During my first 10 minutes playing MarvelousAQL's Cross Horizon I was asked if I wanted to purchase a key to open a chest I'd found on the battlefield. Were I not playing it for review, I would have stopped right there.
Despite my knowing full-well that there's no such thing as a truly free-to-play action role-playing game on either iOS or Android, I felt a little betrayed by the sudden request. Here I had spent several minutes tooling around in the game's character creator, crafting the perfect pink-haired avatar. My amnesiac character was fed a little story -- something about the return of an evil bandit king -- given a quest to kill a goblin to prove herself, and sent on her way.
I was in a good mood as I transitioned from 2D menus to 3D adventure map, despite the muddy environment textures. I didn't mind when the third-person hack-and-slash I was hoping for wound up being a faster-paced Infinity Blade first-person affair. The enemies were distinctive, the action frantic, if a little silly -- I was having a good time.
Then the chest dropped, and I knew that every time a chest dropped in this game, I'd kick myself for not having the key to unlock whatever riches waited within. Was it armour I could don, changing the look and stats of my character? A powerful new weapon? I'll never know, because I don't want to spend a dollar on the mana (in-game currency) to find out.
There's a lot to love about Cross Horizon. The quest system is simple, the combat fast and easy -- it's a great little action role-playing game for folks without a lot of time to invest in one sitting. There are some really nifty ideas, like recruiting your friends to run alongside you as you explore the world, lending a hand in battle from time-to-time, or an upgrade-able item system that functions like a collectible card game.
But there's just as much I don't like. The rarest items, as in a collectible card game, are only available through special summons that require at least a small chunk of in-game currency to perform. Completing your quest on one of the game's expansive playfields? Either backtrack to home base on foot, or purchase a special return item.
It's as if Cross Horizon is purposefully trying to stifle my enjoyment at every turn. That's probably not how a video game should make me feel.
Genre: Action RPG Developer: MarvelousAQL Platforms: Android, iOS Price: free