Marvelous AQL Inc., successors of Marvelous Entertainment (producers of the No More Heroes and Harvest Moon series), have released their newest role-playing iOS game. Cross Horizon blends a distinct mix of touchscreen-based combat with open-world, RPG mechanics. Does Cross Horizon meet the expectations of Marvelous' other works, or is this a mystical journey that we should avoid?
At first glance, Cross Horizon looks amazing for a free iOS title. Its cel-shaded character/monster designs, the hand-drawn look of all of the NPCs, and the immensity of its backgrounds, along with the variety in its landscape, total up to a very distinct look that made the overall gameplay sessions enjoyable. Unfortunately, as with most other iOS RPGs, the backgrounds and monsters were frequently repeated throughout my character's quests. This culminates to an experience that left me with many positive impressions, but quickly turned into repetition far too early. The repetition of Cross Horizon's miscellaneous, graphical details channels into its gameplay as well; everything seems amazing at first, until you starting putting in time.
On the world map, you drag your finger on the left side of the screen to move your character and do the same on the screen's right side in order to rotate the camera. As with most other, recent iOS RPGs that do this, Cross Horizon will automatically sense your fingers wherever they come into contact in the screen, so you do not have to use specific, arbitrary spots in order to move your character or spin the camera around.
In combat, you will primarily fight by stabbing or slashing at your enemies, which is done by tapping or slashing over enemies on the touchscreen. This is where Cross Horizon's game mechanics are logically clever. If you are using a spear, then stabbing attacks do more damage than slashes. Axes have stronger slashes but weaker thrusts. And swords do average damage with both slashes and stabs. I must also make a particular note of the use of magic, which you can unleash by holding your finger on the enemy and letting the spell charge as long as your finger remains. But this mechanic seemed very random in its execution and dealing out damage to enemies, so I resorted to physical attacks throughout most of my encounters.
The intuitive controls of Cross Horizon are downsized by the its simple, repetitive format. Unfortunately there will be TONS of backtracking and needless reruns through previously-cleared areas as you progress throughout the game. Constant backtracking occurs because you have to spend the high-end currency in order to unlock the waypoints and insta-travel functions of the game. This currency can be attained through microtransactions using real life money, or earned through regular gameplay, albeit at a snail's pace. While I understand that microtransactions are incorporated in order to help gain profit and cover the costs of making a free game, they should not be intertwined with pivotal pieces of gameplay as they are with Cross Horizon's transportation system.
Without using microtransactions, expect to sign up for a mission at town, run through multiple, large zones until you find your objective and run all the way back through the same zones until you return. Teleporting back to town after the completion of a mission, or teleporting from the town to a specific area require the procurement of two expensive, premium items.
Ultimately, the constant and needless backtracking, repetitive combat and its overall lack of variety left me thinking that Cross Horizon was very uninspired in its creation outside of its character designs. The first-person combat system, which requires use of the touchpad in order to succeed at Dragon Quest-esque encounters, becomes dull after the first 50 fights against the same lizard and gargoyle monsters. Despite my initial positive impressions, I felt like I was let down by Cross Horizon by about the second hour of playtime.
The repetitiveness of Cross Horizon erased much of the original feelings of awe that I felt from the title's character designs and the vastness of its zones. The fact that you end up constantly retracing your steps makes me want to forget most of it. Furthermore, the use of exclamation points to signify points of interest was a rather sloppy move that was used to cut down on graphical expenditures. The same could be said of the swirling blue balls used to represent enemies that turn pinkish red once they are alerted to your presence in the world map. The effect is rather comical since it looks like the beach ball of Sauron is trying to chase after you in order to initial combat.
The gameplay itself is fun, but Cross Horizon gets a bit boring too early in the game for me. While it is free, the limitations the game puts on those who aren't willing to shell out dollars for premium game coins become evident within the first few hours of gameplay. There is vast amounts of potential, but without spending actual money to unlock some of these potentials, Cross Horizon is simply your run-of-the-mill iOS RPG with a fresh coat of cel-shaded paint.