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“Nameless: The Hackers” Joint Review: FINALLY a non-korean iOS RPG

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Fist, let me clarify we have nothing against Korea or K-Pop’s sexy G-Dragon. Instead, what’s been getting on my nerve are the “fast-food” RPGs being pumped out about every couple months from Korean companies like Gamevil following tired cookie-cutter-Zelda-wannabe blueprints. Don’t get me wrong, the company was pretty revolutionary when the first couple titles released like the flagship Zenonia series, but things are starting to get out of hand. There are probably more generic top-down RPGs in the Apple app store than pubic hair on a Japanese porn star.

And that’s a lot.

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In case you didn’t know, G-Dragon shaves — his face

Lucky for us, we get to focus on something different today: Nameless: The Hackers, an anime-inspired RPG from Boxcat, indie developers based in Los Angeles. Boxcat eschews majority of the expected pixel art for smooth menus and hand-drawn characters, putting it to good use. Besides the opening, this welcome change is most apparent with the cast, initially consisting of two individuals taking orders from a mysterious authority to right corporate wrongs via epic hacking skills…but find out things aren’t as they seem. A story that’s been done before, but not for RPGs or anime in general, so definitely some style points there.

when I found out this RPG wasn't mass-made shit

when I found out this RPG wasn’t from the mass-made cookbook

Production Value / Crafting of Story

Anyway, NTH’s production value is phenomenal. “Indie” doesn’t exactly come to mind when you play. Hilarious internet and computer references abound and managed to get a few shit-faced grins from me in addition to perked interest from non-cringeworthy writing. Small details (you might or might not understand) like .nfo files, split winrar files, and meme references nearly made me fall out my chair in managed to get a few shit-faced grins from meamazement because I could relate so well. The game surprisingly clocks in at a supposed 12 hours and I’m not yet finished, so it must be true. After booting up this 150 megabyte download, you’re treated to one of the most melodic instrumental tracks I`ve EVER heard for an iOS game. In fact, I intend on asking if there’s a mini-album or soundtrack I can get hold of. As previously implied, the game really feels like “people” made it, oozing with passion. In some ways, all games are gimmicky in regard to certain bullet points, but with everything considered, “exploring” cities and getting intel for the next mission feels relatively organic. If you want to see what’s going on via dialogue with various NPCs, you can and if you don’t want to, that’s completely fine too…but you might miss out on a myriad of free items.

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Well now, it’s not often we come across an anime-themed game on the App Store that isn’t a Final Fantasy or Link to the Past clone. Nameless: The Hackers is a RPG developed specifically with smartphones in mind. I’ve played it on an iPhone 5 and have experienced no technical difficulties to date. So with respect to that the game is solidly built and created with much love. There are a few bumps I found along my journey through the game but overall I’ve enjoyed my playthrough of Nameless: The Hackers. Onwards!

Gameplay

Simply put, the game casts you as a team of hackers hired to help locate people/files following a trail of clues left behind. These clues are digital keys that you have to steal using your hacking skills. Now that may make it sound like an adventure game where you attempt to hack manually into systems much like Uplink, but I did mention the game was an RPG right? All the hacking and whatnot is portrayed through cut scenes and story dialogue. Furthermore, you view the team as individuals each with their own hacking skills that equate and condenses more or less to ‘Attack’, ‘Defend’, ‘Magic’ and ‘Heal.’

Screencaps of the battle system in Nameless: The Hackers

Screencaps of the battle system. Does it look a bit plain? Trust me it gets quite exciting the further you go into the game…

Though you have a party, you select one member of the team and use one skill at a time. The combat is turn-based and skill order typically depends on the skill used and so far I understand the system. You can also defend using the appropriate tab, butoozing with passion so far I’ve tried it and it does not seem to have much effect. It’s not a bad system. Correction: it’s actually quite fun once you get into it. It definitely suits the nature of smartphones today where often you might be playing with one hand while doing something with the other. Also, the references to different aspects of computing and hacking itself add flavour to the attacks and the animation. As minimal as it is, it gives a satisfying illusion you’re indeed causing some digital damage to your faceless opponents across the interweb! One thing I will say though is that despite the creative names and cool references, there are time where information regarding your attacks are a little sparse. This is especially true when it comes to status effects. 

The skill screen where you can spend research points to upgrade their levels

The skill screen where you spend research points to upgrade their levels, edited slightly

In the two screenshots above you’ll see that the description of the attacks stop midway. I have tried to scroll to see more of the description but nothing I do seems to work. Also, it seems like the developers expect us to know the colour codes they use in the game when it come to damage types and what they do. While it ultimately doesn’t make a big difference in the end, it may be quite confusing and overwhelming to have all these new terms thrown at you with no explanation in the help unlock cities…access eventssection given. You pick the flow of the game up quick enough though so this is not entirely detrimental. Another thing to point out, (though fairly minor, but there) is the lack of notifications for new events in cities. Throughout the course of the game you unlock cities and in those cities you’re able to access events like a subquest, or additional plot info through conversation within the team. When it comes to new events in old cities you’ve unlocked… there is nothing to tell you of their availability. This meant that after each major story quest I had to check EVERY city just to see if I missed anything new (which thankfully the event does label itself new, otherwise that’s a whole new nightmare altogether). When it comes down to it though, these events are optional and can be skipped with minimal losses (sort of…). Still, it would have been nice if the city had ‘New Event’ or something floating above it when there is one.

Currency / Level Progression

Now for something not entirely different. I’ve played through to the endgame (I believe) and with regards to grinding… yeah, you’ll be doing that quite a bit. This is mainly to gather enough ByteCredits (in-game currency) and research points to upgrade and buy both skills and infocards (stat increases), which I’ll get to in a bit. It must to be said that it does get tedious what with the ballooning enemy health and absence of any ‘inn’ or restoration point of any sort. Sure there’s a shoplow amount of cash from tough fights where you’ll be frequenting often to buy cards, skills, stat boosts (these are temporary) and of course restoratives… but in a game where you get a relatively low amount of cash from tough fights, I would prefer to spend most of my money on upgrades rather than buying expensive potions to heal both health and energy. A 3rd alternative is to wait with the game active. Leave the game running at the map screen and you may notice your health and energy increase slowly. This is good if you’re cheap (like me), but for my current level to recover from around 1/5th of my health to full took a whole three hours of waiting with the iPhone’s sleep mode disabled mind you (as I don’t think this will work otherwise). This issue of healing definitely becomes an issue later in the game. Yes, there are skills you can employ to heal the group, but it doesn’t work out of battle and it cost a pretty lump of energy (which an energy-stealing skill you learn offsets this cost…at first).

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You could shop for healing items… but you’ll usually want to spend it elsewhere. Some random events pop up and give you free healing items, but these can run out very fast if you’re not careful.

This healing/grinding issue will pop up again, but for now let us move on. Being an RPG there are of course your traditional statistics, mainly Attack, Defense, Hit, Crit and the like. Out of all these stats I would say ‘hit’ is definitely important late-game. If you dont stay on top of this stat, you’ll keep missing, which means the enemy gets a free hit on you, which means more damage to heal, which means couple of rather nightmarish battlesmore energy lost, which means more time in battle dumped into trying to get back lost energy, which means more damage from enemy, which means more energy used to heal… I’m sorry, it’s just that I remember a couple of rather nightmarish battles from the game. In particular those involving an enemy skill called Banhammer Class A incapacitating your entire team for three turns. This can be remedied by a relatively cheap item, but it’s still jarring to experience. However pumping up aforementioned stats is not done traditionally. In Nameless: The Hackers, you find infocards, either through battle or in the shop. Besides having a healthy amount of lore about the world of Nameless, the cards also have stat modifiers. As there is no experience points gained from battle and thus no ‘Level Ups’ to contend to, it is through these cards that you improve your stats. 

Some

Some examples of infocards the game has you collecting.

When you first receive an info card of any sort, it’s very likely that it’ll be a single star card or two starred at best (50% quality or uncommon). They’re really ‘plus’ symbols, but I’ll use the terminology “stars.” Anyway, these stars refer to the stats the card has available to give to your team. Improving the card’s star rating involves fighting battles until rerolling will turn out very expensivean enemy yields a card with the improved stats you want. If you’re grinding like this, you are either the cheapest person to play video games ever or you didn’t know this next part: accessing the infocards’ menu and rerolling on the card’s stats using either ByteCredits or research points is an alternative. Rerolling will turn out very expensive. With ByteCredits you will not be able to choose between the duplicate cards and will sometimes end up rolling repeatedly until you get a satisfactory roll (minimum 3 stars revealed). This, due to the nature of “randomness,” has the potential to bankrupt you, leaving you with no cash to buy anything else (let alone restoratives, ahaha), or an unsatisfactory card. Using research points will allow you to pick the better card of the two, but since the RNG remains, you may end up with some duplicate rolls. Also, with each roll being costing 5 points, you’ll quickly run out of research points. You’ll soon realize prioritizing these points for battle skills is rule #1 as they are so hard to accumulate; these points become more vital near mid/end-game play.

Overall Analysis & Score Summary

If it sounds like I (Onery) only have complaints, it’s only because I really like this game and that I feel that these issues I find only serve to detract me from enjoying it further. The game’s story is mysterious enough at the beginning to keep you playing, and as you meet additional characters, you find each individual has unique personal charm. Plus the interactions between your team members and remaining cast/NPCs are really entertaining. The style reminds me of Western webtoons in a sense. It’s quite a pity there aren’t more “visual novel” mechanics…or perhaps all that grinding has skewed my perception of the game? The game itself is fun to play through and allows for long marathons, or small quick sessions before you turn on sleep mode to set it aside while pretending to do work as your boss, teacher, devil, etc strolls by to see if you’re actually doing work or…playing RPGs.

Nuu/Onery’s Combined Pros

  • An turn-based RPG with a compelling story and fun characters
  • A most intriguing system to level up stats (even if it is randomly generated)
  • Nice addition of lore through infocards and satisfying to get rare or super-rare cards
  • Easy to pick up and play, well built
  • Very addictive

Nuu/Onery’s Combined Cons

  • No inns or health restoring points
  • Healing through items use up cash that should be used elsewhere
  • Grinding (the boosts from the shop help, but very little)
  • Cheap enemy moves later in game (seriously, Banhammer?)
  • Unclear speed system: Move authority incredibly unclear and dynamic. All moves should have a defined speed value
  • MP-Gain skill is broken and doesn’t scale up at all. Past certain level, it’s useless and you’re forced to use items for sake of not losing too much tempo
Nuu/Onery’s Combined Suggestions
  • Meters for health/energy to visualize attacks
  • Improved currency spending/management. Money goes WAY too fast.
  • “Leveling” via health point increases should refill HP & MP completely.
  • Need an inn to heal between battles
  • “Journal” or Glossary of terms so player isn’t confused about companies introduced, terminology, who runs what, or hates who (cuz personally I’m a bit lost)
  • When rerolling or obtaining duplicate infocards to have the original clearly labled to prevent confusion between the two, and also so player knows if they’re getting a fresh new card, or just keeping an original that’s better.
  • Have a rewind/go-back text button
  • Either increase regen rate, or allow regen in the background or both.

Despite all the things we didn’t particularly like about the game, as a whole it won us over. It is a game crafted by a small team and with that in mind, BoxCat created a quality title. We’ve spent a good 8 hours or so playing the game and while a relatively large chunk of time’s involved mainly grinding and some deaths, we enjoyed Nameless: The Hackers a great deal. If this is what they’ve come up with for their first indie game, then we really can’t wait for their next one!

Combined Score: 8/10 – SOLID Game. Must-Buy for RPG fans. Period.

Some VERY annoying oversights sometimes (which need fixing), but both of us couldn’t put it down. I (Nuu) have lost sleep from playing it too much…thanks Boxcat for ruining my life.

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Comments

  1. Avatar of Onery

    Onery

    March 24, 2013

    Update: Towards endgame health regen becomes less of an issue, grinding becomes more of an annoying shore rather than a difficult endeavor, and despite maxing out important skills, health/energy and getting ultra rares for every card I have I STILL get cheap shotted by the ‘last boss’. Anyone managed to finish the game yet or is it just me being incompetent?

    ~mya

    • voiceofexpressions

      March 24, 2013

      No. Game isn’t finished and I’m getting annoyed of it all. I dont like how one skill will cost 15 mp or so, but another skill that’s 22 (though not as upgraded) does pennies to the upgraded skills damage. that makes no sense. EVEN if that’s the case, the other skill costs more, so obviously it should do more. There should be a power/price ratio, but there isnt one.

      It annoys me

      • Avatar of Onery

        Onery

        March 24, 2013

        Ah yes, there is that. Power balancing cost, slightly aided by the move that steals energy but ultimately still a big issue early in the game. When your energy pool grows larger however this does get less annoying, but it’ll require quite a bit of ‘grinding’ in form of rerolling cards to get health upgrades.

        ~mya

  2. Avatar of Nuu

    Nuu

    March 25, 2013

    I agree w/ @voiceofexpressions & honestly the MP Gain skill is atrocious. It’s biggest range is 15-22mp/energy. later on, attacks cost around 11mp minimum. And why does Fork Bomb go from zero….to 11??? Made no sense!!!! Mayb it was 7, idk, but either way it was so abrupt.

    Anyways, i love the game. I’ve put it down because i gotta catch up on bioshock…but atm I dont want to grind. I think perhaps if it were released in the late 2000s then it’d easily be a 10/10 because back then we all had a bit more patience in regards to grinding (pokemon….Final Fantasy anyone?), but these days people are over it and want progression via some other means. Even if it means disguising sustained progression (aka grinding) as something else, then it has to be done.

    But again, it’s a strong 8/10 which should be higher…just that some of these mechanical hiccups ‘detract,’ like you said, from the game.

    • Avatar of Onery

      Onery

      March 27, 2013

      Hey, ‘nother update. Nameless’ recent update meant that I finally beat that last boss guy… or maybe I got lucky. Either way, if you’re still itching for more after it’s over then don’t worry. There is. Gameplay-wise. Nice addition there BoxCat.

      @Nuu: yes, the sudden energy spike in skill usage is a bit of a shock but keep at it and eventually your energy pool becomes large enough to ignore this. Also a tip with regards to the inn issue, when enemies start dropping a decent size of BC, head over to the shop to purchase Reboot Tool. Bit expensive when it first appears, later on in the game this replaces the need for inns.

      Also with the issue of grinding, it becomes easier, albiet very very boring, later on (fell asleep a couple of times with my iphone still playing Nameless’ battle tunes, no kidding!). However, it is an RPG staple, whatever form it takes so it’s just something to get used to.

      ~mya

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Welcome to FinallyAnime! You can call me Nuu. In short, I run the place and am always glad to have people who'd like to join me in my anime adventures.

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