Mustering the Effort to Play is a Challenge
Have you ever wanted to play an MMORPG as the bad guy rather than the hero? That is the promise of Inferno Legend, a browser based game from GameBox. Inferno Legend offers turn-based tactical combat that harkens back to console RPGs from days long gone by, with the opportunity to choose from a list of five nefarious evildoers to play as. You get to choose between a cyclops, a vampire, a zombie samurai, a witch, or you can unlock a mummy class. Does Inferno Legend live up to its marketing promise of being an “MMO-Devil-RPG!”? Does it successfully overcome the limitations of the web browser window to create an immersive world of dirty deeds done dirt cheap? Read on, dear MMORPG fan, and find out!
Character and enemy designs have a whimsical, miniaturized style that made me think of Torchlight. I appreciate many of the creature designs, like a weird tree with a face on it or a giant crab with a dragon’s skull for its shell. However, many of the designs seem derivative. For example Diablo, the main demon who gives you missions through the tutorial. looks suspiciously similar to the eponymous character from a multi-million dollar Action-RPG franchise. The animations are stale as well, being brief and repetitive. It was also very disappointing to me that new equipment and weapons had no effect on the appearance of my character.
The environments are pleasant but very static, and the way the tiles of the maps fly up to appear beneath the character’s feet (in the style of Bastion) is a neat effect but never explained or justified in the context of the game, so again it feels derivative. There is some charm in the tile grid formation of the maps, but the sparse exploration and combat take place on minimal backgrounds. These seem to be a concession to game performance, but the context of the world suffers.
The music is fine, nothing good or bad to note there aside from some pieces being a little too short so they get played over and over. The sound effects for the characters are extremely limited so they provide little insight or evocation of the world the game is taking place in.
On the single player side, the player is tasked by Diablo to move through static maps killing enemies one tile at a time, collecting rewards and levelling up. As the game goes on, more companion slots open and the challenge of the game becomes strategic placement of various companions based on their strengths and weaknesses, for example heavy armor units on the front lines and ranged fighters on the back.
When in combat, especially in the early levels, the game doesn’t provide many options to sway the tide of battle once combat has begun. The player is presented with three options: use a basic attack, use a special attack, or set the game to auto to complete the battle for you. Due to the paucity of options, the auto attack seems like the best option because even trying to strategize when to launch special attacks seems to make little difference in determining the outcome of a match.
The situation in PvP is worse as all combat is auto combat. The reason is pretty apparent after the first few matches: all the of PvP is handled asynchronously. There really is no strategy in PvP combat apart from troop placement and just levelling up as furiously as possible so your AI representative will have more tools to defend herself if you are challenged to a PvP match.
The stakes for PvP are pretty low, though. There is a general ranking system, and you basically challenge other players for their rank. Maybe it gets nastier at the higher ranks, but on the low end I was able to blast through thousands of ranks just by selectively challenging lower level characters who probably had never even tried out the PvP before. They likely had no idea their ranking had changed, since you’d have to be checking the PvP Arena regularly to notice.
It’s nice to see a game that’s accessible in a browser, making it capable of running on a wide variety of hardware, and the idea of a more turn-based tactical MMO is a fine one, but there is little that I’m finding in Inferno Legend that I would label as innovative. If anything, based on the amount of content that appears to be derived from other games, I would say that this game is the opposite of innovative.
Everything runs smoothly and seems to be working as intended. The user interface is a bit garish, but well within the spirit of the game world itself. The only major negative mark I have for the game in terms of polish is problems with translation in the game and its documentation.
Story-wise, the game is a mess. It is difficult, however, to pin down whether that mess is because of difficult to read English translations or if the game just lacks a fully fleshed out plot explaining why the character is working for Diablo and what motivation there is for going on a killing spree. Sometimes, the dialogue is just bland and cliched. Other times, it’s nearly impossible to make sense of.
One of the reasons I suspect bad translation for the story problems is because the documentation explaining the mechanics of the game on the GameBox website is unclear and challenging to interpret as well. I don’t mind making some effort when I know that the source of a game is from a country where English is not the native language, but in the case of Inferno Legend the translations are so bad it feels like a real hindrance to learning the ins and outs of the game.
It is altogether possible that the game really opens up and becomes a fascinating and challenging tactical wargame at the later levels, but the earlier levels are so bland and lifeless that I don’t feel compelled to stick around and find out. My gaming time is precious, so if a game doesn’t hook me in almost immediately, either via compelling gameplay, a rich world, a lively community, or a riveting storyline, then I feel no compunctions about calling it a day and moving on to the next game.
Advertising around Inferno Legend billed it as an “MMO-Devil-RPG”. Based on the number of people in the PvP ranking system, and the occasional chat message in the general chat I imagine there are other players in the game but sadly I didn’t find any meaningful ways to interact with them through the game. Since the PvP seems to be all asynchronous and offline, and there didn’t appear to be anyway to engage in co-op PvE activities, it’s difficult to see Inferno Legend as much more than a few steps above many Facebook-based Zynga games. There is support for friend lists and the ability to give friends gifts through the list, and there are alliances, but no way to play with other players directly within the game.
The social aspects of the game are also harmed by the frequency of system announcements in world chat. There seems to be announcements any time someone levels or acquires a rare item drop, which is nice but it tends to push players messages out of sight quickly. It is possible to disable the system messages in the chat, but since it’s on by default I imagine most players don’t even realize people are trying to communicate.
I am all for putting money into a game that has fun and engaging systems. I love rewarding developers who create compelling content and don’t make me feel like I’m being put in a penalty box while playing their game that I have to pay my way out of. Inferno Legend lacks almost everything that I find fun and engaging in online games, so I can say definitively that spending money on it would have little or no value for me.
It is possible to pay cash for a currency in the game called diamonds, but it seems like diamonds are basically a second currency that can be used to purchase just a little more than what the in game currency, gold, can. It can be used to advance one of the several silos of character advancement, or transferred into gold. It’s a little confusing why there needs to be two tiers of currency, but it’s not unheard of.
The whimsical character and environment designs and the tactical combat seem like draws from a distance, but once in the game there is little substance to keep the things interesting. The early levels are a tedious grind that the game conveniently offers the opportunity to pay your way out of, and no real opportunity for meaningful interaction with other players. Even if you want to really dig in and learn how to get the most out of the systems, the poor documentation and dry tutorial levels make mustering the effort to play the game the challenge rather than anything in the game itself. I enjoy tactical turn-based combat, even if it’s numbers heavy and features simple graphics. Inferno Legend just isn’t enjoyable.