Mobile Infamy: Arcane Legends Review

Mobile Infamy covers new and reviews for mobile and handheld games. For mobile games, MI covers primarily Android Games, as my distrust of all things Apple is prolific and well documented.

Arcane Legends Review

Mobile Infamy Reviews Arcane Legends
Developer: Spacetime Studios
Business Model: Free-to-Play, In-App purchases
Google Play: Arcane Legends
iTunes: Arcane Legends
BONUS Chrome: Arcane Legends 
Rating: 3 out of 3 Stars 
Wildly Awesome 
 
Pros:
  • Fun-game play mechanics
  • Like Diablo on your phone
  • Pet system is fresh and fun
Cons
  • Gameplay can be a little stale if you are veteran MMO player
  • Story is a little lackluster and overly reliant on fantasy tropes
  • The music is repetitious and got annoying very quickly.
 

Overview

It was only a matter of time before I touched a SpaceTime Studios title.  They moved into the Mobile MMO market like gang busters and haven’t looked back.  Arcane Legends is their 4th title in the “Legends” franchise, proceeded by Pocket Legends, Star Legends, and Dark Legends.  Hardly a studio to be resting on their laurels, STS has been iterating and polishing their design since the launch of Pocket Legends, and it shows.

Arcane Legends has 3 classes choose from which are standard fare for any fantasy game…ever: A Fast, stealthy rogue, a spell caster, and a beefy melee fighter.  I went with the rogue, as I am wont to do in any MMO, and I named her Ocanabe (a randomly generated name).  Like Pocket Legends before it, your class determines your gender.  The Warrior is male, the rogue is female and the mage is … blue. In keeping with fantasy tropes, the warrior is huge, the rogue adventures in lingerie, and the mage is …. still blue.

When you start you choose one of three pets with bonus that relate to the 3 classes.  As you play through the game, you can collect more pets as you adventure, and the collection of all the pets is one of the gameplay elements.  Instead of being just a visual shiny for your character, they actually provide a benefit.  They run around and collect gold the gold that drops for you, they attack enemies and most beneficial, they provide a buff to the player.  Which buff you get depends on the pet that you are adventuring with at that time, and they vary across all the different pets.

Your pet levels up as well from adventuring with you.   I should note, that while the pets do attack, the damage it deals is not likely to be the deciding factor in any sizeable fight.  Generally, you pick the pet for the buffs it provides the character.  I think of them best like the totems the shaman used to have in WoW.  Yeah, they did damage, but you picked them up for the buffs not the damage.  The pets are still shiny and collectible, and collect all of them is one of the elements of the game.  Currently, there are just shy of 40 pets.

There’s also a fun mechanic that reminds of the Tamagotchi with your pets.  You need to feed and play with your pet to keep it happy.  If it’s happiness falls too low, it stops producing buffs, and it’s damage goes down too.  So it’s definitely in your best interest to keep your pets happy and well-fed.  You feed it by paying gold, which is the standard currency in the game.  Your pets happiness directly correlates to how effective it is in the game.

The actual game-play is rewarding too.  In a Diablo hack-n-slash style, you run around and kill baddies, complete quests, collect gear, save the weak and innocent – the whole nine yards.  The towns have larger numbers of players in them and feel like a typical MMO city would, but the actual zones where you could encounter baddies is capped at 4 players, including yourself.  Generally, when you are adventuring you have a 2-3 other people on the map with you which are randomly placed there as you both enter the zone.  If you party up with friends or guild mates, you all stick together.

Arcane Legend’s business model comes into play with some of the “nice-to-haves” we take for granted in other games.  For example, you only get a certain number of health and mana potions–once you use them up, you have to fork out platinum, the premium currency, to get more.  Same goes for being to resurrect at the same spot you died at, instead of going back to a spawn point, and running all the way back to where you died.  It’s little things like this throughout the game that make you want to pay money without ruining the game-play experience if you don’t, and that’s a great thing to see.  You also use the platinum currency to purchase extra character slots, as you only get 1 when you start the game.

Pros

The gameplay is solid and fun.  The pet system as more than just a vanity item provides more to do in game than just slaughter bad guys willy-nilly.  I’m a neurotic collector (I have a love/hate relationship with Pokemon), so I have to curb the urge to get all the pets available in the game.  The combat system is solid, if a lacking a bit of inventiveness and it sticks to the tried and true–what STS knows works.  Hard to fault them for that.

The graphics are surprisingly nice — especially on a mobile.  The bigger screen on the chrome version starts to show the pixelation a little bit, but again, nothing major.  The game still looks good, the character animations are solid, and the environments are beautiful.  All in all, it’s hard to find much of a fault with the game as it is.

As for the premium currency and in-app purchases, I think STS has found a nice balance between ‘nice-to-have’ and ‘must-have’ premium items.  I found myself wanting to spend money not so that I could be better in game, but so I didn’t have to run places, or could heal myself, etc.  It’s a good balance to that I don’t feel like I have to pay to get an enjoyable experience out of the game.

Cons

That being said, being the prolific gamer that I am, I found the game to be tried and true, but a little tired and stale too.  The pet system is refreshing, but the steadfast devotion to fantasy tropes, a lackluster story and a combat system that while effective has been done into the ground lead the game to feel a little ‘done’.  It’s a good thing when the biggest cons of the game are that it does everything well, but feels a little bit stale.

Finally, the music drove me nuts.  I have it muted every time I play.  It’s not that the music is poorly done, it’s just very repetitious and grates on my nerves…alot.  I felt myself feeling like “The Song That Doesn’t end…” was going on and on and on.  The mute button is my friend.

Final Thoughts

Arcane Legends is a solid game.  There’s a lot to like about it, and it’s clear that STS is doing everything it can to improve upon the mobile MMO experience and provide a well polished, solidly designed game.  The cash shop is well designed to make me want to fork out some cash without compromising the game play.  My biggest complaint is that the combat is stale and the story and character design are trope-y, which are minor quibbles when compared with the overall quality of Arcane Legends.

Overall, it’s free — there’s not a reason in the world to not give it a try.

Google PlayArcane Legends
iTunes: Arcane Legends
BONUS ChromeArcane Legends 

Mobile Infamy: Happy Street Review

Mobile Infamy Reviews cover mobile and handheld games. For mobile, MI only cover Android games, as my distrust of all things Apple-related is prolific and well documented.

Happy Street Review

Happy Street screenshot, from Godzila Labs

Developer: Godzilab Games
Business Model: Free / InApp Purchases for $.99 and Up
Google Play: Happy Street
iTunes: Happy Street
Rating: 2.50 out of 3 Stars 1/2 Awesome-sauce

Overview

Happy Street is a unique game for Android and iOS systems. The premise of the game is simple–a young fox named Billy is wandering through the forest and decides that this particular spot would make a good place for a street. You build houses and shops and decorations, and people inexplicably move in, and start driving down your street, which is in the middle of the forest. You earn money from the shops, and restocking the goods in the shops is what grants you experience. Levels in the game are used as a mechanism to lock to certain builds till later in the game, and outside of that has no influence on game play. There’s some minor resource managing, and as with most mobile games, time is your primary resource. Many of the later items in game can take many hours to complete, the only way to speed them up being the in-game premium currency, ‘Flooz’. I’m not sure where they got the name for that. Flooz is also what you have to have expand your street. You start out with just a little stretch of road, and gradually expand it. The cost to expand increases each time. Luckily, you can earn flooz in game without having to purchase it — there are mini-games like a slot machine that you can play once per day that grant you at least one flooz, and visiting friends and helping them also grants you a flooz. So if you have a bunch of friends all playing at the same time (it uses Facebook to find friends), flooz might not be a big deal. If you don’t … you’ll probably end up forking over some cash to progress. Continue reading “Mobile Infamy: Happy Street Review”

Ouya has the potential to Change the Video Game Industry

I originally posted this article over at my personal tumblr, Loud and Pithy a few days ago and thought it might be good to have on here as well.  To see the original post- check out here. 

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So I saw this thing a few days ago, and thought “Huh, that’s a nifty idea…” and left it at that. I didn’t really dig into it because … I don’t know, it was interesting to me, but not overly much. I’m primarily an MMO gamer these days, and while I still rock out some other games, I spend most of my time in MMOs. I loathe mobile games. Not because mobile games are as a genre bad, but just because they never seem to think about the game beyond the quickest and sleeziest way to separate me from my money. Of course there are exceptions to this, but by-and-large, this is the primary type of game you will find on either Android or iOS. 

So looking at a console platform, built on Android, I immediately thought the same which is probably why I went “Huh, neat.” and moved on with life. But it happened to come across my feed that Ouya set a Kickstarter record. I thought “Huh, neat again.” and moved on with life. Then, a day later, I saw that it had made an ridiculous amount of money, to the tune of about $4million in funding, just 2 days after the project launched on Kickstarter. 

Ok, NOW you have my attention. I did some digging and some reading, and realized that Ouya has potential for more than just the stupid, give-me-your-money-NAO! GluMobile type of game (Full Disclosure: I hate GluMobile, so my perception of them will be likewise somewhat biased). Ouya is working to get some big name games ported over to the platform and with the amount of interest generated here, and a sizeable install base BEFORE launch, I think they’ll get some big publishers to bite. Simultaneously, new development will be a huge portion of the platform too, as each and every console will ship with the free SDK, and there’s no complicated licensing procedures to go through to get your game on the market for people to try. And everything has to be free-to-play (for a portion of the game, anyway — this piece makes me a bit nervous). 

Overall, the business plan seems solid in theory, but the actual implementation will be the deciding factor. I for one, think that this platform has a lot of potential to upset what is quickly becoming a stagnant industry. While it’s been brewing for a while, there’s been a pretty marked increase in the dissatisfaction with the game industry in recent years (more on this in an upcoming post). I think that if Ouya executes well, it has a the potential to sooth that pain point for a lot of modern gamers. 

As I read more information about the platform and it’s vision, I see lots of similarities between Ouya and Steam, Xbox Live Arcade, and Playstation Network (or whatever they call it now-a-days). Those platforms have been wildly successful because they allow development of games on much smaller budgets (and occasionally, astronomical profits). Ouya sort of bridges the gap between the console indie dev market and the steam indie market — it’s a console indie market, but instead of the licensing and exclusivity deals that comes with the current generation of consoles, it’s much more open and developer friendly – like Steam. 

They’ve got a ton of crowd funding, and as such, a ton of support from gamers. But gamers are fickle and demanding mistresses. I’ll be interested to see how they progress the platform and manage the gamer expectations over the next few months.

Review: Bug Village

It’s ironic that my first game review is only happening because the game is question isn’t even really a game.  I think what bothered me the most is that this advert is just more or less a thinly veiled attempt to weasel you out of your money or make you sign up for services to earn the in-game currency.  This isn’t a game, this is software that’s designed to print money.

The Good: Beautiful graphics, fun music, engage mechanics (for the first twenty minutes or so)
The Bad: The game requires that you continually spend money to continue to progress at anything beyond a snail’s pace; a geriatric snail’s pace.

The game starts out like many other strategy games, with kind of a god-of-the-bugs vibe going on.  It reminded me lightly of Populous.  You start off with a basic tutorial walk you though building houses, piles, and gathering food.  To get more bugs, you must have housing for the bugs.  To get more housing, you must have piles to generate one of the two resources in the game, Acorns.  Acorns are used to build more piles, to get more buildings, to get more ants to work more piles to get more acorns to … I totally forgot why I was doing this again.

As you complete the mini-objectives, you level up, which raises the cap for the total number of builds that you can have.  The real kick of the game though is that there are gold coins which serve partially the same purpose as the Acorns, but also have the added benefit of speeding everything in the game up.  For example, when building a new house, normally it would take an hour to build.  Real time…OR you can pay 1 gold coin and complete it immediately.

The same goes for your piles–which you build as a structure, and then have to put ants to work in to generate more Acorns.  Again, you can speed up both the completion of the building as well as the production of the Acorns by using gold coins (in varying amounts).  The kicker is–there is no in-game way to earn these coins.  You get a certain number when you start, and the only way to earn more is to complete “offers.”  This part reminds me so much of the gimmicky “Complete 5 offers and get a free laptop!” scams, that I was immediately turned off.

However, throughout the tutorial, the game gives you coins to spend to speed up the process, and then refunds them at the end of the tutorial, which is where you have your 20 or so coins upon starting the game.  What this does is shows you how fast the game *could* go with coins, making just letting the time run out when building things seem painfully long.  Thus, making it so that you complete offers or spend real money to buy coins.

You can earn coins by directly buying them through the game and Google Check out (at not that great of a conversion, truth be told) or complete offers in the game to earn coins, such as signing up for Netflix, GameFly, downloading certain games off of the Android Market (note: there was no requirement to actually play the game, just to install it.)  It looks to me like they are basically trying to pad the number of downloads for certain android market games and get referral kick backs for the Netflix and GameFly services.  (I’m purely speculating on this–nothing I’ve said should constitute anything more than pure conjecture on my part.)

In my opinion, the game is downright unplayable without continuously paying.  As you advance in levels and get more advanced buildings, it takes longer to complete the buildings or complete the tasks for getting your resources  from the piles.  Like, 24hrs to 48hrs kinda long.  You can still rush the building or tasks with coins, but the longer the task, the more coins (approx. 1 gold coin per hour, near as I can tell).  So yah, those 20-some aught coins that you start with go fast.  Then, the pace of the game hits the proverbial wall.

I think it wouldn’t be bad if you had a way to earn those coins in game, even at a much slower rate (like 1 coin every 12hrs or some such).  As it stands, you can’t without offloading a ton of money, the game slams into a brick wall and loses its charm pretty quickly.  What could have been a fun, interesting game falls woefully short in GluMobile’s mad-grab for money.