Hack and slash dungeon crawlers are a dime a dozen. I remember playing that genre as far back and Gauntlet. It’s a genre as old as any, and some of my favorite games happen to reside in that genre (Diablo, Baldur’s Gate).
In truth, a good tablet would be the perfect “console” of choice for the genre. It’s the sort of thing where looting and killing monsters would be a great way to pass the time on a subway or bus ride home. And with the graphical prowess of many tablets these days, you could easily have something that looks nearly as good as a console or PC version.
Arcane Legends is a hack and slash/MMORPG that has a number of entertaining concepts, and ends up being a fun game, albeit with a few issues. First off, I’m not a big fan on-screen controller overlays. I know I’ve mentioned this many times before, but replicating a d-pad and buttons on a touch screen simply does not work. This is why I was so excited to check out so many mobile controllers at PAX; I’m really, REALLY not a fan of touch controllers.
As it stands, Arcane Legends uses an on screen controller overlay. I almost wonder if the game would have controlled better if the Spacetime Studios went with tap mechanic instead, but I digress. Once I got past the touch controller, however, things started to liven up.
AL is by no means a flawless game and certainly has its fair share of issues. What I can safely admit to is AL being a lot of fun. As a MMORPG dungeon crawler, you can hook with three other players to form a party at any given time. The process for doing so is extremely simple; at any given moment, your screen is filled with other players. You can select any other player on the screen and invite them to your party. On the flipside, you will also get a bunch of party invites as well.
[quote_right]If you like playing by yourself, which I tend to prefer, you’re going to still be stuck rubbing elbows with everyone else.[/quote_right]While this makes “partying up” very simple, it also causes some problems as well, especially in terms of what you see on the screen. Because all the players who are playing at any given time are represented on screen in real-time, you’re going to deal with a lot of players at once. Players just sort of mish-mash together on screen, whether you’re in a party or not. If you like playing by yourself, which I tend to prefer, you’re going to still be stuck rubbing elbows with everyone else. Others will take your kills and generally just be in your way. Imagine the difficulties in sorting everything out if you are actually dealing with a party, and having everyone else shoved onto the screen as well.
This gives rise to another problem: variety. Having so many characters on-screen at once wouldn’t be a problem if players could customize their characters in a unique manner; but as it stands, there is virtually nothing to differentiate one character from another. If you choose a Warrior, for instance, than you’re stuck with a tiny amount of options. The overall build and look of each class is pretty much the same across the board, with only minor variations.
Imagine being in a battle with 10 other Warriors that all look the same, with each player’s name above the character taking up valuable screen space, all going after the same enemies….oh, and none of them are in a party with you. It’s quite a cluster, to be sure.
In addition to the repetitive playable characters, the game is also burdened with a number of repetitive enemy types as well. Chances are once you’ve seen one enemy type, then you will see it again over, and over, and over, and over. In fact, during my first few hours with the game, I actually thought there was only one enemy type.
In terms of combat, you have one standard attack button on the bottom right corner surrounded by a number of special attack buttons. I assume the purpose of this was to make things as simplistic as possible; after all, no one likes to be burdened with too many buttons on a touch screen. Truthfully, I appreciate how simple it is; it’s just after a while, mashing what essentially amounts to one button over and over can only be so fun.
A unique feature that AL offers is the ability to have a pet follow you around. You faithful pal can also do things such as retrieve items and assist you with attacks. It almost reminds me a bit of the dog Shadow from Dead to Rights. It’s nice to have a little something extra in there to spice up the gameplay a bit.
[quote_left]These are games that I like to describe as gateway drugs. Many core gamers would never look twice at these games, but your casual smartphone obsessed neighbor may love them.[/quote_left]This leads me once again to the core gamer vs casual gamer argument. Who is this game aimed at? Each audience will have a drastically different opinion of the game, one that can actually change a decent experience into a poor one. By virtue of Arcane Legends releasing for mobile devices, one could almost argue that it’s immediately a casual game. There are many out there that will go to their graves before ever admitting that any mobile title could ever be considered “core” (I tend to disagree with that line of though; games like Modern Combat or Shadowgun have more than proved their “coreness,” so to speak).
However, I believe that Arcane Legends IS targeted at the casual gamer, and I believe that it is here to serve a purpose. You have your casual gamers that play stuff like Angry Birds, Cut the Rope, or Fruit Ninja. These are games that I like to describe as gateway drugs. Many core gamers would never look twice at these games, but your casual smartphone obsessed neighbor may love them. This may be the only exposure to a video game that they have. Perhaps after playing Fruit Ninja over and over, they crave for something new…something different.
What better way to introduce a time tested PC and console genre like a hack and slash? It’s a great way to get someone who wouldn’t consider themselves a gamer to be a gamer. Start them out slow and steady, and see if they take the bait, so to speak.
For someone who has played Diablo, Baldur’s Gate, etc. Arcane Legends probably won’t impress. It feels too like something that “could have been,” and ends up feeling unfinished. There’s not enough options and far too much repetition. Combat is too simplistic, and while that makes things easier in terms of control, it makes for a game that gets boring very quickly. The multiplayer element is a nice touch, but ends up being way too cluttered.
However, if you’re somewhat of a newcomer to games like this, then there is a fun experience to be had. It’s simplistic enough to learn right away, yet offers a more in-depth gaming experience than your stereotypical “casual” mobile game. If you’re craving something more than just flinging birds around or madly swiping your finger on a screen to slice at virtual fruit, then give Arcane Legends a shot. You can play with other people and dungeon crawl to your heart’s desire. Who knows, maybe you’ll like what you see and want to try some more.