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Chrome Wolf (Android) artwork

Chrome Wolf (Android) review

"The gaming version of finding a micro-budget film that actually is pretty good."

One of the biggest problems you're likely to encounter if you choose to produce RPGs on a monthly basis is that your teams will be too busy making new games to spend much time or energy creating an improved engine to run them. And if you're Kemco in particular, you might also decide to use assets developed for one game in many of its contemporaries, which makes your output feel derivative even when the label doesn't quite fit.

My biggest gripe with Magitec's Chrome Wolf is its close resemblance to the developer's previous game, Covenant of Solitude. That's not a compliment, either. While I enjoyed that older title, its generic enemy sprites and bland graphics, both in dungeons and on the world map, produced an ugly package and served as one of the overall project's low points. You'll find more of the same treatment here, too, right down to the most minute of details (such as the way the world map seems less like a continent and more like a series of islands connected by convenient bridges).

Don't let that dissuade you from giving it a try, though, because this is one of the best Kemco-published games I've yet played. It boasts a mature plot, with moments of levity placed strategically to lighten the mood, rather than at random. And it takes a more modern look at warfare by featuring tanks, guns, and WMDs in place of the more traditional swords and axes. Magic still exists, but the real world/sci-fi elements mesh nicely and outweigh the standard RPG stuff.

To my delight, the characters presented here are also more fully realized than in previous games I've played from Kemco, with plenty of attention paid to the tense relations between some team members. The guy who winds up being the primary villain has legitimate motivations for snapping and setting up the climactic events which drive the endgame. And there are some twists and turns leading up to a final dungeon that might be anticlimactic from a gameplay standpoint, but easily deliver the goods from a storytelling perspective. You know, the sort of stuff that actually lingers with you for a bit after you've finished the game.

The main hero, Kruz, is a promising young soldier in the Imperial army. Along with two pals, he's dispatched to investigate a possible uprising of (prepare for horribly stupid name in 3, 2, 1...) Unicornian rebels. These people, who are so named because of the horns that grow from their heads, are the minority race within the world. They've been isolated, subjugated and all sorts of other verbs with negative connotations. Your three-man party works its way through a starter dungeon, wiping out the local rebel leader before meeting up with your commanding officer, who promptly orders you to execute some unarmed Unicornian civilians. His demands inspire a variety of reactions.

One of Kruz's friends, Abel, is disgusted by the command and promptly deserts the army. His other friend, Graham, is simply hesitant. When he hears that this is the order of the Emperor, though, he immediately dispatches a captive to prove his loyalty. Kruz, more reluctant still, eventually does choose murder over desertion, but he immediately regrets his choice. Once Graham and the commander leave, Kruz goes off in search of Abel, who it turns out has already been gunned down for trying to save "enemy" villagers.

Kruz decides to repent for his actions by rescuing the handful of survivors whom Abel had hidden, which immediately puts him at odds with his commander. Just before he can be executed, however, guns blaze and kill said commander. This isn't necessarily great news, though. Kruz's savior, Olga, happens to have been in a relationship with the local rebel leader Kruz dispatched. When she figures out just who she just saved, she is MAD. The only thing keeping our hero alive in the short-term is the fact that Olga's younger brother, Williot, has no intention of watching his savior die. Instead, the guilt-stricken Kruz is allowed the opportunity to join the Unicornian army and make amends for the murder he committed as a soldier.

This leads to the creation of the Chrome Wolf unit, an elite fighting force that initially is composed of Kruz, Olga, Williot and happy-go-lucky sniper, Gardel. Shortly thereafter, two more members join the group. Noelle is the younger sister of Abel, which initially makes Williot (who views the deceased soldier as his hero) very happy. His happiness fades, though, once Noelle goes off on an angry rant about how she hates her brother because his desertion led to her being suspected of also being a traitor. That put a real crimp in her freedom to conduct her scientific research. And then you meet Centurian, the tank.

Centurian is an interesting addition to the game's battle system. Normally, your party walks around, fighting monsters. There's a skill system that's a simpler version of Final Fantasy V's job class, plus you can equip accessories to gain access to and level up three types of elemental spell. If you ride in the tank, it fights on your five heroes' behalf. On the one hand, this is good. Centurian will utterly devastate most random mobs. However, you don't gain points toward job and element levels this way, so you're not safe relying on that mode of transportation. Even so, it's not wise to completely ignore your tank because you'll eventually encounter a two-part boss fight late in the game where use of the vehicle is mandatory. Despite possessing a fully-upgraded machine, I still found that particular battle to be the game's most difficult. If I had neglected the tank up to that point, it would likely have been turned quickly into scrap metal.

In a lot of ways, Chrome Wolf is typical Kemco fare. By fighting battles, you earn points you can spend on IAP, in lieu of cash. One of the prizes is even worth picking up, since it unlocks a tricky dungeon that leads to the game's best job class. Much like other games by Magitec, dungeons mostly consist of long, winding corridors with many branching paths that lead either to various treasure chests or to switches that open doors, and a mini-map is available to help you avoid getting lost. The campaign's overall difficulty lies somewhere between easy and moderately challenging, meaning you shouldn't have too much trouble with most of it as long as you monitor your health. However, the storytelling, though slightly marred by the anticipated awkward translation, is a step or two better than what I expect from Kemco games.

When I started my "Kemco Khallenge," my expectations weren't super-high. I just hoped that as a huge fan of JRPGs, I'd find some measure of entertainment in a bunch of short, cheap games that I could play on the go. Some of what I found was pretty trashy, but Chrome Wolf offers an experience more in tune with what I was hoping for. The graphics may be drab and near-identical to those in Covenant of Solitude, and the tank could have been integrated into the battle system more meaningfully, but I had fun working through the campaign and I appreciated the more mature storytelling along the way. Add in a distinctive modern setting and warfare and you have one of the better efforts Kemco has produced.


overdrive's avatar
Staff review by Rob Hamilton (April 01, 2016)

Rob Hamilton is the official drunken master of review writing for Honestgamers.

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