Nov 152011
 

eso-ipad-6By Paco Garcia Jaen

Let me say this loud and clear. I like Elder Sign. I have played that game a lot of times, both alone and with friends and I like the simple mechanics, the chance of dice, the artwork, the limited cooperation between players… I like the game a lot. Thus when I heard the app was out, I took my shiny iPad and bought it right away.

Oh dear.

The app uses the same artwork as the boardgame. Therefore is gorgeous. Rich and vivid colours with a very well chosen palette. As usual, Fantasy Flight Games provides with tons of shiny stuff to look at, and every single detail looks totally gorgeous.

Then the app crashed.

Start again. The characters you have to play with are the same that come with the game as well. That’s good… familiar abilities and familiar faces. If you haven’t played the board game before, worry not. The characters come with comprehensive explanation of their abilities that you can access with just a tap on their image.

Oh… it crashed again just as I was about to take a look at a character to show you. How weird!

Uhmm… let’s start it again then. You choose, either randomly or by dragging and dropping the characters into your selection area, four characters. They’ll be the party you’ll use to defeat the hordes of madness that are about to assault our reality.

pic1142646_mdSo how does it play? Well, this was disappointing. There is no tutorial. Instead, there is a video that explains how things work. Unfortunately the app is organised so differently compared to the boardgame, that things don’t make sense right away. It takes a while to understand what’s going on and, even when you’ve watched the video, things move differently than they do in the boardgame.

Never mind… prod along and get on with the game. The interface looks lovely. Big graphics, everything is easily accessible, but, where is the information? If you want to take a look at what objects the current character has, then you have to tap on the character’s backpack, which will be available only if the character has something that can be used. I haven’t been able to find a way to look at other character’s backpack until you get to that character’s turn. That makes planning the following steps somewhat more difficult. Elder Sign is a game with little strategy possibilities, but the app is even more limited!

Oh.. it crashed again! This is getting annoying now!

Every time a character’s turn approaches, there is a break. The screen closes, opens to show a portrait of the character, closes again and when it opens you can select where you want that character to go. You select somewhere. The screen closes, shows you a lovely picture of the location, challenges come up and you proceed to roll the dice… sorry.. flip the pages of the book that contains the sigils.Yep… no dice here, only sigils on pages! Don’t get me wrong, they work like dice and I actually liked them. They just came as a surprise.

So we get on with the game and, eventually, I finish it and, to my surprise, I win! Let’s start another game… see if I get over the nuances.

Wait?… same foe? Athathoth? Where are the rest? Where is Chutlhu?????????

Yes, ladies and gentlemen, you only face one foe. And you can’t even face it! If you collect enough doom tokens, the game ends! THAT’S TERRIBLE!

Conclusion

I still like the game. I have played Elder Sign on the iPad some 40 times already and I somewhat enjoy it. However can’t help thinking it could and should be a lot better planned.

The initial tutorial, meaning the video, is not good enough. Explaining a game in a tablet should be an interactive tutorial that leaves no room for doubt and makes everything clear. Ascension and Ticket to Ride are perfect examples. A video is just not good enough. Bu then, Fantasy Flight Games is well renown for not having the best rules in their games… no surprise the tradition continues digitally.

There is some wasted space on the “board”. Space that could have been used to show the other characters so you can see their backpacks and abilities and plan your turns accordingly.

The interruptions of the game every time a turn ends and another begins is very irritating. The lovely pictures get tiresome after a while, to be honest.

One enemy? Just one enemy? That is just terrible! Part of the fun of Elder Sign is that you don’t know what enemy you’ll have to defeat and it adds to the longevity of the game. Call me a cynic here, but i wouldn’t be surprised if an upgrade with new enemies came up for a price. Not that I mind that… the price of this app is more than reasonable.

Furthermore, there is no online gaming. Where this game would be INCREDIBLE online, there is no chance of that. Quite frankly, I have no idea what Fantasy Flight are thinking on that one.

Is the game any good? You bet it is!

The execution does detract from a game that could have easily been the best game app out there, but it is still fun to play and the intensity of seeing your doom tokens and your monsters appear is absolutely fantastic.

If you have some £6 (10$) to spare, you could do a lot worse than getting this app and the likelihood is that it will keep you entertained for a while.

Because of the inadequacies of the development, I will give this game only three stars.

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Elder Sign App review, 3.0 out of 5 based on 2 ratings
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Paco G. Jaen

Born in Spain with a talent for dyslexia, I am gamer, player, graphic designer, photographer and psycotherapist. Also online magazine publisher and writer. Yep.. I do lead a busy life!