Path of a Warrior: Imperial Blood
It's ambitious in scope, but unfortunately the game design doesn't have the same ambition...
If you take a look at Path of a Warrior by the numbers, the game is clearly the largest mobile game released in the US yet. Over 1000 items to equip and use in battle. 24 unique endings. 100s of missions. On and on the listings could go.
Usually when games are marketed by their massive number of levels or items, what this marketing is really saying is "don't look at our actual gameplay!" But every once in a while a gigantic hack 'n slash RPG adventure comes along that features 100s of missions and core gameplay fun enough to justify such a lengthy experience.
Path of a Warrior doesn't fall neatly into either category - and instead exists in somewhere in between. The action itself isn't especially innovative or deep, but it does manage to stay satisfying throughout. And when coupled with the game's incredible size, you have a good mobile value.
The core gameplay is strictly hack 'n slash. The experience plays out from a semi-overhead viewpoint, with the direction pad moving your character, and the center button, well, slashing. Items such as healing potions can be assigned to both the left and right hotkeys, and special, MP-consuming attacks mapped to 1, 3, 7, and 9. Realistically though, you can go through the majority of the game just mashing the attack button over and over. And over.
Path does have some neat between-mission mechanics that add a little depth to the experience. You can buy and equip new weapons and armor from the blacksmith, or create a new item by combining two you already have. Additionally, as you progress through the game you'll run into super-powerful "generals" on the battlefield. Between each mission you can choose a general to visit and a topic to discuss. Choose wisely, and your friendship ranking will increase, eventually leading to gifts of new weaponry or special skills.
Still, it all ultimately comes back to the gameplay itself. Yeah you can spend time synthesizing new, more powerful weapons, but why bother when they are only used by mashing "attack" over and over as waves and waves of brainless enemies walk right into your attacks? Why mess with spending time raising friendship rankings when the special skills you earn aren't needed to advance?
A big part of the problem here is that when Path of a Warrior was released in Korea, it had much more of an MMO flavor to it. You could cooperatively go through missions with friends, form guilds, and otherwise make the experience much more social. Like traditional PC MMOs, this social element adds a lot of additional motivation to fight similar-looking enemies for hours to level up.
The US release, in its current incarnation, does include some nifty online functions, including the ability to trade items, but all the really neat features aren't yet available (Gamevil assures us they're coming). Without that additional social motivation, the simplicity of the core gameplay is harder to swallow.
Path of a Warrior is a fun mobile game. It's easy to hop into a mission, rack up some kills and experience points, maybe find a new item or two, and dive right back out. And it will take many, many hours to see all the game has to offer. But its ambitious design requires me to hold it to a higher gameplay standard than a casual, "one-button" mobile game. The experience requires gameplay with a little more depth to be considered truly great.
What's Hot: Neat online features. GIGANTIC quest.
What's Not: Mission structure is too fractured. Gameplay a little too shallow.