Kat recently got an iPhone 6S, so she's back to combing the Internet for iOS games she doesn't hate. You can read some of the previous entries in the series here.
Action games are tricky to pull off well on iOS. Most of the time you have to either substantially dumb down the controls, or you have to admit that it's probably better to play your game with a controller. Wayward Souls just barely falls into the latter category.
Not to be confused with certain other Souls games, Wayward Souls is a top-down roguelike in which a host of adventurers try to battle their way out of a series of mines and into a distant castle. It bears some resemblance to Spelunky in that respect, but with more storytelling and a much greater variety of character classes. You're also not apt to have a shopkeeper shotgun you in the face.
It begins in a manner befitting Castlevania: A crusader breaks into a haunted castle intent on defeating the mysterious monster waiting within. He battles through zombies and other supernatural creatures to find his quarry waiting passively at a window. But instead of battling one-on-one, his foe does the smart thing - he calls wave upon wave of enemies until the crusader is overwhelmed and killed. Dracula, are you taking notes?
After the tutorial hero (RIP Tutorial Hero) is killed, you are given the choice to choose from one of three adventurers - a warrior, a rogue, or a mage, all of whom have their reasons for being in the mines, which are spelled out in small cutscenes as you move from floor to floor. After you choose your hero, you are dropped into a series of mines where your goal is to get as far as possible before dying. And let me tell you: You're going to die. But like many roguelikes of a certain vintage, Wayward Souls lets you send the money you've earned to the next character in line, which can in turn be used to buy stat boosts before heading down.
Ordinarily, I tend to shy away from such games on iOS. With a few exceptions - Banner Saga, Battleheart, and whatever Kairosoft makes - I gravitate toward lighter games that don't require a high commitment. Even Hearthstone, which requires that you spend a good deal of time thinking about your decks, can be played pretty easily on a treadmill (I know, because I do so all the time). If it requires a deeper commitment, I tend to check out. I'm part of the problem! But Wayward Souls manages to buck that trend and be just light enough that it feels like I can pick it up and play it on a whim, but deep enough that I'm not consuming the gaming equivalent of cotton candy. It's a neat trick, which I chalk up to the relatively speedy runs that you wind up undertaking with each character, which tend to end after just a floor or two. In this instance, dying quickly can be a good thing.
From a controls standpoint, Wayward Souls takes a similar approach to many other iOS games. Though there is no on-screen control stick, your character is still controlled by grasping your device like a controller and moving them with your left thumb while attacking with your right. Basic attacks are accomplished by tapping with your right thumb, while swiping up or down will cause your character to attack with a consumable weapon.
Ordinarily, this sort of approach to an iOS game would cause me to close it and delete it with extreme prejudice. There's just nothing about controlling your character in that fashion that can compare to using a proper controller (and I'm not going to invest in a plug-in gamepad for my iPad). But in the case of Wayward Souls, it generally manages to work. A gamepad is still preferable in most cases, but the highly responsible controls allow for a surprising amount of nuance in your movement, which is absolutely necessary in light of how quickly the screen can become crowded with enemies.
Wayward Souls, I supposed I should mention, is designed by RocketCat Games, creators of the delightfully dumb endless runner Punch Quest and the enjoyable action RPG Mage Gauntlet. I've had both games on my iPhone at one point or another, having been drawn in by their attractive, smoothly-animated pixel art and low system requirements. If you check back through some of the previous entries in this series, you'll notice that I tend to gravitate toward 2D games on iOS. I have no time whatsoever for the ugly 2.5D and 3D games that continue to infest the App Store like a virus.
In that regard, Wayward Souls is like catnip for me: A competently designed RPG with strong art that manages to feel very comfortable as an iOS game despite having action-based controls. That's actually a really impressive accomplishment on the part of RocketCat Games.
So if you're looking for an action game that is light enough to be enjoyable on mobile, but meaty enough that it doesn't feel like yet another throwaway, then consider Wayward Souls. If we support it enough, maybe we'll get lucky and it'll get ported to the PlayStation 4 or 3DS.
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