The MMO genre has seen its share of evolution over the past decade and beyond. What an MMO is, how it's funded, and how to play one have grown in variety over time. Upcoming free to play new mobile MMORPG Legion of Heroes aims to sate MMORPG hunger on the go with its upcoming release on mobile devices. The game is set for release on both iOS and Android devices. I spent some time with the game's closed beta recently on a tablet running Android 4.4.3. So how does it play? It might take some getting used to, but it could surprise some players in a good way.
Coming from a PC gaming perspective, it's easy to scoff at the very idea of a mobile MMORPG. How will it look? What options will there be? How will the game handle the story and combat? These are all valid questions. Legion of Heroes begins by asking you to select and name one of several pre-made characters, each varying by gender and class. The classes are gender-locked, so if you were set on a male mage or female warrior, put that idea aside ---initially. You will have a lot of choice later. The game's hero system will let you have much control over your team, appearances aside. I prefer deep customization, but this game offers it mechanically, not as much aesthetically. I selected a wind mage from the starters, named her, and set off into the world. My first quest required I talk to a local woman named Sarah in the town of Nottingham. If this sounds familiar, the game draws inspiration from several bits of classic lore and myths. King Arthur, Rome, and fantasy tropes like elves, demons, and beast warriors are all found here. There is an area map themed to where you're located, that includes the chapters you'll quest through, with a world map you can use to quick travel between regions.
One of the first things l noticed was movement. My mage glided from place to place, with the game offering one-button instant travel to quest, which some will inevitably criticize as on-rails, but the game does take a little getting used to. You can also move manually using touch, even explore the world a little bit, but since there's no mini-map, you'll find yourself auto moving to NPCs and quest mobs frequently. Quest mobs are not that hard to find if you wander around on your own though.
Sarah sent me to another NPC, Gaston, who introduced me to my first party member, William, using one of the game's most important features. Hire Tickets are the means by which you will grow your active party (up to six) as well as make strategic changes throughout. You'll often obtain tickets as quest rewards, and have a chance at obtaining them from farming mobs. They come in gold, silver, and bronze, and correspond to different hero tiers. More slots will open up as you level, and you can also have up to 50 heroes in reserve. When hiring a hero, you use a ticket and get a random hero, which can lead to duplicates. Legion of Heroes has a Fusion system that lets you improve heroes by fusing ones you have on hand, including duplicates, as well as sell and trade options.
Heroes can be viewed in the hire screen, each with an intro video showing his, hers, or its special skills. Heroes range from creepy undead, King Arthur himself, feline warriors, pirates, knights, fairies, scientists, and more. I am partial to the giant corgi named Nipper. They represent any class you might need, which is the deeper customization aspect in the game. Heroes can also change skills depending what weapons they have equipped. When I got a magic tome as loot, I equipped it instead of a staff and found that my mage became a healer rather than a damage dealer. Oh, and these heroes will show up frequently as bosses too, giving you the option to fight a variety of them and see what they're capable of before they're in your stable.
Combat is turn-based, with some tactical elements. The way it works will surprise many at first. If a quest says “kill 2 weasels", that means you must win two full encounters. Battles (and farming mobs works the same way) unfold in three stages. You'll target a weasel, toss to see who goes first, and then fight a group of mobs. After dispatching the group, a second, more powerful group arrives. Finally, an alert sounds and a boss appears, flanked by mobs. The boss, as described above, comes from the hero pool. Some of them hit very hard or use powerful CC. If you dispatch the boss and accompanying minions, the battle finally ends. You'll get XP, gold, and a chance at a bonus, (an item, ticket, XP, or gold bonus). After all of this, you're only credited as one weasel down. It's a little bit of an odd system, but it's not bad once you know what to expect.
Each team utilizes a pool of Fury to launch individual special abilities ranging from lightning, to poison, to slashing blades, AOE heals, bombs, silence, and many others. These attacks are upgradeable on each level for a gold cost. Speaking of gold, there are multiple gold sinks in the game, such as leveling, an option to heal instantly after a battle (otherwise those heroes get timers and can’t be used until they’ve run down), an upgrade system for weapons, and even calling another hero into a battle as emergency help. In these early levels, it felt balanced enough as far as gold coming in and out. This system feels a little rough when it comes to having to start newly obtained heroes at level one, especially if you have a reliable team on death timers and only have lower levels trained. There is a tower to take on battles to train up and get prizes for doing so.
Overall, I too was sort of on the more skeptical side and needed to adjust to the way this game works. Legion of Heroes turns out to have some surprising depth. It’s not going to replace your favorite story-driven, explorable huge world MMOs, but it definitely has a Pokémon-meets-fantasy-MMORPG style fun factor going for it.
Christina Gonzalez / Christina is a freelancer and contributor to MMORPG.com, where she writes the community-focused Social Hub column. You will also find her contributions at RTSGuru. Follow her on Twitter: @c_gonzalez