When thinking about mobile RPGs, exploration, an in-depth storyline and strong social features might not be the first things that come to mind. According to ngmoco Executive Producer Chris Plummer, however, that's exactly what we can look forward to when it comes to the company's soon-to-be-released social, mobile, free-to-play RPG SkyFall (phew, what a mouthful).
In the world of SkyFall, the planet is literally full of magic, down to its very core. Massive beams of magical energy and light shoot towards the sky from the center of the earth, giving the entire planet (along with its inhabitants) the power to wield it. The balance shifts, however, as a meteor shower event called a SkyFall occurs, which damages these beams or shuts some down altogether. The fictional universe of SkyFall is a rich one, with a complete history based on an ancient race of inhabitants that crafted massive buildings and statues. You'll spend your time in SkyFall interacting with these buildings and exploring various dungeons on maps via an overhead perspective.
SkyFall's gameplay setup is one surrounding exploration, as Plummer told us during a demo of the game last week. Exploration was the "spark of inspiration that set off the idea of the game." You'll start your experience fairly simply, by choosing one of three classes for your character: rouge, mage or warrior. Depending on the character class you choose, you'll have access to different weapons and skill sets, and you can put points into four attributes as you level those characters up: attack, defense, source (magic, or mana if you prefer) and luck, which improves your ability to dodge attacks.
Once you're set loose into the game, you'll start your quest for exploration by tapping on squares on each map. Each tap requires energy, limiting the amount of time you can play in a single sitting, but some taps can remove multiple squares at once. Only as you clear this "fog" off of areas on the map will you be able to see the buildings, treasure chests and even enemies underneath. In this way, the game retains the random encounter setup seen in many traditional RPGs, but in other cases (when you clear out whole sections of the map with a single click) also gives you the slight ability to avoid them.
As you make your way through the world, you'll run into various NPCs that will either give you more of a background story on the game's world, or will send you out on quests. These quests can be to simply make your way through an area to talk to another character or can be the expected varieties of item fetch quests and the like. During many of these quests, you'll be asked to interact with either forests or dungeons, two "interior" map-types. Forests are fairly safe, and are used mostly for item collection (chopping down trees for wood, collecting resources to make potions, etc.) while Dungeons are far more dangerous and "random."
Unlike in the outer world, where cleared squares stay cleared permanently, dungeons can and will be retaken by enemies and the fog if you leave them alone for long enough. While these dungeons' layouts themselves won't change, Plummer did tell us that "you can leave a dungeon and a little timer appears on the dungeon. As long as you continue to explore while the timer's going, it will not re-shroud, but if you leave it for a long period of time, it will get retaken by the enemies."
During combat itself, you'll have the ability to wield multiple weapons (longswords, daggers, staffs, etc.) to the total of two weapons and two spells, but will need to choose the specific weapon you want to attack with before your turn. Each individual weapon has its own "Attack Bar," which you'll set into motion at the beginning of your attack. A small marker moves from left to right across the bar, and by tapping again while in the bar's green section, you'll perform a normal attack (of course, the stronger the weapon, the more damage you'll do). Critical hit zones are found in red on these Attack Bars, adding an element of skill and timing to your actions.
You can use potions during battle to refill some of your health, but if you happen to perish, you're left with a single hit point and transferred back out to the main map where you can try again. If you succeed in battle, you'll be taken to the loot screen, where you'll have the chance of finding some of the 1,000 different loot items in the game. Most of these are gear items (weapons, clothing, etc.) that you can equip to your character, while others might be for quests or crafting. Crafting itself wasn't available in our demo, but Plummer told us that you might eventually be able to craft "things like potions and consumables... even though we haven't locked the final design of it."
This loot screen is a bit of a time-consuming process, as you'll need to tap on each individual item that you wish to claim, but this allows you to better manage your limited inventory (32 item slots to start, which can be expanded as you level up). Your items will decay over time, and can be repaired, or you can simply head into one of the many towns you'll encounter to buy new items or sell those extra, seemingly random items that you've claimed along the way.
While all of the above can be handled in a solo setting, there are a few social mechanics that bring your friends in on the fun. For one, dungeons can be accessed with your friends, as you pull them into your game and can control them in combat. This is done asynchronously, giving you a better chance to survive in battle (especially when you'll fight more than one enemy at once). While you can play with friends, each player's progress in the world is completely separate, save for when you actually go to their own games to visit them. Here, you can spend three bonus energy per friend to "explore" some squares for them. There's also an in-game messaging system, and you can visit specific areas within towns to see other players, even if they're not your friends, and ask them to join your "alliance," or friends network. Eventually, item trading will also be available.
In terms of the game's premium content, you'll be able to purchase keys to unlock treasure chests for guaranteed rare loot (if you choose not to use a key, you'll have a 50/50 chance of receiving these items), or you can purchase Rejuvenation Potions to refill all of your magic, health and energy at once.
SkyFall will launch first on Android before eventually making its way over to iOS. While a specific release date wasn't announced for either platform, we have an exclusive opportunity for you to get your hands on the game's beta! If you're one of the first 500 gamers to head over to www.skyfallrpg.com and enter code: AOLGAMES, you'll be invited to the beta before anyone else! Have fun!
What do you think of SkyFall? Are you looking forward to trying this free-to-play, in-depth RPG on your smartphone? Sound off in the comments.