Iesabel delivers its tone from its first grainy, dusky image. An unnamed creature attacks a horse carrying several anonymous figures. The blurred graphic is intentional, as the land that we traverse is shrouded in darkness. It's up to either a witch or a barbarian to eliminate the power hungry princess Iesabel from her exalted position. If we fail, humanity will fall to ashes. While it's always great to be the hero, does this title make good on its epic storyline?
Fans of Diablo should welcome a rich RPG that will take a number of hours to finish, and Iesabel's existential take on the genre is also an added plus. The opening moments are straight out of the bleakest of film noirs, as your chosen hero wakes up semi-nude, amidst several corpses, unable to process what just happened. Seeing a trusted shaman is the first order of business, since maybe he can piece your nightmare together. Unfortunately, awakening to the most horrible good morning greeting ever is not what the doctor ordered.
Dying is just part of the game's natural order, and one of the most foolish things to do in Iesabel is to walk into an area with a gung-ho hack and slash mentality. Picking the barbarian will give you those type of skills, but squaring off against several goblins has its difficulties if you're playing solo. Social gamers can try their hand at co-op multiplayer with up to seven other friends, so battling as a barbarian shouldn't be such a problem.
For the soloists, however, I do suggest picking the spell caster. My heroine, who's aptly named Bruja (which is Spanish for witch), usually flees from conflict until she finds an accurate corner to weave her magic. Enabling your device with the map is also a must, since it essentially kills the enemies' chances to ambush you. One of the earlier missions has several villagers aiding in your quest, so as I cowered in fear to collect gold coins, they did most of the killing.
Most of the game is pretty standard, by the numbers, stuff, which is great if you love RPGs. Simply do as many side missions as possible to gain experience points, find treasures and potions, and upgrade your weapons. On these basic levels of engagement, Iesabel executes everything in solid fashion.
My only real gripe centers on the voices behind the two warriors. The barbarian, who has a deep, seemingly threatening manner of speaking, actually sounds like a death metal band frontman who's absolutely bombing on stage. Although there's nothing wrong with the witch's voice, her utterances of, "I'm dying" every time her health bar is low is absolutely annoying. After watching my otherwise beautiful enforcer perish for the umpteenth time, hearing her speak left me exasperated. Still, my Bruja is a leech exterminator, which is altogether too hot to handle.
Kudos goes to the developers for deciding not to infest Iesabel with in-game purchases, as any kind of freemium model with RPGs is a total buzzkill. The genre's goal is to fully immerse the player in an entirely new world, and having to shell out cash to continue the journey breaks up the momentum. For just $1.99, Iesabel is a total bargain for sword and sorcery fans.
Iesabel doesn't offer much on the RPG front as far as innovation, but that doesn't detract from its appeal. Most of us have spent days, if not cumulative years, battling goblins, spiders, and shamans, and now we can continue those pursuits on our tablets or smart phones. There's a ton of darkness in need of dispelling, and for a reasonable price you can defeat evil and save the world. Bruja is also a cute witch to hang out with, but I'll leave those stories to my therapist.