| Easy grouping
XP & loot assignment systems
| Poor replayability
Scenery can get repetitive
Targeting can be hairy in multi-mob situations
Star Legends: The Blackstar Chronicles by Space Time Studios is a Cooperative Online RPG in the style of Guild Wars (central social hub, all combat areas instanced), set in the space age, with players taking on the role Space Marines in the fight against aliens and various factions in the universe. Built on the success of Pocket Legends, one of the first ever mobile MMOs, Star Legends is primarily a mobile game although it can also be played on the PC through Chrome.
Gameplay in Star Legends is designed for three to five minute play sessions as their concept was get people in and out of games easily, so the game revolves around quests and dungeon levels; i.e. clearing dungeon levels and heading to the next. The Space Age theme helps with the immersion as you use transporters from the main hub to reach the various planets and a graphic of a spaceship shows in the loading screen. Or you simply access the sector map which provides level recommendations and the ability to join or create a game.
There are three classes in the game: Commando, Operative and Engineer - or the equivalent of your standard fantasy classes of Warrior, Rogue and Priest. There are also three stats - Strength, Dexterity and Intelligence, each respectively the primary stats of the aforementioned classes, and each affect other stats such as HP, your Dodge/Crit and Power. Each class can viably solo through the game, but as each class is able to hack a different type of door console, playing as a group has its advantages - the Boss mobs also require a group - if you want to take them at the appropriate level.
Skills unlock as you level, but skill point allocation is manual, and players gain skill points as they level. They also gain character stat points which they can either allow the game to auto-allocate, or do their own allocation. Allowing the game to auto-level will place the points by default, into the class primary stat. Players will have to turn auto-leveling off for manual allocation.
There is some, believe it or not, as simple as the game is: there are implants that can be changed out, there are different skills to specialize in and the ability to re-spec. An Engineer who is focused on team support can place all their points into Intelligence and build up the Empathy skill which is a group heal, Force Shield and Protection. A solo player might decide to build up his Strength for the extra HP and survivability as well as the Leech skills and Wither skills.
The Commando who enjoys soloing and killing many enemies at once might want to max out Nebula, an aura of damage skill, and put some points in Dexterity for the dodge/crit effects. Those focused on doing boss mobs with friends might decide to max out Increase Mass instead, which provides a large boost to armor, so he can withstand more attacks, allowing his Engineer to focused keeping the high DPS/paper armored Operative alive.
For what seems to be a simple game, this one has more nuances than some may think. There are currently only 40 levels and 10 skills to worry about, the last of which is unlocked at level 24, but each skill has 6 levels and you gain 1 skill point per level.
This particular feature is basic and consists of using a crafting terminal. Accessing the terminal shows the recipes available, and accessing the recipe shows the ingredients needed and if you have them. Weapons, equipment and implants (stat boosts) can all be crafted and the equivalent looted or bought.
Aesthetics 6 / 10
The game looks a little old-school. And by that, I mean EverQuest graphics old-school. Characters are blocky. Not much to say here really, except that the form factor and computing power dictates the graphics greatly. On the smaller form factor of a smart phone, it looks quite decent. On the iPad, it's not bad, but on a large PC monitor - well, we can say it was just not made to look bad-ass and pretty.
This is where the game shines. The game is simple to play and extremely streamlined. Game controls provide enough customization that you can either tap the screen where you want to move, use the virtual joy-stick or use both as suits the situation. Swipe the screen to change camera angles. Mobs can be auto-targeted and auto-attacked, or you can tap the mob to target and use skills. Dungeons are straight forward maps and you can turn the overlay on to see an outline of the area. Game systems are also simple as everything is menu driven. Access the crafting station for a menu of things you can craft and so forth.
As a sci-fi game, every class is a ranged class. The Commando has mucking big guns. The Operative has dual pistols and the Engineer has power gloves. It may be fun solo, but the most fun to be had in this game is group play (up to 5 in a group) as the skills of each class complement the others, and with a good group you can rock the dungeons, moving up as you clear each level. Another neat system is that you do not run out of inventory space while you are in the dungeon and should you attempt to leave, you get a message that says you have to sell the loot you've over-acquired.
Grouping is a matter of entering a dungeon. You instantly become part of the group, but you do not earn XP or loot until you are close enough to be an effective part of the team. Loot is also personal, so everyone gets the same thing (or equivalent for the class) and there's no rolling for loot.
Most quests are of the kill X number of this, obtain Y number of that variety but there are variations which require you to find / speak to a certain mob, take "photographs" of evidence, etc. Items you encounter in a dungeon usually have some use. Explosives need to be set somewhere - just be sure you've disabled the scanners before you try to run through them with explosives in tow. Boost terminals will provide some sort of protection before you run around the corner into a poisoned area, but bonus areas are optional and require a certain class to open. Bosses can be tricky. Most have a schtick and most have tells before they let loose. Like any other full fledged MMO, you have to be observant and on your toes.
In some areas, the game can really get your adrenaline going when it seems as if every mob in the zone has landed on top of you. Survival becomes a challenge even with potions and a good group. Unlike a lot of games out there, leveling in the newbie levels is not super fast. I enjoyed the pacing as I found that it was more "having fun and the levels happening" rather than the "one level every couple mobs" of some other casual games. The game seemed to ramp up in the feel of danger and challenge once you hit level 20 and started heading to the higher level planets out there. (Note - Space Time Studios recently announced that they were making the levels below 20 easier.)
PvP in Star Legends is team based. You can create a team or allow the game to place you. Two maps are available: Smash and Grab - a Capture the Flag type and Team Death Match - which is exactly that. First team to 10 kills win. I am not a PvP player by nature and I also picked the Engineer - it's my preferred class. To play PvP, I paid the plat to change my Engineer's skill point allocation, putting more points in the Suppression and Pain skills - those have Stun components and more in Wither (a DoT) and Leech (stealing life and adding to your own). So my strategy was mostly DoT like crazy, run around like mad, Stun, heal, run around like crazy until skills regen, rinse and repeat until I died to the debuffing, high DPS-ing Operatives.
As I said before, I am not a PvP player and thus not the best judge of this form of gameplay. Although the leader boards are topped by Operatives, the PvP community claim that the classes are individually viable. (Note: Throughout most of the review period, there were some issues with Engineer skills in PvP that have since been fixed.)
A cross-platform mobile MMO that also incorporates a PC platform? How many MMOs can truly boast that? This game can be played on Android, iOS as well as Chrome browser. Everyone is on the same server and you can access your game on any devices that run one of the platforms.
SL may not be graphically pretty, but that does not mean that it is not polished. Star Legends has guild management tools, auction house, storage, crafting and the ability to search for games or create your own (password protected or not) is pretty sweet. Animation is smooth despite the blocky looks of the avatars and so far, I have not gotten stuck, fallen through the world or run into any other bugs.
Longevity 7.5 / 10
The combat portions of the game rock even if crafting and the auction house is a little anemic. For the casual player who likes to get on with his friends once a week or so, and even for the player who likes to play every night, Star Legends has the gameplay to hold these gamers' interest. Although most max level players do play PvP, some will level other class characters.
Space Time Studios provides official forums and engages in player dialogue, asking for feedback and also publishing player written guides on their main site. Players also hang out in the main hub, create guilds and chat - despite the difficulty of chatting using mobile devices. There are a few default phrases that players can customize for quick chat in dungeon situations such as "Follow me" "This way" "Stay back" and "Hold it, I'm lagging" which have proven useful. The friends list is easy to use and using it to find games or invite others to group is also nicely streamlined.
The game is free to download and play. However paying for Platinum (the real cash currency) eases your way with more inventory slots, auction slots and of course the potions. The Devs have stated since the inception of Pocket Legends, that they would be careful to maintain the integrity of loot items. Bought items are good, but loot items are better. I proved this by playing my character to 20 and checking the equipment available in the store at each key level (5, 10, 15). What I had picked up for armor while leveling was superior to what could be bought in the store. The other items that Space Time Studios makes their money on are the cosmetic items - you have cosmetic slots, and enhancers - which they also give out free, one per game day so the player gets a taste of say... 2x XP for a minute. Another popular low cost item is the ability to respawn in battle with full health and power. However, a good engineer with high revive skills and potions can get you right back into the action as well.
I'm of the old school shareware mentality. If I like a game and am playing it, I will pay something to the Devs. I reviewed the game with coin so I could try out the store but went ahead and bought my nephew a premium character pack for his account. (He immediately sold the armor he couldn't use instead of banking it, but that's another story.)
The bottom line is that Star Legends: Black Star Chronicles is an extremely well designed mobile MMO (well, CORPG) experience that has great game play designed for short gameplay bursts. Try it on your next bus ride, you might like what you find!