Isometric style Action RPGs are undergoing a bit of resurgence as of late. While they are far from being as prevalent as first-person shooters in today’s market, it’s refreshing to see so many loot fests available for indulgence on our computer screens. The surge in popularity of indie games, particularly crowd-funded ones, has spear-headed this movement, and Legends of Persia is the latest project born from a successful (albeit modest) Kickstarter campaign. Unfortunately, its origin story and subsequent gameplay mechanics are one and the same: boring and predictable.
Just like the flood of Kickstarter indie games we have come to expect these days, the moment I booted this game up I knew exactly what to expect. While it’s not necessarily a bad thing to correctly judge a book by its cover, one would at least hope that a game played for review would have at least some minor hook or unique aspect to keep things interesting. Alas, such is not the case with Legends of Persia, as the entire game is about as run-of-the-mill and stereotypical as things can get.
AESTHETICS = 5
As a gamer, particularly one that functions as a critic of sorts, I have come to appreciate the nuances of indie games – especially in terms of visual fidelity. Most successful indie games employ a minimalistic art style that allows them to highlight strengths and circumvent weaknesses. The likes of games such as Minecraft or Limbo come to mind, two games that have no business being in the same sentence as Legends of Persia. I can’t deny that the art in the cutscenes is unique and striking, but virtually all other aspects of the games aesthetics are nothing more than lackluster and unpolished.
The environments are mostly empty, with bland and poor textures everywhere. Buildings have little diversity, landscapes are blurry and muddled, and even the enemy designs lack inspiration. The musical score is passable, although not notable, as I often found myself preferring to mute the game all together and listen to my own music of choice. Zoning out like that typically improves the experience of repetitive action RPGs such as this, the operative word here being usually.
GAMEPLAY = 4
If you’ve ever played any of the Diablo or Torchlight games in your lifetime, then you know exactly the type of experience to expect from Legends of Persia. The problem with that is that even though it tries to emulate those games that clearly inspired it, it fails to make a compelling case. Moment-to-moment gameplay feels sluggish and unfinished with most of your actions reacting after a short delay which takes away a significant amount of the game’s immediacy. Each character’s skill tree is incredibly basic and stereotypical with uninspired animations that lack the power you’d expect from a game in this genre. Everything is just like you’re used to: click to move, click enemies to attack, equip skills to your hotbar, and juggle between health and mana potions to survive. Combat consists of literally standing and swapping blows with enemies until one of you falls down and you repeat this until the credits roll.
Ultimately, Legends of Persia is lacking the key underlying concept that makes action RPGs fun and addicting to being with – the desire to keep clicking. In games like Diablo and Torchlight, the balance between risk, reward, challenge, and success is so perfectly balanced, that there is a consistently dangling carrot in front of your character. Just one more cave, just one more quest, just one more good loot drop, etc. Legends of Persia does an adequate job of replicating the basics of gameplay, but it fails to capture the essence of the genre. Once you sink a couple hours into the game it does get better and start to open up, but it’s not enough. In the end, it feels like a glorified prototype for a larger game that’s still being developed.