Ikenfell is a modern-day turn-based RPG with a retro look and feel. It’s got fantastic writing and the combat is as interesting as it is challenging. It’s available on pretty much every platform, so if you like retro-feeling RPGs then you should check this one out.
There are obvious comparisons with Harry Potter and that universe. The protagonist is Magritte who’s looking for her sister Safina. Magritte is a regular person, whereas her sister is pretty much the star of Ikenfell School of Magic. Ikenfell itself has been shut down while the search goes on. Magritte thinks she’s just a regular person, however, as they search for her sister goes on its revealed she in fact does have powers and abilities like her sister.
This is a coming of age story where Magritte starts to understand and accept who she is as well as find out some new information about her sister through the stories told throughout the narrative of the game. Ikenfell is striking and grabs your attention from the start. All of the characters, especially Magritte and Safina are told really well but there’s a collection of supporting characters that certainly play their part. Many of the cast are gay, trans and some are trying to find their way and place in this world which now seems to be under attack from a strange force or forces.
The narrative is strong in Ikenfell, however, complimenting that is a turn-based RPG battle system that’ll keep you on your toes from the start and throughout. The battle system is set on a grid and you’ll be able to position yourself before attacking or choosing an item. Much like classical turn-based RPGs as you progress you can level up your characters to unlock higher tiers of magical powers and abilities.
As you rank up you’ll open up various new spells and these can lead to some nice (and powerful) area of effect damage. This has to be taken into account when you position your characters in battle. When you first start out things are simple enough, you’ll have a straight forward fire attack with Magritte. As you grow stronger and the spells become more potent then-new AOE come into play, which opens up the ability to attack in different shapes and across a number of tiles at once. Later on in the game, you’ll have the ability to add new party members too for an all-out onslaught against your foes… but you’ll have to master the basics first.
The battle system is one of the standout features in the game which makes the tactical battling and positioning to get max damage on as many enemies as possible great fun. There’s also a nice timing mechanic added into the mix, where you have to press the button at exactly the right time for more damage, mixing up the attack styles and adding a little variation to the play.
One thing you have to be careful of when it comes to the battle system is you can damage your own teammates and party. Pay attention to where you’re laying down the attacks because you don’t want to weaken your own team too much with a mistake. The AI in the game is super smart too with bigger teams working in harmony with one another – 2 pairs attack and 2 pairs heal and defend, making your life very difficult and keeping the challenge up as you progress through the game. The boss mechanics aren’t always obvious either, engaging the brain into finding out the tactics to damage the boss. There’s definitely a good challenge in for all range of players.
The battle system has a certain level of depth meaning it’s easy to pick up and get into, but it’ll take some time to master. There’s a good range of enemies to face off against in where you’ll be engaging in the battle system. Each enemy has its own attacks and magic to learn and understand. The range of enemies and combined with varied attack patterns means you’re going to need to get up to speed very quickly to be successful. I didn’t mind this so much as it kept things fresh, but this could probably be seen as frustrating to some, so I can understand it if you felt that way. It wasn’t a major issue, but I do think it’s something to be aware of.
If the game does start to feel a little bit tricky the developers have worked in some nice features so you can quickly progress if that’s what you want to do. There’s a ‘win button’ for all battles meaning you can forego all battles instantly if that’s what you want to do, and you’ll still be able to level up doing this. This could be for a player who simply wants to steam through the game and get all the story and move on. It did seem a little too much for me, but there’s another nice feature where you can get some help with the timing mechanic. It can be set to manual, semi-auto or auto. This is good if you don’t want to have to concentrate on that mechanic, which speeds things up a little but maintains a certain level of challenge.
The graphics in Ikenfell are pixel art retro-style, which I absolutely love as I came from the NES and SNES era of gaming. When I think of Final Fantasy I know some people think of the original FFVII, but I think of FFVI and how beautiful that game was. This has all the beauty and charm of a mid-90s RPG, and the audio design and soundtrack are fantastic too.
I played the game on Xbox Game Pass for PC. For me, this is the perfect case for Xbox Game Pass. I’d heard about Ikenfell but wasn’t sure about diving in on Nintendo Switch or Steam. As I have Xbox Game Pass I instantly had access to this little gem, and much like games before Ikenfell I’m glad I had the opportunity to play it.
Ikenfell is a great turn-based RPG with a really interesting battle system that has depth and requires skill and patience to master. The game gets into you quickly and keeps you playing with a great story, interesting characters and multiple battles. Old school RPG players with recognising some of the classic systems that match the graphics, but things have been brought up to the modern-day too with neat improvements and the difficulty system and ability to skip things if you want to add variety for players meaning they can play the game the way they want to play. It’s a great little game with magic and mystery, and something you should try out today!
Developer: Chevy Ray Johnston
Platforms: Nintendo Switch, PC, Xbox One, PS4, Mac
Release date: 8th October 2020