Orcs & Elves pays homage to the classic RPG games of the 80s and 90s such as Dungeon Master. In every aspect this game could be played as a pen-and-paper RPG, and even the names of the characters and areas retain traditional western style fantasy. The name of the game alone shows this. With none of the anime style artwork that many RPGs incorporate now-a-days, this game uses a realistic style in an attempt to be horrifying, with blood, monsters and bones everywhere in the game.
The opening sequences to Orcs & Elves details how the Orcs and other evil creatures have ravaged the Dwarfs and left them for dead. The King of the land has not been seen for some time and it's now time for the hero with his trusty wand to find the King and save the land from the Orcs. From the off the feeling that this is not a Japanese game is prevalent. The initial moves show skelentons of fallen dwarfs and then the player has to kill a few enemies to add to this growing pile of bones.
With the main enemies being the same as the mobile phone version, Rats, Orcs, Slimes, Shadows and alcohol. With the quirky cast, the game progresses with ease and there are no overly complicated control systems or multiple player management options. It's: swords, shields, armour and magic. The carcasses and bones are well crafted, and the 2D characters in a 3D world feels natural. Although the graphics aren't anything to really shout home about, they have had a makeover from the mobile phone version of the game.
Orcs & Elves uses a classic elemental style for the characters' strengths and weaknesses. The characters' ability to use fire, thunder and other spells means that certain characters will be more prone to certain spells than others. Although there is a vast collection of swords to come across and the majority of them will destroy most enemies in a few turns. Yet, magic still plays a crucial role, as when a melee of enemies appears, swords can only do so much damage.
Character interaction and all dialogue are handled through Ellon, the talking wand. Ellon is very talkative and throughout the game will attempt to give advise to the player, unfortunately he never seems to stop trying to help. Throughout the game the language used is ye olde English for that fantasy effect and most of the narrative is uninspiring, but doesn't detract from the game.
True to the archaic nature of the title, the gameplay is somewhat limited; yet, this is where the beauty of the game lays. Although the world is fully 3D, movement is restricted to the grid system and works in turns. Moving, attacking or using items each use up one turn, in which the enemy will take a turn just after you. However, owing to the fast pace of the game it almost feels like real time when battling. Movement through the levels is also turn based, and requires manual input for each turn. Holding down the up button won't work with this title, which is a shame as similar styles of games, such as Etrian Odyssey cater for this.
The DS hardware has been used sparingly, but where it has been used has been utilised very well. The game menus and players pack is all dealt with via the touch screen and the stylus, this means that finding items can be done whilst deciding which route to take. The only problem with the menu system is that once progressing through the game, and the more items that are collected, it becomes a lot harder to find certain items. With no way of reorganising the players pack searching for items can become a bit of a chore.
Although each level is well crafted, trying to sit through the entire game can feel like a chore owing to the turn-based nature of the game and dungeon crawling can become a little repetitive. However, this has been countered by the fact the "Save" function is available at any time and during any turn. Which in turn increases the lifespan of this game dramatically. The turn-based nature of Orcs & Elves lends itself to the DS platform well. Unlike many modern RPGs, there are no complicated player and item menus with submenus to select from. This game just has simple menus that list all similar items as one and there is no room for customisation. The top screen on the DS is used for the game itself and the bottom screen is used, in game, soley for the menu screen.
Final Verdict - 8/10
Although dungeon crawlers can be irksome, the save function is a saving grace with Orcs & Elves as it makes playing the game much more fun. The clear throwback to the early days of video games is also a nice touch and makes the games more appealing to those who are after a bit of a challenge. Orcs & Elves isn't as hard as some of the traditional RPGs that are out at the moment, but it's much more fun than most.