Young warrior Litta has spent five years chillin’ in his remote hometown following a great victory in Seed: Rise of Darkness. Catching wind of his time off the beat, evil warlords previously locked away break free of their confines and ally with a powerful empire to conquer the very continent Litta had liberated in the previous go-around. Litta’s dead but not-quite-dead mentor takes this opportunity to visit him in a dream, commanding him to hop out of bed and start kicking some monster butt again – a task to which Litta readily agrees owing to his sense that there are hapless babes to be rescued on the mainland.
Seed 2: Vortex of War‘s scenario feels like one of the more over-the-top helpings of cliché to be generated in the Korean mobile games market, but thankfully the amount of work put into the English translation is patently obvious. Its script is technically solid considering the sheer amount of text in the game – the occasional awkward phrase is more likely to be found in system messages and tutorials than in the narrative – and the translator realized Seed 2‘s dialogue would get more mileage out of poking fun at its story than from playing a stale hero narrative completely straight.
Litta quickly catches on to the fact that not everyone on the mainland retains faith in his abilities now that so much time has passed since his last adventure, so he’s really putting the pedal to the metal in taking on each and every challenging request NPCs might lob his way. Jewel hunting, plucking culinary ingredients from slain monsters’ bodies, letter delivery — you name it, Litta’s got it covered. Luckily quests are segregated into major and minor tasks in the game’s running assignments list, so the player can skip or even explicitly give up on quests that aren’t story-critical; not that the patient player would want to, since these opportunities yield useful rewards ranging from the expected cash and experience points to new special abilities.
User interface shortcomings, ever the bane of action-oriented games on this platform, haven’t spared Seed 2. Virtual buttons on the main gameplay screen — used for chaining regular attacks and activating hotlinked skills or consumable items — are very responsive, but this barely compensates for just how tiny they feel. The obvious problems associated with using one’s thumb to thump on such small interface elements become a noticeable issue in the equipment screen and during shopping, where selecting a specific item swimming in a sea of closely adjacent peers can test the player’s patience at times.
After playing Seed 2 I can finally appreciate the nuanced difference between a virtual D-pad – which this game employs – and a virtual joystick. A virtual D-pad is essentially a collection of little virtual buttons; crisp movement hinges on the player developing and maintaining a keen awareness of the separate control points. Whether Litta’s battling a gaggle of hellspawn or facing down a boss, the action in Seed 2 frequently gets hot and heavy enough that slippage of one’s thumb from the control points will agonizingly foil Litta’s chances of survival on occasion. I also experienced one or two instances in which the virtual D-pad obscured items hidden away from main trails in the game’s environments. I can’t help but shake the feeling that a roving virtual joystick and its single point of control might have been employed to much better effect here.
Players spoiled by the auto-saving so well implemented in RPGs recently will groan at the prospect of having to manually save one’s game in Seed 2. At least the developers nestled a nifty quicksave virtual button between Litta’s various energy bars and a navigational compass on the main gameplay screen. Litta must scavenge certain local area maps from fallen adversaries but once activated, these make finding missed paths and entrances a delightful breeze.
By far the most compelling aspects of Seed 2 are its wonderfully implemented equipment and character development systems. Litta handles like a completely different character when equipped with swords versus guns versus staves. Swords tend to be the least interesting of the bunch but one can already see the amount of blood, sweat, and tears pumped into Litta’s character sprite during his stabs and slashes. A gun-toting Litta whips out dual pistols and executes some very entertaining Wild West action with panache that would surely give John Wayne cause to blush, while staves give Litta some crowd control capability with impressive homing bolts that temporarily stun enemies. Each weapon type has its own associated special skills and dash attacks.
Per the aforementioned D-pad difficulty that cropped up for me, I found that Seed 2‘s gameplay favors guns and staves over sword swinging, since it’s difficult to pull off the kind of maneuvering it would take for Litta to lunge in and retreat before getting walloped in close combat. Dash attacks are especially affected by the virtual D-pad’s inherent shortcomings but the developers can be lauded for at least one stroke of user interface genius, as they’ve given the player complete control over defining how quickly the button movements for dash attacks must occur in the settings menu.
In addition to Litta’s weaponry, every piece of equipment produces immediate changes to his appearance in realtime — quite a rarity in sprite-based RPGs given the amount of work that has to go into the artistic end of such a process. His various gear ain’t just for looks, either: a matching set of helmet, armor, and legwear might confer useful abilities when paired with a particular weapon type. Litta’s apparently Red Mage-inspired uniform, for example, allows him to sap hit points from enemies while attacking with a staff.
There’s plenty of meat for stat-obsessive players to dive into within Seed 2‘s character management menu, where Level Up points must be assigned to individual characteristics. The game’s few live tutorials give insufficient information to cover the plethora of options for developing Litta’s strengths, so a good perusing of the game’s built-in Help manual is much recommended for players who want to maximize his efficiency with a particular weapon. Adding to depth of control at the player’s fingertips are several different equipment forging options that put questing rewards to good use.
As far as action RPG gameplay goes, Seed 2 unabashedly leans toward the difficult side. Enemies tend to have tons of hit points to be whittled down by Litta’s arsenal, making updating weapons at shops and via forging a high priority so that defeating individual enemies doesn’t devolve into endless button mashing exercises. On the plus side enemies and bosses exhibit a variety of unique attack patterns; some will camouflage themselves and await Litta’s approach before striking, teleport after being attacked, or adopt other strategies that mix things up nicely.
Seed 2‘s music is unfortunately lackluster, comprised of numerous short clips that feel more like jingles than full melodies; these do become a bit of a drag over the course of the fifteen to twenty hours a thorough player can expect to invest. The developers were kind enough to give the player separate control over background music and sound effects though, so one can feel free to soup up Litta’s journey with external iTunes tracks.
Players who missed out on the first Seed needn’t worry too much about backtracking to understand Seed 2‘s story, although it certainly helps that the first title is conveniently available for free nowadays. For RPG fans worried about experimentation with In App Purchases in Seed 2, I can attest that I didn’t notice it cropping up during my playthrough and the title has remained at a steady $3.99 since its initial release on Sept. 14.
iFanzine Verdict: Seed 2 suffers from the typical user interface weaknesses and trite narrative quality that generally weigh on iPhone action RPGs but the depth of character customization and presentational polish make it an above average title that genre fans would do well to look into.
Longtime action RPG and adventure game veterans who remember the PlayStation title Alundra will find much nostalgic value in Seed 2, though the simplistic dungeon puzzles on offer here don’t reach the high bar set by that genre classic. Seed 2 would be especially recommended to anyone who thoroughly enjoyed the more recent Calligo Chaser, as it shares a number of stylistic and gameplay similarities with Seed 2despite the sidescrolling vs. overhead perspective difference.