Phantom of the Kill bullet point impressions
A couple of weeks ago, Nintendo announced the suddenly popular (again?) Fire Emblem series would be one of two games to hit mobile devices through their partnership with DeNA. You don’t have to wait, though. If you want turn-based tactical combat that feels like Fire Emblem—pared down where necessary and expanded where you’d expect—you need only wait until Phantom of the Kill is released globally at the end this month.
gumi America was kind enough to set us up with a preview for Phantom of the Kill, and I’ve now spent a little over a week learning its combat system, building my army and equipping the soldiers appropriately. I’ll have my full review ready when the game launches, but in the meantime, here are my early bullet point impressions.
- Phantom of the Kill comes with a high level of polish encompassing all levels of development: graphics, menus, music, animations, etc. I’m not sure yet what gumi is going to charge for the game, but it looks and feels like something you’d pay $30 to $40 to play on your 3DS or Vita.
- That said, you’ll be happier playing this on your iPad or iPhone 6 Plus. I’ve played it almost entirely on my iPhone 6 without too much trouble, but selecting units on the combat grid sometimes causes them to move (not a problem, though, considering the turn-based combat allows you to simply move them back), and some of the type can be hard to read.
- The main reason you’d want to play on the iPad, though, is so you can better appreciate the artwork and animations. The combat graphics are what you’d expect from a high end mobile game these days, but the details of the character designs should really be seen on the bigger screen (and kudos to gumi for including the illustrator’s name with each character design).
- gumi does provide the option for the gamer to play the same account on multiple iOS devices, but only if you connect your account with Facebook. I hate this. My friends on Facebook don’t care anymore about my progress in Phantom of the Kill than I care about their latest 5k progress via RunKeeper. Apple provides GameCenter (which Phantom of the Kill supports) and iCloud for this kind of thing, and I’m really hoping gumi choses to support iCloud saves at release (or soon thereafter).
- When you first start playing, the game will work really hard to make sure you stick with it. There are daily log-in bonuses, daily achievements, daily missions, bonus levels, and more. All of this combined with the actual story levels can be intimidating, but a fairly clean interface and some guided help at the beginning keeps things in line.
- And speaking of bonuses, you may want to plan on spending a bit of money early on. During your first week only, you get increased chances of rare character pulls as you recruit new members using lazuli. The first comes when you spend 10 lazuli at once, which is easy to achieve (I had this after two days with all of my new account bonuses). Odds increase even more with the second pull, but now you have to spend 30 lazuli. This took me the full week to achieve, as I was also using lazuli for other purposes. Finally, your best chance then comes when spending 50 lazuli, which would cost you $25 via in-app purchase if you have to buy all 50. Thankfully, I haven’t found it at all necessary to have that many 4 or 5 star characters in my army (you can’t play them all at once, anyway, but I’ll cover that in the full review).
- At this point, I’ve reached the beginning of chapter three and haven’t found the combat to be all that challenging. Perhaps this is because I’m a Fire Emblem vet, or perhaps it’s because I’ve taken full advantage of the bonus missions that quickly level up your characters. Those are more difficult.
- The combat rounds thus far all feel like the early levels of a Fire Emblem game; your squad limit tops out at six, and the battlefields are appropriately small for a mobile device. They are, however, well designed with various obstructions, so you’ll need to have a diverse group to make sure you can reach everyone (and everything) quickly.
- This is because there are three achievements to reach beyond simply winning the battle. For instance, one level may ask you to win in under ten turns, but without losing a soldier and without taking any archers. This is a great way to make sure you keep everyone leveled up; you never know when you’ll have to leave your best soldier behind.
- Unlike Fire Emblem, there’s no permadeath. If a soldier dies on the battlefield, you’ll get him or her back, but likely with a damaged weapon. You can try to repair the weapon, but if you don’t use your precious lazuli, there’s a chance that repair will fail…or you could lose it entirely. This happened with my gun sage early on, and it took a long time for me to acquire another gun for her.
- Weapon and character management is as much a part of the game as the story and combat. You constantly need fuse them or upgrade them in order clear room in your limited roster and inventory for new pulls, but there are strategic advantages to doing so, as well. If you can turn a two star character or weapon into a three star, it’s usually sacrificing a few units to do so.
It’s been about a year since I first learned of Phantom of the Kill, and I’ve been looking forward to it ever since. If you’ve been doing the same, I’m quite confident in saying you won’t be disappointed. I’ve made a lot of respectful comparisons to Fire Emblem here, but Phantom of the Kill never really feels like a copy. Yes, it carries over the game grid, the turn-based combat and the triangle weapon system, but it adds plenty of features and achievements that never seem superfluous (unlike all that crap in Fire Emblem Fates…but that’s another review for another site).