‘Archangel’ review: power-packed dungeon crawling (iOS/Android)

January 19, 2014
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Action RPGs like Archangel have managed to carve a sizable audience on both tablets and smartphones. It helps that many of these games have effectively adapted the familiar keyboard-driven interfaces used in PC action RPGs to mobile device touch controls. Black Tower Studios' Archangel is no exception, and this dungeon crawler is adequately content-rich, both in combat and its spoils.

With a title like "Archangel", it wouldn't be unreasonable to expect a story with religious overtones or at the very least, some kind of backstory to why your character is an empowered warrior with translucent wings. But if anything motivates you to keep playing Archangel, it will be its Diablo-inspired gameplay and levels, not the game's scant exposition. One mission begins with the following introduction: "What vile inversion is this when a dog becomes master? All around they clamor and grasp at the feet of this filthy cur." Who is this dog? When did this inversion occur? There's a total lack of narrative cohesion, let alone backstory.

The main objective of each mission is to defeat the boss at the end of each level's path. Along the way, you'll have the opportunity to defeat the boss's minions and loot them for whatever little treasures they might have. With a keen eye you might spot a lingering treasure chest on a floating platform nearby to add to your haul.

As a break from the point a-to-b goals that make up the majority of the game, Archangel also has its share of survival style chapters where you have to hold your own against multiple waves of enemies. In a game where the monotonous level backgrounds can lead to occasional fits of boredom, these mission deviations are a welcome change. You can get the upper hand by camping at one of the enemy spawn points, but you still have to be smart with your melee attacks and spells.

What I like the most about Archangel is the depth of its combat. Every other level or so introduces a new ability that has some practical value in battle. A single touch screen swipe toward a foe triggers a shield ramming move. Finger-drawing a "V" over your target temporarily freezes them, making them ripe for a pummeling. A quick swipe perpendicular to your character creates a wall of fire, which is immensely helpful in subduing a hostiles who are marching toward you.

The detailed spell, character and environmental details underscore Archangel's impressive production values. Put on a pair of headphones and cast the fire wall spell; the burning sound effect actually amplifies as your hero walks towards the flame (and the opposite effect occurs when you step away). The detailed ruins of all the dungeons give the levels an immensely antiquated feel, as if these structures have been around for eons. While the majority of the levels are easy to get around, their multi-tier designs give the impression they're more labyrinthine than they really are. It's impressive since instilling a sense of level complexity is harder than it looks, especially when most players should be able to beat each level in about five minutes.

Like most any other mobile game, Archangel offers in-app purchases, though I can't remember the last time I've played a game where IAPs were as non-intrusive as the ones in this game. Assuming you make an honest effort at searching every path and killing every foe—and why wouldn't you in a dungeon crawler?—there's really no reason to buy anything with real cash. And if you are so caught up in Archangel's world that you absolutely have to get every piece of equipment, practical or otherwise, you probably won't need to spend much to get everything. As an aside, I am impressed that the game motivates you to loot by way of its weapon and armor sets. While mixing combinations of gear provides a sense of ownership and customization, you can get stat boosts if you manage to acquire a four-piece set of themed gear.

The thing that really sets Archangel apart from other action RPGs is the brevity of the missions; it's a true Diablo-on-the-go. It was certainly a fitting distraction on my train commutes as well as my most recent visits to the post office. I was impressed at the game's stability when I had to suspend it and let it run in the background, whether it was due an incoming call or having to put my phone to sleep. It never crashed, and it always resumed exactly where I left off. Black Tower Studios has shown immense skill in making the most of the Unity engine.

  • Archangel
  • Developer: Black Tower Studios
  • Publisher: Unity Games
  • Platforms: iOS (played), Android
  • Price: $1.99
  • In-app purchases? Yes

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