Sdorica Sunset (Free) by Rayark is a role-playing game with dashes of strategy and matching-puzzles. If you enjoyed other games like Terra Battle 2 or Fire Emblem Heroes, then you’ll get a kick out of Sdorica.
Rayark is a fairly popular developer, and they’ve made some other great games like Cytus (I reviewed the sequel), Implosion – Never Lose Hope, and VOEZ. I’ve played most of their releases so far, and have thoroughly enjoyed them. They pump out quality games, so when I saw that Sdorica was a role-playing game, I knew I had to check it out. Even though it’s a free-to-play title, it does things incredibly well, and the usual annoyances with F2P games is not found here, surprisingly.
Visually, Sdorica is one of the most beautiful F2P games I’ve seen, but I’m not surprised since this is Rayark, after all. Sdorica has a heavily anime-inspired art style that JRPG fans will appreciate. The game is packed with anime cutscenes that reveal the story in each chapter, and the character sprites during gameplay are rather cute and “kawaii,” as they say. The character renderings for gacha pulls and portraits are incredibly stylized and detailed, and the game world is stunning, no matter what quest you’re doing. Animations are smooth and fluid during scenes and gameplay, and I didn’t have many issues with choppy frame rates on my iPhone 8 Plus. However, I did notice that there’s a bit of a lag when going through the menus, and there’s more loading screens than I’d like.
Aside from art and gameplay, one of the other reasons I enjoyed playing JRPGs back in the day was for the soundtracks. Sdorica has a whimsical and atmospheric soundtrack that fits in with the entire fantasy theme, and helps set up the mood and tone of each story chapter. It’s a delightful soundtrack to listen to, so I recommend using earbuds to be fully immersed. Sdorica also features Japanese voice acting for the spoken dialogue, which I enjoyed. All of this put together makes Sdorica feel like a AAA title, which is surprising since it’s free and quite frankly, packed with content.
When you start up Sdorica, you may have to download some game data before you’re able to dive in. This can take a few minutes depending on your connection speed, but it’s well worth it. Sdorica features a tutorial in the beginning that walks you through the ropes of how the game works, and new element menus, but once you get started, it’s hard to stop. Plus, that game data download is pretty large because there’s a ton of content available from the get-go, and the best part is that there is no energy system. Yes, you can play this game as much as you want during each session without having to worry about running out of energy and timers. For a free-to-play game, that’s pretty much unheard of.
Most of your time will probably be spent in Sdorica’s story mode, but there are special events, ability and training quests, and region exploration missions. However, regardless of which mode you play, the setup is still the same. You pick your team from your available roster (characters can be unlocked through the story or earned from gacha pulls), and then head into battle. Each stage consists of about three waves of enemies that you must defeat before the stage is cleared. While it sounds easy, Sdorica’s unique gameplay mechanic breathes some fresh life into the tried-and-true turn-based formula.
Each character in your roster may only be assigned to one of three positions in battle. When you tap on the spot you want to fill, it shows you which characters can go there. Sometimes though, like in certain story and event missions, certain characters must take part, so that slot becomes locked. But if there’s no lock, then you’re free to choose who you like.
Sdorica’s roster is a mix of magic users, damage dealers, and tanks. So ideally, the magic users go in the back, the damage dealers in the middle, and the tanks up in the front lines. You can even have up to two advisors, which are extra slots for a character but they just have unique advisor abilities, rather than take part in the battles themselves.
Battle in Sdorica is an interesting mashup of turn-based RPG combat and match-three puzzle. At the bottom of the screen will be two rows of colored orbs (white, purple, and orange). You can tap on a single orb or gather up two or four (in a square formation) with a swiping gesture to have one of your team members perform an action. The action depends on who you’re using, but actions are always a melee or magic attack, support moves, or healing. Before you make a match, the game tells you who will do the action and what they’ll be doing.
Enemies have number counters on them — this is the number of moves you can make before they attack. Sometimes they’ll also have unique traits or abilities, and you can view this information by long-pressing on them. If an ally falls in battle, don’t worry — you can still resurrect them by getting enough resurrection orbs. But you won’t lose them permanently, thankfully, and they still get experience if you win.
Once you clear out all of the waves, then that quest is cleared and you’ll get your loot. Each completed stage nets experience for your team members, as well as your own Watcher level. There may be other rewards, such as character minerals for evolving them, crystals (premium currency), or soul energy.
The Soul Energy is what you need to “invest” in your roster, raising their level up to become more potent in battle. If you have all of the required materials, you’re able to “resonate” them, which means evolving into their next form. The crystals are used for the “infuse” section, where you can take a chance with character pulls or get materials.
Sdorica is an excellent mobile JRPG that is rich in story and has unique gameplay. The graphics are also beautiful, insanely detailed, and character designs are amazing to look at. The music is well done, and the voice acting is just icing on the cake. Even though this is a free game, there are no ads, no limitations on how long you can play, and there’s ample opportunity to get the premium currency without paying a dime. It’s also jam packed with content, so I can safely say that this is one game that I will be playing for some time.
There’s a lot of good stuff to be found in Sdorica, but I found the slight delay between menu selections and loading times to be a tad annoying. Sometimes I think the game froze, but it’s just taking it’s time with my selection is all. Hopefully this slight delay is fixed in future updates to be more responsive. Still, it’s a small nitpick I have with the game, but it’s tolerable considering how good it is.
While I’m not usually a fan of free-to-play RPGs, I think Sdorica is one of the exceptions. Rayark did a fantastic job with this one, from the visual art style and sound to the interesting battle mechanic and tons of content for free, no strings attached. They also give you a ton of goals to complete for free premium currency, so the in-app purchases for more are more like a way to say thanks to the developers for making such a good game. It’s completely optional and not necessary to play the game, but I can see myself spending a few bucks in the future to just support Sdorica. I highly recommend giving this game a chance if you’re a fan of JRPGs.