Monsters. Slimy ghouls. Lightsaber-wielding Knights Templar. And one vengeful trench coat-wearing vampire with guns, claws, and a trusty baseball bat. Mix them all together and you've got the dark, gothic backdrop of the online Flash version of Comic Book RPG's 2010 indie strategy-RPG title, Immortal Souls: Dark Crusade.
In Immortal Souls, you play John Turner, a reluctant vampire on an action-filled mission where he takes down hordes of impressively-animated enemies across eight story-filled chapters. The turn-based gameplay is similar to Bejeweled and Puzzle Quest, with a 4 x 3 grid of icons representing different colored attacks and defenses. Enemies have weaknesses to certain colored attacks, encouraging you to find specific patterns on the grid for maximum success. Clicking on chains of the same icons leads to longer, more powerful attacks, and is the key to winning battles against multiple enemies. Outside of the battles, there are also RPG elements that let you level up your character, add skills and attributes, and purchase equipment to strengthen your attacks.
While much remains the same from the downloadable version, Immortal Souls now features multiple enhancements. One of the biggest updates is the new character class system. There are three classes (Warrior, Scoundrel, and Manipulator) to choose from at the onset that grant your character various powers to manipulate the 4 x 3 icon grid. These manipulations (called "Tech Skills") prove essential during battles whenever the random layout of the grid deals you a bad hand. Some Tech Skills let you reshuffle the layout, while others add bonus chain icons or make normal attacks more powerful. In addition to these Tech Skills, there are also special power icons on the grid that let you combine different colors in chains, leading to some awesome combos. Players of the original will also note that now enemies can sometimes miss, healing and defense can be chained like attacks, and animations feel faster and smoother.
Analysis: This new version of Immortal Souls, with its updates and additions, feels much more refined and a lot more fun. Some elements, like the graphics and animations, still shine in their original hand-painted comic-book look, while the story is now less complicated and the action feels more fair. I especially like the class system, with its Tech Skills that can turn the tide in your favor when all seems lost. The new achievement system also makes fighting through the repetitive rounds of enemies feel more compelling.
At the same time, certain issues still remain. There's still no way to exit battles early, and the game's over-emphasis on earning gold trophies by beating enemies quickly doesn't have much of a payoff. It would have also been neat to see enemies perform attacks that affect your icon grid, as is done in games like Puzzle Quest. Regardless, with its new layers of features and streamlined, turn-based action, Immortal Souls has become a more accessible title for the casual gaming public... one you shouldn't be afraid to sink your teeth into.