There are an eye-popping number of options for upgrading and fabricating equipment, and navigation is a breeze thanks to an area minimap, quest list system, and simple world map that mesh well together as guides.