I’m a sucker for any game that involves some kind of loot mechanic. There’s something addictive about collecting gear that makes you better in some way, even if it is just a tiny increase in one stat. For this reason, I was happy to receive a copy of Pocket RPG for my PlayStation Vita. A mini loot and levelling game that I can take with me to the ends of the earth? What’s not to like?
Firstly, if the name seems familiar to you, it’d be because Pocket RPG originally launched on iOS way back in 2011. It was developed by Cape Town based studio, Tasty Poison Games. Now, it has been ported to the Vita.
It’s almost identical except for the physical controller input and trophy support. I’m grateful for those twin sticks, because I can’t imagine how difficult it was to stay alive with a touch screen, what with all the murderous hoards of enemies on the loose at any given moment.
The premise is simple. You choose from one of three heroes, and embark on an adventure entailing seven quests with a whole lot of enemy slaying within each. There is some kind of story, but that’s hardly the point of Pocket RPG. Removing it wouldn’t take anything away from the game to be honest. Your job is to kill stuff, loot, and level up (while doing the odd side objective now and then)… and I was perfectly fine with that.
At your disposal is a Dark Ranger, Battle Mage, or Blade Master. They all play and feel completely different to one another.I started out with the Dark Ranger, whose specialty is obviously a bow with an infinite supply of arrows. Yes, I am the kind of guy who likes to pick his enemies off from afar, except that the hoards of enemies were always up in my face, meaning my thumb never left the movement stick for a second.
The Blade Master is more an up close and personal kind of hero, using his swords or axes to slice his enemies in half. The Battle Mage on the other hand, works best from afar. She is the weakest in terms of health, but she packs one heck of a punch with her strong spells.
My favourite by far was the Dark Ranger. Once he is sufficiently looted and levelled, the screen fills with arrows that split, bounce and pierce. He makes the game feel more like a twin-stick action shooter, whereas the Blade Master is more a hack ‘n’ slash, and the Battle Mage is more about resource management in a sense – building up enough mana to cast bigger and better attacks.
What confused me at first though was that with the start of each quest, I lost all the loot and levels I had gained previously. Initially, I thought the idea was outrageous, all my hard work for nothing? Where is the fun in that? It’s when you get further into the game that you start to realise how awesome it is.
As I’ve mentioned already, I find my happiness in titles like this thanks to that “ding” of levelling, as well as a constant supply of loot that makes me stronger. Pocket RPG is meant to be played in short bursts. It is a mobile game afterall. The logic in taking away everything you’ve earned is so that you can experience that joy of getting stronger over and over again each time you power up the system and take on a new quest. You don’t play Pocket RPG to spend hours grinding for that slightly better loot – that’s reserved for other, much bigger titles like Diablo for example. This title exists to give you instant gratification, frequently, at least in terms of loot and levels.
Between quests, you will get the opportunity to spend points on permanent upgrades. Better efficiency out of potions, new sub-abilities, passives, and so on. The gold you earn can also be spent on unlocking drops. I spent gold on new fire arrows for my Dark Ranger for example. They didn’t end up in my inventory. Instead, I unlocked the ability to find them in a chest in any future quests. I know it sounds ridiculous, but trust me, it works, and is incredibly addictive.
The real problem comes in the form of duration of the title and quests themselves. I finished the end of the campaign with my Dark Ranger in about 2-3 hours. I got about halfway through with my Blade Master and Battle Mage too, but it wasn’t nearly as exciting as my first playthrough.
Finishing the game offers no real incentive either. Visiting old levels is meant to pose a harder challenge. It just never felt like it was though. I unlocked all the skills, all the passives, and unlocked all the loot for my arrow-shooting chum. There never felt like the need to do anything further with him. As much as I like the “reset ALL the things” system which starts you afresh on each quest, it takes away from the overall and potential length of the game in my opinion.
That being said, the combat itself is extremely enjoyable, and something I might revisit in future if such scenarios such as load shedding or a road trip should occur.. I can’t begin to tell you just how satisfying it is to have dozens of enemies coming at you, dispatching them, seeing one or two level ups inbetween, and collecting all the coins they drop after all your destruction has been dealt.
Lastly, the cost of the game is sore point for me. You can pick it up on iOS for iPad or iPhone, and even Android for a couple of bucks. For some reason it will cost you R159 on Vita, for a game that is identical to the one that came out 3 years ago.
Last Updated: December 4, 2014