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 

Tera goes F2P in February

Tera goes f2p
Tera Image

Well, I don’t think anyone can say they didn’t see this one coming — Tera is going F2p (Free to play) come February.  The game has suffered from low subscription numbers since launch, and with the game going F2P in other regions, it’s no surprise that’s going that way here state-side.

The game launched in May of 2012 to mixed reviews.  The game featured some promising innovations, like active combat instead of tab-targeted action bar button mashing and an interesting political system.  The games new features were fun, but were quickly buried under the repetitive game play and grind-y level experience.  Ultimately, it’s this grind-y experience that cause most people to leave the game.

Tera has some stunning visuals and the game play is fun, but if the game hopes to continue to have even a niche market, the F2P is a no-brainer.  I jumped in over the weekend to discover my account had been reactivated, and I picked up my level 30-ish Mystic.  The game play is still great fun, but I’m wondering how long I could play again before the grind starts to get to me again.

Hopefully this move will help turn the game around for En Masse and Blue Hole.  Diversity is always a great problem to have, and the game has a ton of potential, but they definitely need to fix the overly grind-y feeling of the game.  Hopefully, as Tera goes F2p, they can build enough revenue to fix some of the issues with the game.

 

Via: Massively – Tera Going Free to Play in February 

Official Site: Tera 

 

My Response to Robin Kaminsky on Free-to-Play

This appears in the comments of section of Free-to-Play Is The ‘New Frontier of Western Game Development,’ says Former Activision VP — written by me.  Thought I’d re-post here cause I wrote a lot.  

Edit: Yah, totally forgot a title — whoops

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Alright – so I have a lot of problems with this article.  First off, it reeks of hype.  The arguments about emotional attachment stable economies — basically everything she attributes to the Free-to-Play model also applies to the console and traditional PC markets that she minimizes.  The emotional hooks, the hours of game-play that she cites as being solely the realm of free-to-play, stating in no uncertain terms that she sees the traditional market as flawed because no developer cares about their product after the initial purchase.

This view of the traditional market is over-simplified and in my opinion–flawed.  Gamers are a notoriously noisy and close knit community with long memories and a propensity for prejudices.  If a developer wants to be successful beyond the first game — they can’t treat the product as if they don’t care about the product after the sale–and I think you would be hard-pressed to find a traditional developer who treats their games as “done” after they are purchased.  Games would never be patched, new content would ever be developed for these games.  Similarly, if a developer really doesn’t care about the game beyond the initial sale, the product is likely to be a lot “hype” and not a lot of content — meaning that gamers will likely not purchase from that developer again in the future ion their investment in the game doesn’t pay off. T

Kaminsky’s problem here is that she views each game as an island – not as a part of a greater whole within the developer/gamer ecosystem.  No developer can succeed by pushing inferior products with lots of hype–especially in the game industry.  Reviewers are notoriously unforgiving, and many gamers take reviews as canon of a game’s playability and value.  Bad reviews of a game can spell doom for the developer.

Obviously there’s a ton going on here — way more than I can write in here that determines a game’s success, but the idea I’m trying to drive home is that Kaminsky is oversimplifying a vastly complicated and dynamic system with one that developers only need to care about first sale.

True, she pays homage to a few of the biggest names in gaming, such as Epic, Blizzard, etc  – but only mentions the juggernauts – none of the successful small – to mid sized devs who have created successful games, like Minecraft, for the Magicka games or Funcom just to name a few (Funcom is a debatable as to whether it’s mid-sized dev or not … it’s definitely on the upper edge).

Now on to actual Free-to-Play models – this is insanely difficult to do well, on this Kaminsky and I agree.  However, the primary difference is that Kaminsky defines the Free-to-Play model by the few successes (Such as Team Fortress 2), which in reality the shovelware far far exceeds the successful Free-to-Play models.  If we take a look for a second at a company like GluMobile, which I think that Kaminsky and I might actually disagree on their success.  GluMobile makes F2P games, most of which are somewhat successful.  One in particular is “BugVillage” which I already wrote about on my blog, but basically the game is borderline unplayable without paying.  In my utterly anecdotal experiences, and those of my colleagues, this is par for the course with F2P games.

 In my mind, a free-to-play game needs to be playable the free way, without purchases.  The purchases should augment the experience, not be required for the experience at all.  In the BugVillage review I wrote, I make the argument the ONLY way to enjoyably play the game was to pay a not-insignificant amount of money.  And this is EXACTLY why I think that the F2P model is near impossible to do well.

Finally, I have some ideaological issues with the majority of the F2P models–that being they are too focused on making money.  As with most things that attract mainstream attention, F2P models have become, with the help of new concepts like gamification, the next “get-rich quick” thing.  This has the effect of shifting the focus of creating a good game that people want to play, to using shady psychological techniques to urge people to play and pay without any real substance to justify the urge.  A good game will create lots of emotional connections and drive through engaging story, appropriate pacing, balanced game-play, and challenging game mechanics.

 Most F2P games, again I’ll use BugVillage as my case study, use game mechanics designed to be keep the gamer playing through underhanded psychological exploits.  In BugVillage, I played, creating my village and felt the urge to spend money to make things goes faster, or so I could get things quicker.  There was no story, no mechanic, no emotional tie-in other than my hate of waiting.   Even EA’s “The Sim’s Social” does this – just better.  They have quests with a slight storyline the drive the game forward, and the waiting within the Sims Social caps out at approximately an hour.  While annoying, I can easily occupy myself for an hour to go to do something else.  The game is playable without paying — and it’s engaging for a bit.  Now, I didn’t play for long because the game just doesn’t have the depth of play I need, but it was enjoyable for about a month of very light (approx. 10min) play time per day.

But ultimately (and traditional games are NOT exempt from this at all), there’s been a shift away from making good games, to making games that make money.  These two things are not at all mutually exclusive, there are plenty of good games that make lots of money.  I think the difference is that there’s a new focus on primarily making money, and making a game second.  This is a subtle distinction between wanting to make a game and make money; it’s also a distinction one that I’m not prepared to expound upon right now.

For the TL:DR crowd : free to play games are hard to do well, and the result of a lot of hype of people trying to get rich quick.  They can and have been done well, but I think of them as flavor of the month, and not a frontier of gaming.