Over the last two years Microsoft and its third parties have done an amazing job of offering nearly every different type of game on the Xbox Live Arcade service. From old school arcade games to puzzlers to 2D shooters to fighters, the Xbox Live Arcade has given fans of all genres something to spend their Microsoft Points on. Unfortunately there's one genre that has until recently been ignored on the Xbox Live Arcade. I'm of course talking about the Diablo-style dungeon crawler, the kind of game where it's level after level of hacking and slashing.
Thankfully Sierra Online listened to all of those dungeon crawler fans, because Arkadian Warrior is exactly what you expect it to be. It's the kind of game where you venture deep into the earth and kill as many bad guys as possible, all while completing quests and picking up fallen treasures. In other words, it's exactly like every other hack 'n slash game you've ever played, only this time with achievement points and Xbox Live support.
In Arkadian Warrior you play a heroic intern that seems to show up at just the right time to destroy some dark evil that is menacing the town. Before long you will be tasked with a lot of familiar missions, including ones where you have to kill a certain amount of enemies and ones where you have to pick up a certain amount of treasure. Once you've completed your quest a magical portal will appear and take you right back to town, where you will be given another familiar task to complete. In total there's about six hours of this back and forth in the single-player campaign, all of which feels perfectly at home with this generic dungeon crawler.
The problem with this game is that it never does anything new or exciting. Just about every mission is the same (even if the task is slightly different), the graphics are exactly what you would expect and at times it just feels like you're doing a lot of busy work for no reason. At the same time, if all you're expecting is a game where you can go into a big cave and kill a bunch of bad guys, then Arkadian Warrior may be exactly what you're looking for. But I somehow doubt that most people are going to put up with six hours of repetitive hacking and slashing, I know I got bored of the repetition within the first hour.
As expected, Arkadian Warrior does offer a few different characters to choose from, but don't expect that to change the overall campaign all that drastically. From the get-go you will have a choice between a soldier (who is good with blade weapons), an archer (who is good at long distances) and a sorceress (who floats around, looks good in a skin-tight blue costume and throws a mean fireball). But don't get too excited, outside of offering slightly different special moves, these three characters are essentially identical. That's not to say that you won't like one more than the others, but at the same time none of these characters changes the story enough to warrant playing through the game three different times.
When it comes right down to it, the most important part of making a dungeon crawler is giving gamers interesting dungeons to explore. This is the biggest problem with Arkadian Warrior; none of the levels are all that interesting. It doesn't help that most of the levels look the same, level after level you're asked to fight your way through the same boring caves fighting the same boring enemies. To make matters worse, all of these different levels start to blend together after awhile. The fact that there are slightly different textures and a subtle change in color doesn't alter the fact that you're essentially doing the same thing over and over for very little reward.
That's the other big problem with the game; it never feels like there's much of a reason for you to be performing these tasks. This town that is supposedly under attack looks peaceful to me, and if these townsfolk were so desperate for help then why am I getting paid at minimum wage levels? And that's not the worst of it, Wanako Studios has taken away the most addictive aspect of a dungeon crawler - the ability to pick up the enemy's dropped treasure/weapons. It's not that you can't pick up the fallen loot, but when it comes right down to it there's no reason to. The weapons the enemy's drop barely nets you any money and you'll never want to equip it because you will already have better items. I found myself simply avoiding most of the dropped treasure when I played the game, which defeats the whole purpose of this type of game in my opinion.
Thankfully there are a couple of nice things to say about Arkadian Warriors. For one thing, it's nice that you're able to play through this game with an online friend, having a second person around will definitely diminish the monotony. I also enjoyed the fact that this game isn't too wordy, I'm sick and tired of Diablo-clones that spend ten minutes explaining a story you honestly don't care about. All you want to do is jump down a hole and start killing things, the fact that there's this exciting good vs. evil story in the backdrop is just the gravy.
The one thing Arkadian Warrior does manage to get right is the actual hacking and slashing mechanic. While it's not as good as some dungeon crawlers, the controls in this game are easy to manage and never get in the way. The game gives you a different button for everything you could want (attack, magic, block, etc.), and Wanako Studios even went ahead and gave us a lock-on button (which makes one on one battles a lot easier to manage). Unfortunately all of these good things are squandered by a game that is just boring and repetitious.
The game's presentation is also something of a mixed bag. It's not that Arkadian Warrior looks bad, but the game never pops off the screen the way that the best looking Xbox Live Arcade games do. Also, I noticed that everything got real ugly once we entered a dungeon. While I'm sure that most dark dungeons would be dirty and ugly, the fact is that you're spending most of your time in these levels, so part of me kind of wishes that these segments looked more appealing. To top it all off, the various monsters are pretty boring and they are repeated over and over with different colors (to represent their difficulty, I have to assume).
Arkadian Warrior isn't a bad game by any means; it's just a boring game that doesn't stand out in any way. If all you're looking for is a cheap Gauntlet-style dungeon crawler you can play with your friends, then you might find a certain amount of fun in Arkadian Warrior. But don't expect much more than that. At the end of the day this is just an average action RPG that doesn't try to do anything new or exciting.
Arkadian Warrior could have been the Xbox Live Arcade's Diablo, but due to lazy programming, a boring story, repetitive level designs and crummy graphics, it just ends up being another average action RPG.