Orcs & Elves Hands-On Update

We got a look at some new content in the final version of Fountainhead's mobile-to-Nintendo DS role-playing port.

Mobile gaming is just about the last thing you would have expected id Software technical guru John Carmack to take an interest in, but id and its codevelopers have in fact been quite successful with its first two mobile titles, Doom RPG and Orcs & Elves. Now Fountainhead Entertainment is bringing the latter fantasy dungeon crawl to the Nintendo DS, sporting a new Carmack-developed engine and a raft of new content to boot. After getting a quick first look at the game a few weeks ago, we spent some time with a prerelease version of Orcs & Elves, and while the cell-phone-style underpinnings are still evident in this new version, there seems to be plenty of depth for DS-carrying role-players to delve into as well.

You'll play as the son of an elven adventurer who is investigating an attack on a dwarven stronghold led by King Brahm, a friend of your father. When you arrive, you'll find a combined force of orcs and dark elves have laid waste to the entire fortress, so it will fall to you and your talking magic wand to journey through the castle's various levels and vanquish whatever evil lurks within. You'll spend a lot of time interacting with dwarven ghosts who will help you overcome obstacles and find new routes. All the while, you'll be hacking and slashing at orcs, rats, giant green blobs, and a whole host of other baddies. The game features standard experience-gaining and leveling through combat, healing via potions--all the trappings you'd expect from an RPG.

The DS version will boast plenty of new content and a new, much faster graphics engine.

The core design tenets of Orcs & Elves remain essentially unchanged from those of the mobile game. You still move one square at a time, for instance, and the ostensibly real-time action really takes place in a turn-based format where you and your opponent trade attacks one after the other. However, Fountainhead and Carmack have beefed up the DS version considerably in a number of ways. The new engine allows the game to run at a constant 60 frames per second, purportedly much smoother than most cell phones. It also allowed the designers to flesh out the environments in full 3D and add more lighting effects, and when you enter a new area, you'll get a brief cinematic sequence panning around and flying through the level.

In addition to the improved visuals, Fountainhead has added several new levels to the game, some of which have been integrated into the core story-driven quest. Other new areas will be optional, however, so you can explore them for new items or simply move on with your business. We saw one new region called the burrows, a subterranean maze filled with a poisonous miasma and all sorts of nasty, buglike enemies. The area uses primarily green and purple colors (often in the ooze on the walls and floors) to give it a sickly look, which adds some visual variety in contrast to the mostly brown and gray dwarven levels we've seen so far. The most enticing aspect of the burrows is a parasitic brew, new to the DS game, that you can imbibe in order to siphon health from enemies.

This dragon will provide you with new equipment--for a price.

In fact, there will be several new items and other goodies for you to pick up and play with in the DS game. For instance, you'll meet a ghostly dwarven brewmaster named Sarbok who will grant you his own special brew, which will naturally get you tipsy. Drunkenness will raise your strength and resistance to damage, but lower your accuracy (hey, just like in real life!), and it will also add a swirling graphical effect that distorts the screen. You can counteract the functional effects with an accuracy potion, though you won't be any less tipsy. There will be several other new consumable items--not to mention some new monsters walking the dwarven halls--in the DS version as well.

Fountainhead has added plenty of other little touches here and there to the DS game, such as improving the bartering interface you'll use to try and acquire items from a dragon's treasure hoard. You can now gauge the dragon's mood before making an offer; naturally, the better her mood, the more likely you are to lowball her on the amount of gold you're willing to pay. There's also a wererat being held captive in the dragon's prison who you'll be able to free, if you choose, and he will open up a pathway to some other optional side quests.

Select retailers will offer this wand-shaped DS stylus as a promotion with the game.

Orcs & Elves is slated for release in the second week of November, so we'll deliver the final verdict on the game's transition to the DS at that time. EA is preparing a promotional DS stylus that's shaped like the game's talking magic wand, which won't cost you any extra money but will only be available from specific retailers. We'll bring you word on which retailers as soon as we can.

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51 comments
XBASX
XBASX

That wand looks dang dangerous.

bernieberry
bernieberry

Maybe that's why they want $40. Charging for the wand.

Loopuze
Loopuze

This game is a lot more fun than I was expecting, it's a first person dungeon crawler yes, but it's really well done. Oh, and why don't you just get Plan 9 for a few bucks on amazon?

thunderbone
thunderbone

"If anyone gets any info on which retailers that will be carrying this bundle, please post it here or in the forum." Just taking a guess here, but I would imagine it would be, at least, Gamestop. Seems they always have special promos like this. I could still kick myself for not buying Destroy All Humans! from Gamestop as they included a free DVD copy of the cheese movie "Plan 9 from Outer Space" with every purchase of the XBox/PS2 game. Th3-CHeW1E-Man, that's one of my chief concerns. I could see this game causing motion sickness, double vision, and nightmare headaches if played for even a few minutes.

HelIWithoutSin
HelIWithoutSin

"EA is preparing a promotional DS stylus that's shaped like the game's talking magic wand, which won't cost you any extra money but will only be available from specific retailers." If anyone gets any info on which retailers that will be carrying this bundle, please post it here or in the forum.

Th3-CHeW1E-Man
Th3-CHeW1E-Man

idk, it looks cool and all, but the 2D mixed with 3D graphics will eventually give u a massive, nausea induced headache. Kinda like the one u get from playing the original DOOM because its so choppy.

thunderbone
thunderbone

greater_bird said: "After all, the DS already has plenty of decent dungeon-crawling RPGs." Like what? I'm not challenging you, but dungeon-crawling RPG's are amidst my favorite games. Specifically hack-n-slash in the vein of Baldur's Gate or Champions of Norrath.

Chernnunos
Chernnunos

What is this? 40 bucks for a pseudo-good-graphics RPG with a lame story ? I have this on my CELLPHONE

xnight_ninjax
xnight_ninjax

the nintendo will make anything into a game wont they

Gwarpup
Gwarpup

Another huge missed opportunity to adapt a Nethack/Rogue type game to a portable system. Nethack is 100x the game this one trys to be. Why cant a developer create something like it with decent graphics like this, but the brains of nethack.

chip211
chip211

this game sucks eggs

hitman1988
hitman1988

looks like it could be a fun game

greater_bird
greater_bird

I have no problem with porting successful mobile phone games to the DS, but I've got a bit of a wait and see view with this game. After all, the DS already has plenty of decent dungeon-crawling RPGs. I'm wondering if this one will have the length and features to compete well against the crowd...

Relys
Relys

You said "cum" lol!

donniedew
donniedew

Guys come on what's wrong with porting from a cell phone. Mobile development is MUCH cheaper and a great way to try out ideas. Like for instance if I wanted to make, there's no way I'd be able to afford to make even a Wii game. But if I put it online or make it a Mobile game and 500,000 people worldwide download it and then it comes to Xbox-Live and PSN and even Wiiware after that that's awesome. Then, you know, it might just get bought out by Capcom or EA or someting and become a triple A title one day. Yea that's a stretch and it doesn't totally apply to Carmack's situation at all but I'm just saying. Don't be mad when Orcs and Elves is the next WOW in four years after some tweaking. Probably won't happen but still. It's the same with Independant films but I've said enough for now.

the_undisturbed
the_undisturbed

wand... soooo... cool! definitly the must have wand of the year! :P

ag1002
ag1002

if it doesn't cost much i think its ok

Black_Dry_Bones
Black_Dry_Bones

This doesn't sound too exciting. Both the graphics and the gameplay feel like it's taking a step back instead of forward. Plus, porting from a cell phone O.o?

gahaz
gahaz

games should be ported to mobile if its needed. not the other way around

XBASX
XBASX

Hmm 2D, the only nice thing is that wand looking stylus.

thejp
thejp

I am going to be playing this game. To get to the point... the graphics aren't amazing, yes, compared to next gen games... IT'S THE DS!!! not the PSP, the max res on the DS is so low! but this game does wonders with what I saw, plush, filled out environments, IN A 3D SPACE! not a 2D side scroller that uses 3 big textures. See I played this a little at Quakecon and thought it was good then, I doubt my views have changed. In the world of the DS just find me a game that is in a full 3D environment and that is as well populated as this game. You will find very few, if any. And yes, the monsters are 2D drawings, SO WHAT! 2D plain= more baddies to rip apart. Not like in other DS games where you can only have 2-3 3D objects in view at once, maybe. This game was great on the phone and I know that it will be great on the DS, If you like old school, its a must-pick-up... i even think that if you are too young to understand the Dungeon Crawling era, like most teenie boppers now-a-days, you should at least give it a try. I only played one level on the DS and I was hooked again! In ending... only true gamers at least try every game they can put their little grubby hands on. so if you are going to lay into it, at least try it first. -"Its impossible to review a game well without playing it" - -Thejp

dn3datomiced
dn3datomiced

It's a shame I don't have a mobile phone or a DS right now. I've been wanting to play both O&E and Doom RPG when I first heard of them. It's genius.

PostedOval
PostedOval

This game was a BLAST on the Razr. I was actually sad I finished it. Great stuff.

GunnyHath
GunnyHath

That might be okay on a cell phone if youre that desperate for a game.. but the novelty even on a phone would wear off in moments. On the DS it seems a complete waste of money. Like someone said, maybe a real game like an Elder Scrolls, but not a NEW game that looks and plays old.

one_of_panda
one_of_panda

I usually do not care about graphics, but this game just looks like crap! But maybe the gameplay will help change my mind, but from the look of things i hingly doubt it.

KnightsofRound
KnightsofRound

The graphics in this game are horrendous. It's not hard to tell it's a port of a mobile game.

ChiefFreeman
ChiefFreeman

looks pretty slick. I want that little staff stylus! Jon Carmack is the man.

alchemda
alchemda

Played the Cellphone version and beat it. Really a great RPG, if your looking for a pretty fun RPG that'll keep you occupied for about 5 hours play time definitly pick this up! If I had a DS I'd pick this up just to play it with the nifty new graphics

Citan76
Citan76

This just makes me want a port of daggerfall to the ds.

conzar
conzar

A cell phone port on the DS ... come on . The gameplay video was painful to watch; let alone actually having to play this game ... yuk. I'll enjoy my zelda:ph with its great tech and graphics and leave this game where it belongs ... on the store shelf.

AL13NK1LL3R
AL13NK1LL3R

ahh man! that game look freakin sick!!! if it like oblivion then i'll be playin this for hours!!

GeekyDad
GeekyDad moderator

Deep Labyrinth 2.0? Nice to know that John Carmack goes to the bathroom too. Just didn't think he'd try to package and sell it.

xion2k4
xion2k4

just gimmie the stylus! keep the shoddy quick cash in port thank you very much !

buckeyegamer1
buckeyegamer1

I just want that stylus. It's the coolest part of the game and a gimmick that will work on me.

Wezker619
Wezker619

WTF is this! Im talking about that stylus it looks really lame.

everettlamb
everettlamb

This game reminds me of the old school ones for the PC, such as Eye of the Beholder and many more. I've got the cell phone version of this game and it is my top favorite. Looking forward to this game.

Jackmurphy5555
Jackmurphy5555

Nostalgia anyone??? Nausia too I always lose orientation in those hyper low res games

AlbertoML
AlbertoML

looking great, very old school :D

dryden555
dryden555

the graphics seem like they could be better than this ont he DS -- not sure about this one

xinxu36
xinxu36

I'm pumped for this game. I always love more RPGs for the DS.

e-racer22
e-racer22

This was never available for my cell phone but I played the demo online and really liked its old school flavor. I'm really excited about this being released. Not sure about that stylus though, looks a little rough on the end ... hate to scratch my DS.