Iesabel Review - A simple ARPG Bugfest
The King of Yeroh has been bewitched by a princess named Iesabel. He loses all sense of reason and makes her his wife. Since, Iesabel has brought forth the evil cult of her master the insane god Baal. Darkness is sweeping across the lands, corrupting everything that it touches. Only you can stop the evil that has befallen the world.
Your journey starts in the far northern reaches of the land in a small village called Slava. Will you be able to put an end to Iesabel's evil plans or will the world forever be consumed by evil and darkness?
Iesabel is a Diablo style, indie ARPG developed by Madman Theory Games and published by Forever Entertainment S.A. It was originally released as a mobile game and later ported to the PC and released on Steam as of July 2013. It is a simple ARPG which is great for players looking to get started into the genre. Unfortunately, it is plagued with a big list of issues and bugs which ruin the otherwise enjoyable title.
An evil is coming and it couldn't be more boring.
The story of Iesabel is fairly standard for this style of game. You are the hero, the only one able to stop the great evil that is attempting to take over the world. In this instance the "evil" is the princess, Iesabel. The player takes on the role of one of two different characters, the witch or the barbarian. The protagonist is half-blood -- half human and half demo; a lineage that grants them extreme power and makes them capable of defeating the evil that's consuming the world.
As you progress through the game completing quests the story is slowly revealed to you via your interaction with various characters. Unfortunately, there are a number of issues with the telling of the story. First, you already know what is going on from the very beginning, thanks to the game's introduction. Second, the translation to English is rough at best, sometimes making it hard to understand the story.
Third, the plot is very one note, only concerned with the evil that is coming. The only point that it takes some form of tonal shift is right at the end of the game. This causes the story to never climax. There is never a sense of increased urgency given to the player, like that with Titan Quest or Diablo.
If I were to summarize the entire storyline it would be along the lines of, you must reach the city of Yeroh, help the rebels and kill the princess Iesabel. That is the story in a nutshell, and anything in between is simply irrelevant.
It is a shame that the story is so basic. The entire idea of working with the rebels against a princess who has command over an army of soldiers and monsters could be interesting. The problem with the story is that you only fight against the army for a few minutes in the last half an hour of the game. It is extremely anti-climatic after you feel things are finally getting interesting. As a whole, the story is boring, predictable, anti-climatic and full of errors.
There is no voice acting for any of the NPC characters and they are all written exactly the same way. None of them have a difference in personality to make them in any shape or form unique.
A simple ARPG for new players of the genre.
Iesabel is a simple ARPG in comparison to other titles of the genre such as the Din's Curse or the Torchlight series. The character stats, skill trees and weapon stats are all very basic. The character stats revolve around Strength, Dexterity, Intelligence, Wisdom, Defense, and Luck. Each stat has its own attributes that it affects and each character class has its own primary stats. For example, the Barbarian's primary stats would be Strength and Defense due to them being a melee class.
The Witch is the magic class making Intelligence and Wisdom their primary stats as they require all out spiritual damage. By clicking on each stat, it shows which of your character's attributes it affects and the overall full attributes list of your character. When leveling up, the player gains stat points to distribute how they see fit.
Upon collecting various loot from containers and by killing monsters items can have increased stat bonuses totaling up to 3 per item. Each weapon and armor have their own damage or armor value to it which is made easy and clear to follow.
The skill trees for each character are as basic as the rest of the character development. Both classes have their own skill tree consisting of 9 unique skills. There are an additional two skill trees which are the same for both classes.They involve crafting and general passive skills such as weapon and armor mastery. Each time you level up you gain an additional skill point. The player can apply the point to the skill of choice assuming they are the required level and have the prerequisites.
Slow and repetitive combat.
The combat in the game is slightly slower than it should be for an ARPG. The movement speed and attack speed of the character and enemies could do with being increased. For more experienced ARPG players, it would seem like the play runs at a snail's pace after playing faster titles such as The Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing.
The game does has a nice variety of different enemies throughout, which keeps the monsters from becoming visually stale. But, even with a large variety of enemies, there isn't enough combat variation to keep it interesting.
It leads to the combat feeling very repetitive by the third act and you just want it finished. The bosses within the game are extremely anti-climatic. They look quite intimidating from the distance, but they end up being no more challenging than normal enemies. This is more down to balance issues as opposed to being a problem with the combat -- something which I will detail more shortly.
This slow and repetitive combat may be passable, perhaps even acceptable on a mobile device. On the platform where the genre was born and bred, it does the game no favors.
Generally nice graphics and rocking soundtracking.
The graphics of Iesabel are pretty decent considering this is the port of a mobile game. The various locations that you travel to are well designed. Some look downright gorgeous, particularly that in the second act with levels like the Glacier.
The monsters are all well designed and are decently animated. Unfortunately, I can't say the same for the human NPCs. They genuinely look horrible with running animations that look more like the chicken dance, no joke intended.
The soundtrack is something I am surprised hadn't been used sooner in this game genre. It consists of a blend of rock and atmospheric ambiance. I found that the soundtrack mixes in with the area that you are playing while ramping up for the combat to give it a bit more of an intense feel. If anything the soundtrack is what kept me from washing my hands clean of this game before completing it. It helped push me across the finish line.
Bugs, Glitches, Balance Issues and No Multiplayer
It is sad to say that the game is a festering ground for bugs and issues. It is possible to complete the game but expect there to be plenty of problems along the way. Issues include graphical glitches, animation glitches, the inability to complete several side quests, lock ups, broken steam achievements, the list goes on.
I haven't even mentioned the balancing issues and the fact that there is no longer an active multiplayer server. The balancing within the game is terrible to the point that halfway through the first playthrough you become a wrecking ball. This juggernaut status continues onto the harder difficulties where even with enemies getting considerably stronger, it makes little difference.
The NPC shops only have a set amount of gold for which you can sell items each time you visit the town. At the early stages of the game this isn't so much of an issue but later on in higher difficulties it is. The reason for this is due to items being worth a lot of money while the NPC gold amounts haven't been adjusted to it. It leads to a case of selling three items and emptying a shop of its gold.
On November 21st. 2014, it was officially announced on the store page that the online server was having issues that would take approximately two months to resolve. A year later there has yet to be any further posts from the developer or any responses to the community. It is a shame as the multiplayer would help liven things up.
Iesabel is one of those games that makes me sad to play. It is not due to it being a masterpiece that plays with my heart strings but because it is a title that has great potential. As I mentioned at the start of this review it is a game that would be great for players new to the ARPG genre. It would settle them into what can be a fairly overwhelming genre of stats, attributes, and skills. In its current state, however, it would simply give a horrible first impression.
It could have had an interesting story if it could just get away from the standard ARPG format -- the hero killing the big bad guy. I wish they had used the rebellion to create something more interesting. It is a game that has the goods and with a few tweaks, fixes, and an online server could have been a pretty decent ARPG.
Unfortunately despite it being playable and possible to finish, it is certainly not a game worth its price tag of $14.99. Perhaps if you were desperate for an ARPG that you haven't played and it was on sale, it might be. Other than that it is a title to stay well away from. Go in search of better and more playable ARPG titles.