Reviews
League of Angels – Fire Raiders

By Dave McLean - February 26th, 2015

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More often than not, I play video games to relax. I’m not sure why, but given the choice between something new and something I have played a dozen times, I’ll usually choose the latter. I’ll played through Fallout: New Vegas five times (there’s literally nothing new left for me to find in that game) – but I keep going back to it. Games take the place of Reality TV for me, when I need something unchallenging, something that seems familiar even when I’ve never seen it before. Even though it’s a brand new title to me, Youzu Games’ League of Angels – Fire Raiders for iOS devices immediately falls into my category of “comfort games”. Although it seems like there are a lot of complicated elements and plenty to learn, the game almost plays itself on your behalf. Some people might want a lot more control and strategy than this title gives them – but I dug it, and the hours disappeared the first time I played it.

I want to recap the story but the game introduction zips by in a blur; I’m not exaggerating – exposition comes fast and furious. I’m quite a fast reader and I could barely keep up with any of the dialogue screens. Basically: evil dude defeats the greatest heroes of the land and then plans to take over the world; heroes must regroup, sharpen their skills, and one day defeat this Big Bad. The story is just a frame to hang a pile of fights and upgrades on – and I don’t say that in a disparaging way. With a free, RPG-based iOS title, no one is expecting Tolkien. You just want to dive in and get to the action, which League of Angels definitely lets you do.

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That’s going to leave a mark.

Game-play is incredibly linear at the beginning. It’s all done to provide a tutorial, but it’ll likely strike you as strange when menu items and options are visible but you receive a curt “Please Follow The Directions” prompt when you try to veer off to somewhere the game doesn’t want you to go. But as you progress a little (and particularly as your party levels up), all the options and diversions become available. To start, your party consists of a few heroes that you draw from a deck (you’re effectively summoning them), and later you also gain access to additional characters met during your adventure. There are various classes but your party is fundamentally made up of three units: melee troops, range troops, and angels. Angels oversee the party. They cannot take damage, but they can deal it, and they can also heal the wounded and provide combat perks. You can outfit your party to a certain degree, but your inventory largely comes from battlefield spoils. Characters can level up by gaining enough experience, but they can also upgrade whenever they’ve been equipped with a complete outfit; further still, characters have abilities that can be upgraded. You can also grow the size of your party, though you are limited to a fixed number that can enter any combat. Overall, there’s a lot for a player to keep on top off. In addition to character and party maintenance, there are rewards for achievements, daily check-in prizes, mail, events, trials and arena combat – there’s a lot that could easily be missed. But in addition to a thorough tutorial, the game uses little red markers to highlight where any optional action can be taken by the player – when a reward is available, or when someone has a new weapon they haven’t equipped. It’s simple and very effective.

At the start, combat all but runs itself (and at later levels, auto-combat can be enabled so battles completely run themselves). All melee and range combatants choose and attack targets automatically – the player just chooses when to unleash any of the character’s special powers. Angels, because all of their moves are considered special abilities, are completely player-controlled. Thus, strategy revolves around when to unleash special attacks, in what order, and in what combination. Those micro-managerial RPGers won’t like this, and even I thought I wanted more control at first. I have a fondness for Dragon Quest and Bard’s Tale and other RPGs of old; but having played those recently I was reminded how much damn work they involved. So sure, I’d probably like a little more control in battle sequences here, but honestly not very much more.

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Don’t be fooled. Beneath that armour, the Headless Horseman is super-hot.

Also worth mentioning is the fact that, while this game is micro-transactional, I haven’t yet seen a pop up asking for a cash purchase of any kind. I have been at it close to four hours now, and nothing. I’m sure that wall is out there, where your characters get wiped out every second battle, and it’s pay to continue or wait a day but wherever that wall may actually be, I expected to hit it a long time ago.

Lastly, I’ll comment on the graphics and the art, which are definitely good but maybe a little unsettling – at least to me. Characters in general game-play are cartoon-like, creative and interesting. Characters in portrait are more life-like, and they’re absolutely beautifully drawn – but all the female characters are stacked. The angels particularly – it’s just one G-cupped diaphanous bikini after the next. It’s not horrible – I mean, I appreciate a voluptuous angel as much as the next guy – but it’s just a little much. I’m heartened by the fact that the cartoony faces and the giant breasts are kept completely separate, because thinking about the combination of those two really creeps me out.

In the end, I definitely recommend this title. I started it up a few times while writing this review just to look up some detail or other, and every single time I got sucked into playing it until remembering I had a job to do. It’s addictive yet soothing. I like it, and I’ll be going right back to play it once I finish this sentence.

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