One of my favorite comedians once quipped, “If I had a hammer, there would be no more folk singers.” While I’m pretty sure Billy Connolly isn’t a Wraithborne stand up comic, perhaps he was on to something… I’ve since added a reminder on my phone to send Mr. Connolly an oversized war hammer, my favorite AoE damage rune scroll, and a request that he document his findings in a return letter to me within the month.
Wraithborne, a recent addition to the “Diablo clone” genre for Android, leverages the oh-so-pretty Unreal Engine in order to immerse you in some hammer swinging action. As a descendent of the Wraith bloodline, you’ve inherited preternatural strength, a chiseled jaw, one hammer the size of a suitcase, and the tedious task of destroying runes (and their guardians) strewn about the 12 stage map.
If At First You Don’t Understand, Kill It
Beginning the game with nary but a crude sledge and some leather straps to cover your unmentionables, you’re tossed out into the cold, cruel post-apocalyptic landscape to fend for yourself. The landscape of Wraithborne is beautifully rendered (thanks to Unreal), and is a mix of rainforest, arid canyons, and broken down freeways. Without much in the way of introductory story or cut-scene, my initial reaction to everything was a little confused… My character felt like some burly mythological Viking on his way to scrap it up with Beowulf himself, yet I seemed to be standing at the edge of what appeared to be the Grand Canyon surrounded by the remnants of an old highway. Power lines? Uh, what?? Thankfully, just then a goblin-type creature came bounding toward me waiving a huge knife in my general direction, thus saving me from a brief moment of cognitive dissonance. I started hacking away at him and all was once again right with the world.
Setting The Stage
You see, the Unreal Engine is pretty enough that nearly anything made using it is instantly worthy of at least being downloaded for free. At minimum, you’re guaranteed a fun romp through a beautiful fantasy world with a big, shiny stick; which is really (sadly) more than can be said about most Android games on the market today. Luckily for Wraithborne, this game goes above and beyond its engine’s calling by adding a few fun tricks. Like any decent game, your enemies are grow bigger and hit harder over the course of Wraithborne’s 12 brief stages, so you’ll need new toys. In order to get new toys, you’ll need to collect purple gems scattered throughout the landscape (and dropped by mobs). Collect enough gems and you can buy a new hammer, a new set of armor, or upgrade your runes. While the variety of hammers and armor aren’t nearly as varied as a game like Diablo, there are plenty of carrots for you to chase during this game’s quick play through.
Combat With A Heft
As you gain experience and level, you’ll learn new attack combos and runes. Attack combos involve a combination of your standard abilities – attack, strong attack, stun attack and shield – in order to unleash a special finishing move. Runes are your “spells” for all practical purposes, can be leveled (with gems) for increased power, and are equippable (max of 3) on the hot bar in the upper-right hand side of the screen for quick triggering. With the Unreal Engine driving a varied compliment of attack combos and runes at your disposal, Wraithborne’s combat is fast and fluid. And much like Diablo, you will need to adapt to each mob’s individual tactics in order to make the best out of your situation.
D-Pad’s In My Way
Most action games on Android use a virtual d-pad to replace an analogue stick, and Wraithborne is no exception. Fortunately, I had my trusty “Fling” suction-cup joystick to make my slaying a bit smoother. Even with the Fling, however, my two worst enemies were ever-so present… Moving my thumb outside of range (stalling) and not being able to change directions fast enough in combat. Not to mention my Fling constantly un-sucking itself and popping off the screen. It seems that once your big beefy spirit killing man gets to swingin’ his hammer, there’s no stopping until he’s done. Other than the typical d-pad complaints, Wraithborne ran pretty smooth on my last-gen Nexus 7. I say “pretty smooth” as there were minor stutters here and there while running around the map, but nothing terrible or game breaking.
Aside from being mostly lacking in story depth or immersion, longevity is Wraithborne’s biggest drawback. The combination of slick graphics, smooth combat sequences and absurdly large hammers makes for a good time. Only having 12 levels does not. In a couple hours, I almost dusted the entire game with only some basic upgrades. Sure, you can spend all your time grinding out levels already beaten for gems and then get that 3,000 gem “Hammer of Obliteration” – but why? Having had waded through 9 of the 12 stages of this game, I felt satisfied that I’d seen enough of similar map textures and killed enough of the same types of mobs. Wraithborne felt like a “proof of concept” title – one that proved itself quite well – but definitely not a “game” in its entirety. Download it for free, swing a hammer around, and join me in a toast… “To a game that hopefully will one day be!” We’re getting there, folks.
+ Pretty graphics
+ Fluid combat
+ Upgradeable skills and items
– Lacking depth and immersion
– Easy to beat
– Combos “stick” you in one direction