For a series that was founded on a core set of mechanics that were then repeated over and over with each iteration, the Angry Birds franchise has certainly been branching out in the past months. At first, the mischievous birds found their way onto the kart racing circuit with Angry Birds Go!. Now, those same birds are trading their soapboxes for swords and wizard hats in Angry Birds Epic.
Following the game's somewhat cryptic teaser, gamers can finally get their first look at the latest title from Rovio. While many fans surely thought it would end up being a simple fantasy re-skinning of the familiar Angry Birds form, the prospect of Angry Birds Epic taking the franchise in an entirely new direction is an exciting one, especially when that new direction is a turn-based RPG.
As has become the standard for games in the Angry Birds series, the graphics look crisp and it's clear that the production values are high but with such a large shift in form, the gameplay is the larger concern. Judging by the trailer, gamers expecting something on par with series like Shin Megami Tensei or Final Fantasy will probably be disappointed. Despite having a story-focused campaign and end-game content, Angry Birds Epic looks to hold true to its roots and embrace simplicity.
Actions look to be performed through simply dragging from the attacking character to their target with different classes having different default abilities. Each of the iconic birds seem to represent a different familiar role-playing class from the red birds as warriors to the blue birds as rangers. To further augment these characters, there will be a crafting system which will allow players to create weapons, armor and potions with the different materials that they collect on their journey or decide to buy.
This brings about the expected elephant in the room: micro-transactions. While past games in the series have made use of them, Angry Birds Go! in particular saw them acting as a detriment due to exorbitant prices and a prevalent pay-wall. It will be no surprise to see micro-transactions included in Angry Birds Epic, but whether or not they will be required to progress through the game and ultimately hurt the experience will only come with time.
Whether it seems like a good match or not, it's hard to deny the fact that Rovio is trying to branch out with the Angry Birds franchise. Not only are they trying their hands at implementing different genres, but they're handing the spotlight over to new characters like Stella and releasing the game on other services like Steam. At this rate, it's only a matter of time before the inevitable gritty first-person shooter reboot.
Do you think the Angry Birds franchise will find a way to effectively embrace the RPG genre? After Angry Birds Go!, do you think Rovio has learned their lesson regarding intrusive micro-transactions?
Angry Birds Epic is available now on iOS devices in Canada, Australia and New Zealand for its soft launch. It will be available worldwide on iOS and Android at a later date.
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