The ‘Legends’ continue – this time with a few less furries, blood-suckers, or laser beams.
Spacetime Studios is a household name when it comes to mobile MMOs. Pocket Legends broke new ground and raised many bars for future online mobile games. Star Legends expanded the features of the first title and tried to capitalize on the studio’s previous work on Black Star. Dark Legends brought a more adult, bloody theme to the franchise that dabbled a bit too much into limited “energy” and other freemium tricks (that the studio later removed due to community feedback). Arcane Legends feels very much like a part of the Legends series of games, both in it’s features and flaws, and that’s not a bad thing at all.
As Chief Visionary Office, Cinco Barnes, said in our interview a few weeks ago, Spacetime is very happy with the three-class character system in their games, and they are sticking with their guns with Arcane Legends. You can choose between a warrior (big tankish class), rogue (burst DPS class), or a sorcerer (aoe damage/heal/control class. As in the Legends tradition, you have very few customization options when creating a character. The warriors are always giant hulking men, the rogues are always generously proportioned women, and the sorcerers are weird little blue imps. You can change the face and hairstyle/color, but that’s it. While it’s always been a characteristic of Legends games, it’s never been one that I agree with. In an MMO it’s important to be able to retain at least a slight feeling of originality in the sea of other players. In Arcane Legends you will come across tons of players that look just like you. Different armor helps out a bit with differentiating your character from others, but as of writing this there is no way to customize your armor’s look, and no vanity gear as found in earlier Legends games. In fact, I found that wearing certain helmets in the game will completely change what your face looks like, which I’m hoping is a bug.
The lack of vanity items and appearance customization isn’t the only way Arcane Legends comes up short. The guild options remain incredibly weak, with very few customization options, no message of the day, and a guild hall that lacks any features other then a couple mildly discounted vendors. In-game chatting with your guild or party is a pain as there’s no way to switch between chat channels at will. What I mean is, if you want to chat with your guild you have to put “/g” in front of every phrase you say. The same goes with party chat. There is also no way to filter out game data from your chat, or to split it into different tabs so you can easily only see the information you want to see. The basic features of Arcane Legends are in many ways a step back from previous games, which is perplexing to me. But just as perplexing is the fact that many of these seemingly basic features have never found their way into any of the Legends games. In general, each new Legends game has improved on the previous game while including features that the previous games introduced. Arcane Legends feels incomplete in many ways, as if a few mechanics were updated, a new story and better graphics engine were slapped on, and then it was rushed to release without much refinement.
That’s not to say Arcane Legends is a bad game though, as some of those new mechanics are really good, and set up this game to easily be the best in the franchise when more features are (hopefully) added in the future. One of the biggest changes is the combat system, which focuses more on arcade-style control in place of the “tap-to-automatically” attack method of previous games. There is no auto-attack in Arcane Legends, and that’s a very good thing. Now you can charge up both your basic attack and unlocked spells to unleash more powerful moves that feel really satisfying to pull off. There doesn’t appear to be manual targeting, but the game does a good job of choosing foes that you are facing, meaning you have to be active in combat with moving, kiting, and strategically positioning your attacks. Gone are the days of the whack-a-mole combat style that had you simply tapping enemies one at a time to auto-attack them to death. The combat is fast-paced and fun, with a lot of focus on area-of-effect attacks and crowd-control mechanics.
Another great addition to Arcane Legends is it’s new pet system. Most MMOs provide pets as vanity items that follow you around with no effect. Pets in Legends are actually handy both in and out of combat! They will automatically attack enemies with a basic move that starts out doing minimal damage, and gets stronger as the pet levels up. Each pet has a different special move that you can activate in combat. Most of them involve small area-of-effect buffs or heals that help you and your party in the midst of the battle. Out of combat these pets provide passive buffs to things like movement speed and attack. They will even automatically destroy boxes and other objects and collect gold for you in the area, which lets you focus more on killing bad guys and less on breaking every box in the instance yo collect what money you can.
Speaking of money, Arcane Legends is a fantastic example of the freemium model executed perfectly. The game’s premium currency, platinum, is still very present, and is used to buy XP and attack boosts, special armor packs, and more. However, it is actually surprisingly hassle-free to attain free platinum through both leveling up and completing various tasks outside of the game (such as downloading sponsored free apps). Gabe (a rare TouchGen writer) really wanted a specific platinum pack that offered legendary gear along with potions and several auction house and inventory slots. The pack costs 70 platinum, and within 2 days he had earned enough to buy it without paying a dime of his own money. That said, after a couple more levels of questing the gear he bought would be obsolete, so it’s not like there’s some crazy advantage for players who pour cash into the game. Arcane Legends doesn’t have a pay-to-win model like many other freemium games out there, and it’s quite refreshing. The game also features “chests” that offer multiple random item drops. Spend more platinum and you’ll have a chance to get items of higher rarity. One of these chests is offered to you free by an NPC each day. I’ve received XP boosts and many other helpful elixirs from these free chests, which goes to show that Spacetime doesn’t just care about the big spenders, and thus offers consolations for the free players as well.
One of the biggest improvements to Arcane Legends is change of focus from role-locked character classes. Hybrid characters have generally been discouraged in Legends games, meaning that once you chose a specific class, you were locked into either being a DPS, tank, or healer. If you tried to choose a different stat to raise than the stat your character was designed, armor for your character couldn’t be equipped. Arcane Legends does away with restrictive classes by allowing all players to unlock a healing move, a defensive move, an AOE attack, etc. Weapons and armor no longer require a specific stat, but are simply locked to certain classes and levels instead. If you want to create a sorcerer that focuses on damage instead of healing, have at it! Want to create a rogue that focuses more on damage buffs and control for the party? Feel free! You can tell that the classes were intended more for specific purposes, but the game isn’t forcing you to accept that fact, and allows you to play more the way you want to.
If you roll with a party, you will find yourself at the end of the game’s main content by level 12 or 13, with the ability to go back through everything in “elite” mode, which ups the difficulty quite a bit. As with other Legends games, Spacetime Studios will continue to produce new content to add in the months to come, but Arcane Legends still feels really light on missions and features for what feels like a major addition to the franchise. There is no PvP at launch, and the game tries to pad the lack of main mission content with a series of timed dungeons that are filled with mobs of baddies with a small boss at the end. These missions have in-game leaderboards, but they are dominated by players who have figured out ways to get through each area in mere seconds. At the edge of the final city there is an “event” portal called “The Hauntlet” got me excited. I expected this to be the answer to the lack of raid content in the Legends games. Instead, it was merely a glorified version of the timed instances with waves of enemies and then a mediocre boss at the end. It’s a real shame, because there are easily enough hardcore players in the Legends games for raid-styled weekly missions to work well. Sure, the lack of voice communication could be a challenge, but I’ve played with many skilled players that would make it work.
While there aren’t weekly raids, Arcane Legends offers a good number of daily quests. Most of these are pretty boring and generic, but the most interesting missions come in the form of songs. The various taverns and towns have a silly bard character that will sing you through a daily instance. That is, the actions you take in the mission are reflective of the song he “sings” via on screen text prompts. It’s a clever addition to the game, and I hope to see more innovation like this in updates to come, as current missions are lacking in originality. These missions also offer a special currency that can be used to purchase higher level gear. Still, even these clever missions get boring fast. I miss the puzzle mechanics that were introduced in Star Legends, and I’m surprised we have yet to see them here. At least the major boss fights are somewhat interesting, with the biggest fight bringing mini-bosses into the picture at a certain phase. The bosses, and stronger trash mobs, will show their area of attack on the screen in red before they execute their move, which really keeps you on your toes during the encounters and adds to the take-down strategy.
Arcane Legends takes a few steps forward with it’s vastly improved combat, useful pet mechanics, and generous free-to-play strategy, all the while taking steps backward with poor guild implementation, no PvP at launch, bad chat/menu mechanics, an unreliable partying system, lacking character customization, and generally boring missions. There’s no doubt in my mind that Spacetime will step up their game in future content updates, as they are releasing patches almost daily as of writing this, but modern gamers expect a lot out of launch MMOs, especially those with a history of quality like the Legends franchise. While Arcane Legends may feel like a small step back for the franchise in spite of it’s positive and innovative elements, it’s still fun and provides one of the best mobile MMORPG experiences you can find on Android or iOS. I’ll be keeping an eye on this game as updates are released.
If you want to join me, shoot a friend request to “Teegins”, or join the official TouchGen guild: Arcane Fire! This is a freemium game, so there’s no excuse not to at least try it out.
NOTE: Like a fine wine, games like Arcane Legends tend to get better with age. Spacetime Studios has already announced that PvP is coming to the game among other features. However, here at TouchGen we rate our games based on the current build that is released at launch or the time of review.