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Covenant of Solitude (Android) artwork

Covenant of Solitude (Android) review

"It's not great, but shows enough aptitude to be reasonably entertaining."

Covenant of Solitude comes really close to being a good game. Expecting the next Chrono Trigger (or anything along those lines) from Kemco when the publisher and its development partners manage to release a new game nearly every month is probably a pipe dream, but Symphony of Eternity made it obvious that the various partnerships are capable of producing enjoyable games on some occasions.

To a degree, Magitec's Covenant of Solitude represents one such occasion. It has the best story (by far) out of the five Kemco games I've played thus far, and it also is the most difficult. Unfortunately, the game's charms are diluted a good bit by the corners its developers cut. Every Kemco game I've played palette-swaps the same enemy designs constantly, but in this case, not a single one of the available monster varieties ever looked impressive. Each of the few music compositions was also extremely short, which led to noticeable looping whenever one had reason to play for more than a few seconds. Little nuisances like that get more noticeable the more time you spend with a game, until finally they evolve into major annoyances.

But like I said, this game does do a lot of things right. Let's focus on some of those positives!

My previous experience with Magitec came when I inadvertently started the Kemco Khallenge by purchasing the 3DS port of Grinsia. Because of that experience, I didn't expect to like much about the plot offered in this title. Grinsia was as generic as possible, with your character and his family "working" as treasure hunters until stuff happened and they suddenly found themselves leading the charge against the ruler of a corrupt empire who, himself, was being manipulated by a vengeful goddess. Throw in a scavenger hunt for elemental relics and the occasional stab at character and plot development and you've just outlined a course in RPG Writing 101.

Covenant of Solitude takes off the kid gloves, however, and tells a surprisingly dark tale. You control an orphan named Fort who hangs out in a secluded village with other orphans -- in particular, his pals Legna and Elicia. Fort has troubles fitting in with anyone other than those two comrades, due to the fact that he is a Genie. Sadly, he doesn't pop out of lamps to deliver wishes. In this world, a Genie is a person capable of communicating with and summoning monsters. Once upon a time, those blessed with that power attempted to use it for conquest. As a result, they're now hated and feared throughout the land.

After that bit of early-game exposition, we get our first shock when the forces of the local empire (or Empire, as it is known, to differentiate it from its rival, known as Kingdom) head to the village and destroy it, killing everyone in sight. Fort tries to use his Genie powers to save Elicia, but he can't control his monsters. This leads to more death than he anticipated and (to make matters worse) puts a bit of a crimp in his friendship with Legna.

A couple years pass. Fort is now languishing in Empire's prison. Since he refuses to use his powers to aid their war efforts, he's about to be executed. However, just before that can happen, a strange being teleports him to a dimension that exists within his mind. There, he is finally taught how to handle his powers, which sets him on a quest to reclaim his past life while perhaps also getting revenge on Empire. Helping him in that task is Evans, the leader of a resistance movement. However, although the new ally seems supportive of Fort, take a look at his representation on the title screen--head tilted down, hand half covering a twisted smirk--and guess how far his loyalty actually goes.

You might suppose that since your character has the ability to summon monsters, Covenant of Solitude will play something like a Shin Megami Tensei game, where you fight critters to earn the right to use them in battle. Instead, this game more closely resembles the third Dragon Quest. Once you enter your "mind world", you can pick three allies from a total of four classes and assign them to serve as Fort's accomplices. Fort is your typical jack-of-all-trades hero, Dragons are physical powerhouses, Beasts move quickly and possess thieving abilities, Fairies get all the healing spells and Vampires blast foes with combat magic. It's sort of weird that a guy whose main skill is his ability to communicate with monsters never is actually able to do so in the middle of battle, but I'd rather lead a tiny group of quality characters than a horde of generic foes-turned-ally that all come from the same tiny array of designs and only possess two or three potential attacks apiece.

In other words, the fact that Fort's fantastic Genie status is more a plot element than anything else really didn't bother me. Each class winds up with a dozen or so abilities, and they all have their uses. Late in the game, I found the beast to be the odd creature out, as each of the other three classes all gained life-saving abilities. My vampire pulverized mobs with a powerful ice spell, my fairy constantly healed people and not only was my dragon the strongest member of my party, but it also eventually gained an awesome skill that doubled everyone's defense for a turn (an apparent necessity when it came time to survive the final boss' attacks at length).

I found myself wanting to possess the strongest possible collection of characters, as well, because the final few dungeons in the 20-hour campaign were loaded with tough monsters capable of inflicting devastating status ailments on my entire party. Bosses proved quite capable even early in the game, a surprise after previous Kemco games that only managed to topple my party once, when I was battling an optional post-game boss. Here, I died at least a dozen times, and probably even more than that. Your party members will likely finish the game with between 200 and 300 hit points each, facing off against foes capable of rattling off spells that hit for at least half that amount of damage. When you consider the fact that every single boss brings along two additional foes to serve as his support brigade (with each of them also capable of mounting their own powerful attacks), you can see how one unlucky turn could completely destroy a player party.

Because combat is sometimes so risky, I didn't even mind most of the little conveniences the game offered that effectively sap some of the difficulty. Sure, you can recharge your life and magic immediately before bosses, and sure, your party members regain all their life and some of their magic every time they advance a level. But in this case, it feels like the designers are simply throwing players a bone to alleviate the frustration that would otherwise result if a band of heroes ventured through a dungeon, only to arrive at a boss in a depleted state and be brutally dispatched. Unfortunately, the assistance sometimes goes a bit far. You can enter your "mind world" any time you're not in battle. This place features a shop where you can buy all sorts of items, as well as the newest equipment. That convenient access limits the game's toughness to a fight-by-fight test, because by the time the game truly starts getting tough, you'll possess money enough to resupply after virtually every battle.

Covenant of Solitude has a solid story and offers some fun mechanics, but it just isn't able to go all the way and truly excel. RPG fanatics like me will find a lot of enjoy, but I'd be lying if I didn't admit to occasional exasperation. The sprite repetition (even with bosses), the connect-the-dots linearity and the measures taken to dilute the difficulty all take their toll. Symphony of Eternity added enough bells and whistles that I could mostly ignore stuff like that, but I struggled to do the same in this case. The end result is a fundamentally decent game, but it's one I wished had been further refined by its developers before it found its way to my phone.

overdrive's avatar
Staff review by Rob Hamilton (December 15, 2015)

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

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