“Sometimes you just have to let go of what has worked well for you so far. And try something altogether new.” No, we are not giving some self-improvement sermon here. We are just talking of the latest Angry Birds game in tech town, Angry Birds Epic. Almost six years ago, the game became a rage all over the world because of its physics based gameplay which involved hurling furious birds through slingshots at adversarial swine hiding behind fortifications. The locales changed – we went to Rio, to outer space and even got some Star Wars into the act – but the gameplay remained fundamentally the same: you put a bird into a slingshot, worked out the angle and force of your attack at the pigs. And let rip.
The past year, however, has seen Rovio trying to shake off the catapult physics game heritage of the Angry Birds brand. First there was the Bad Piggies game which was more about building things than destroying them and then there was the unabashed go karter, Angry Birds Go. And now comes Angry Birds Epic, which sees Rovio yank the birds into combat and RPG territory. Yes, you heard that right, and if you happen to be a fan of the turn-based combat system of the early versions of Final Fantasy and games like Septerra Core, say ‘hooray’ because now your favourite feathered heroes are in similar mode.
One thing that has now changed, however, is the storyline. It still is about pigs stealing the birds’ eggs and the birds then going on a pig battering spree on the path to claim back what is rightfully theirs. Only this time there is no flinging or throwing birds at fortifications. What actually happens is that your bird – you start out with one, but pick up followers along the way – faces a page. It strikes a blow at the pig, then the pig strikes a blow, then the bird strikes a blow…and so on until one of the aforementioned warring parties kicks the gaming bucket. Cue celebrations by the winner and if it is the bird, some loot and extra points. Classic turn-based combat if you will. As you go along, you get new weapons, new kinds of birds (which blow up multiple pigs with a single attack), and of course, more adversaries. It soon comes to the stage when there are a group of pigs facing a group of birds and you have to pick and choose how to make your next attack and at whom – some pigs are more powerful than the others – do you leave them for the end or take them out right away? Decisions, decisions…
And that actually is Angry Birds Epic in a nutshell. From working out angles and speeds at which to throw birds at pigs, you now have to work out which bird to use to attack which pig. There are weapons and spells to be chosen, allies to be relied on (you can actually get your powers boosted by one of your friends) and even dabble in magic spells and potions. Gameplay is relatively simple – you drag your from your bird to the pig you want to attack and the attack will be executed. Need a statistics boost – drag from one bird to another. And keep an eye on that chilli that keeps getting redder with every attack and parry in the battle – once it is completely red, you can unleash a hellish special attack. Of course, you will need funds for weapons, spells and the like and while you can collect these by battering your enemies to death, those in a hurry can also grab them using in-app purchases. The game itself is free!
But is it worth a download? Well, much as we liked the wonderfully colourful locales and the quirky celebration animations, we must confess to having mixed feelings. The click-and-wait routine of turn-based combat can be a little monotonous (as can be depending on in-app purchases), and if you are the type that does not like building characters and weapons and working out team strategies, then this is not a game for you. If however you are an RPG fan, you will feel right at home here. Angry Birds Epic is perhaps the first game in the series to shed its casual gaming genes, and get into more serious gaming territory. It is a brave move, and will be loved by more serious gamers, but can we be honest – we preferred throwing the birds.