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Zenonia 3 Review: High Energy Retread, Muddied By IAP

Last year, App Chronicles reviewed, and loved, Zenonia 2 from Gamevil. At the time, we gave it 4 1/2 stars and called it “the best on the platform” in terms of RPG play. But in the year since, a lot has happened in the App Store, and a lot of phenomenal RPG titles have released. Can a straight-up sequel to a retro-16 bit Korean RPG impress in 2011 the way that it did in 2010? In other words, has ZENONIA 3, the much anticipated sequel, evolved the way RPG gaming has on iOS?

Yes and no. On the one hand, Zenonia 3 is a lot like its predecessor. In some ways, Zenonia 3 reminds me of the recently released Chaos Rings Omega, which also covered familiar territory. Zenonia 3 isn’t quite so repetitious, however. It’s a straight up sequel, which begins with your character being told the legend of the 4 heroes who defeated evil in Zenonia 2 (and even visiting one of their graves). Soon after, you are sent off on a quest to — you guessed it — defeat evil. There’s a generic nature to the plot and setting that I complained about in Zenonia 2, and it’s here, too.

There’s nothing wrong with Zenonia 3’s core gameplay, in that it’s exactly the same kind of grindy, hyperkinetic dungeon-crawling RPG experience you had with Zenonia 2. There’s a big game world with plenty of boards and many monster types, but outside of bosses they all die the same way, more or less, and each class appears to be equipped to handle them equally well. The interface is still a bit small and fiddley, but they’ve spaced things out a bit differently and the result is a slightly easier to use interface. They’re still trying to fit a ridiculous about of things on screen at any one time, but they handle it pretty well.

The graphics seems tweaked from Zenonia 2, though they retain most of that SNES RPG feel and only occasionally. I’m not the biggest fan of the Korean RPG style, but I think the Zenonia series pulls it off well. The sound effects are about what you’d expect, with a chipset-esque soundtrack that will grate on you occasionally.

The problem with Zenonia 3 is that it’s still pretty much Zenonia 2, only more grind-y. It’s a game whose sole purpose seems to be moving a few feet, killing something, moving a few more feet, killing something, etc. Once in awhile there’s a lengthy cutscene, but all in all the game just sort of wears you down. That the power scale seems skewed doesn’t help. You will die a LOT in Zenonia 3.

This game also strongly features what is quickly becoming my least favorite part of the iOS gaming experience: persistent, annoying In-App Purchases. Recent games like DEAD SPACE and ORDER & CHAOS have had me grumbling about IAPs, once something I associated more with smurfberries than I did with quality gaming. The problem with Zenonia 3 is that, unlike in, say ORDER & CHAOS, where IAPs are mainly a way to get vanity pets and some slightly better gear at high levels, the IAPs in Zenonia 3 are a lot more important to the game. What you can buy as IAP are Zen Points, and Zen Points are the only way to buy some key items from vendors, items you will want as you play.

For example, one key item, the Origin of Life, is the only way to resurrect without a penalty; and the Origin of Life is like a rare purple treasure in-game. As in, you’ll want MANY of them since, as I said, you’ll die A LOT, but you’ll never seem to have any … unless you pay for more Zen Points. Yeah, it’s that lame. It’s like you’re punished in-game for not spending more money. The only way to really avoid this seems to be to get yourself to a higher level faster, which means spending even more time grinding in a game that already expects plenty of grind. Luckily, they have so-called “execution rooms” for just that purpose — rooms with no plot point, merely an excuse to grind.

Those who like RPGs and liked Zenonia 2, and who don’t mind the grind and the IAPs, will probably enjoy ZENONIA 3. While I personally liked much of my time with the game, the grinding and dying and punishment for dying (I refused to buy Origins as IAPs) soon wore me out. I sincerely hope Gamevil adjusts something about this game in the near future, because I really want to like it more than I do.

Our Score:  3.5 out of 5


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