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'Angry Birds Epic' Role-Playing Game Hits App Stores

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The latest installment in the massively popular "Angry Birds" series is available for download, but don't expect to topple piles of masonry onto unsuspecting pigs — this time you'll be swinging swords and casting spells. That's right, "Angry Birds Epic" is a role-playing game.

This change in direction, first announced in March, would be more baffling if Rovio, creator of the franchise, hadn't already gone off the physics-based puzzler path with things like "Angry Birds Go," a racing game starring the colorful crew of feathered friends.

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  Rovio

And despite its very different gameplay, "Epic" doesn't stray far from the nest when it comes to characters or plot. The dastardly pigs have stolen the eggs yet again, and it's up to you to get them back — the iconic red bird is now a knight, and is joined shortly by the yellow one (a wizard), and so on.

A few minutes in-game show it to be as bright and lively as others in the series, and about as open-ended — which is to say, not very. You'll be progressing along paths and battling preset groups of enemies, and you'll need to hoard resources to upgrade your helmets, shields, and so on.

 The game in action, left, and the overworld map, right. Rovio

Naturally, everything you need to advance is available in a handy in-game store for real money, and "friendship essence," donated via Facebook, of course, can be used to improve your gear as well. The game is free on iOS, Android, and Windows Phone — but whether you can keep it that way is less than certain.

In short, it's very much an "Angry Birds" game, even if it doesn't really look like it. But if you've tired of knocking over towers with carefully slingshotted birds, this could be a nice break — and it won't break the bank, either, if you don't mind putting in the time.

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