Stormfall: Rise of Balur Review

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One of Plarium online games latest additions to their mobile lineup comes in the form of Stormfall: Rise of Balur and aims to build upon the success of its social media predecessor, Age of War. We take a look to see if the transition to iOS and Android is a smooth one, and if it’s really worth your valuable free time.

Stormfall: Age of War certainly grabbed the attention of many-a-facebook user. Whilst Rise of Balur is not a complete clone in gameplay terms, it certainly takes on the same principles and adapts them for the mobile gamerbase. Unfortunately for Plarium online games spin-off, there’s a heap of similarly veined titles already flooding the mobile gaming market vying for number one spot since that popular release back in 2012. So it’s good for them, then, that it holds its own amongst the competition and does a relatively good job of squirming its way to the front of the crowd.

Placed in a mythical world of Dragons and medieval goings-on, you must build up your castle grounds to gather resources that eventually allow you to build an army and send them off to battle. As the game is free-to-play I’ll send the elephant in the room on its way right now; whilst there’s a host of in-app purchases that spring up regularly, after several hours of play it never once felt like they were essential to my progress. Of course, it slowed me down, but the game is more than playable without having to empty your pockets compared to some other mobile games out there, so for that Plarium online games can, and should be, commended.

You’ll notice straight away how great Rise of Balur looks. The level of polish is particularly good for a build-type game and it was cool getting to watch what was going on around the castle – dragons stomping around, men fishing, others floating downstream in barrels. Some of it actually quite humorous, even it is all merely superficial nonsense.

There’s nothing to really complain about when it comes to the design of the UI, either. The problem was more its contents and how you interact with it all. For example, the tutorial does its absolute utmost to ease you into the plethora of avenues to explore in game, but there’s so much of it you’ll end up playing whack-a-mole on your phone/tablet just trying to get the part that matters.

Amelia, your loyal advisor, walks you through the basics reasonably well – despite sounding like an automated phone voice – and you’ll have a full three days (real time) to get your head around the gameplay before becoming vulnerable to attack by others. I was well into my level 20’s by the time Amelia had done parting with her wisdom, and quite frankly I was more confused where certain menus and screens were than I was when I started – the whack-a-mole’ing had come back to bite me. Ultimately, with a little exploration you’ll realise it’s all well designed and intuitive enough to figure out by yourself. The hand holding would have benefitted from being scaled down a little, though.

Once the building and upgrading of farms and warehouses is complete you’ll need to start getting your army together by building units and there’s a good selection to pick, from swordsmen and archers to demons and deathly dragons. Then upgrading ‘Lost Arts’ with daily accumulated scrolls open new units and technology. I won’t go over everything but there’s a lot to delve into and work towards, as well as the constant barrage of carrot-dangling with daily rewards and achievments.

The MMO aspect is the game’s strongest, however. Sending your soldiers off to fight rival Lords and encampments for loot which in turn help you raise your castle further is essentially the end game and by joining leagues with other players things become ten-fold more interesting as you join forces to fight over territory and consolidate your resources. There’s a nice community feel to the game which certainly aids longevity.

My main gripes with Rise of Balur was unfortunately a consequence of what also made it good. There seemed to be no filter of inactive players, meaning the area surrounding your keep could be full of vacant castles waiting to be freely plundered – that might sound awesome, but it grows tiresome and makes the game feel shallow. Same goes for language barriers that might become a problem with no translation tool, especially when working as a community for the greater goal seems to be the engine that drives the game forward.

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GPubZy5wx5w[/youtube]

VERDICT

I’m not a great lover of anything that involves in-app-purchases, in truth. However, it’s good that Rise of Balur hasn’t made it too obtrusive, and whilst some might enjoy throwing a few coins at it to get ahead, it doesn’t ever feel like a necessity. You can’t fault the production values for a mobile title, either. It looks good and is easy to navigate with some good social mechanics to boot. So ultimately, despite it feeling slightly contrived in places and some social issues that really need sorting out, you’ll find Stormfall: Rise of Balur a quite decent on-the-go experience.

7/10

Began gaming on a hand-me-down Commodore Vic-20 back in the mid 80's and hasn't managed to shake the addiction yet. Genres of choice include anything that contains bullets and/or bouncy balls. Has been known to dabble in Destiny content.

@nickjh82

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