Crusaders Quest is an RPG title that's on sensory overload. Steeped in nostalgia with its 8-bit pixel aesthetic, this adventure is a bit hard to take in upon the opening moments. However, if you take a deep breath and let everything sink in, this game may completely win you over.

An evil witch has spread darkness across the land, enslaving forest goddesses and a horde of creatures to do her bidding. It's up to you and your motley crew of mercenaries to stop the onslaught of murder and mayhem, and rescue the goddess from impending doom.

The game begins with an in-depth tutorial that guides players through several initial missions. Though receiving a multitude of instructions within 10 minutes of gameplay proved a bit wearying, the numerous decisions one makes prepping for the battles and during combat require strategic finesse. An ample amount of time will be spent upgrading your troops' various weapons and magical powers, and how you divvy up your resources is a big part of mastering Crusaders Quest.

Although you will have a bunch of warriors to choose from your roster, only three hired guns, plus a goddess who helps the missions by providing ample defensive power, can be chosen to complete each stage.

NHN Entertainment

The fighters are the bread and butter of Crusaders Quest, as it thankfully doesn't go down the simplified hack-and-slash or turn-based route. Instead, everyone is attacking each other simultaneously in what ends up being a free-for all brawl. Since each of your mercenaries have special fighting skills, their trademark combo moves are represented in icons that appear one by one at the bottom of your screen.

Once three icons that represent a fighter's skill set are side by side, you will tap the icon in the middle to trigger that person's go-to move. Some mercenaries, instead of possessing combat finishing skills, will have healing powers, and considering the hit points hemorrhage that ensues with each battle, mending wounds is sometimes more important than swinging a powered up sword.

Since the icons that pop up are randomized, you must clear different blocks that block your intended match-three combo. While you are carefully figuring out which icons to clear and match, your three fighters and the goddess are doing all the fighting sans any need of controls. Their fighting styles, however, will be also influenced by how you executive the array of power blocks that come your way. Overall, this dynamic makes for an often dizzying but altogether adrenaline-filled experience, and during my hours of gameplay, I never grew tired of all the action.

NHN Entertainment

Crusaders Quest also excels by presenting gamers with an immersive universe that just doesn't focus on the battlefield. If you want to take a break from fighting and talk to the goddess, there's a menu option that features dialogue that's unlocked the further you get into the game. Gamers will also have dialogue sequences with the town's military leader, Lednas, and Fergus, the town blacksmith who upgrades your weapons. The conversations may be simple to a fault, but even the most rudimentary chats amidst all the warring adds a nice touch to the proceedings.

Along with the chat sequences, you will also spend an inordinate amount of time upgrading each of your adventurers. Considering there are a ton of weapons and skills to be discovered or purchased, customizing each of your members is another superior aspect to the title. With over 200 available heroes (so far I've only reached a fraction of that number), Crusaders Quest is a title that is just hard to put down.

NHN Entertainment

Once clearing 24 levels of Crusaders Quest, Dungeon and Colosseum modes are unlocked to further add to the title's immersive experience. If you're a fan of PVP style combat, Colosseum is the way to go, with the Dungeon adventures pitting three of your heroes and the healing goddess against various monsters. Both additions offer up various rewards (gold, weapons, honor points, slabs of beef) if you emerge victorious in your matches. Honor points are utilized to upgrade your heroes' ranks while beef is a much needed currency to continue your game play.

NHN Entertainment

The title's minor flaw lies in its free-to-play mechanic. Each mission costs a number of meat, and once that aforementioned beef runs out, you can refill your stock with the use of blue jewels that you accrue during your journey. Jewels are also available as in-app purchases, and since one piece of meat takes 10 minutes to refresh, you will either need to purchase jewels to refill your supply or simply return to the game an hour or two later.

Since there's enough activities to undertake outside of the battlefield, such as training or troops, organizing each fighter's skill abilities, and upgrading your weapons, waiting to fight isn't an insufferable inconvenience.

NHN Entertainment

Crusaders Quest is a first rate adventure that excels in its combat and customization mechanics. If it wasn't for the long wait time between missions, I could play this app for hours on end. I usually don't throw my money away for in-app purchases, but with Crusaders Quest I might just change my tune.

This review is based on a downloaded copy of Crusaders Quest for iOS.

App Store Link: Crusaders Quest for iPhone and iPad | By NHN Entertainment Corp. I Price: Free | Version: 1.1.9 | 94.3 MB| Rating 9+

8.0 out of 10 arcade sushi rating