Arcane Legends, Spacetime Studios’ latest cross-platform mobile MMO was actually released earlier than they had planned. The game was leaked somehow, so they made the decision to release it early on Android and Chrome Play on November 13. Then a couple of weeks later, it appeared in the iTunes store as well. At start, it capped at 15 levels. Their update the week before Christmas almost doubled the world with new areas, new bosses and six more levels.
Arcane Legends goes back to its fantasy roots and provides a world, by name of Arlor where evil has entered and brought trolls and goblins to invade. You, fine adventurer, are asked to help. The tutorial drops you right into the world, complete with invading goblins, burning villages and swooning maidens. You start off by selecting a character and you get to choose between the hulking warrior, the buxom rogue or mutated imp with bunny ears sorcerer. You also get to select a pet and there are three to choose from, each boosting the primary stat of one of the characters – but don’t worry, you can collect all of them if you wish, playing through the game.
The tutorial is short and sweet, but tool tips will pop up during gameplay when you get to a stage where you require it. In a departure from their previous games, there is only one method of movement – using the virtual joystick. You can’t tap the screen to get your character to move in the direction of the tap. That said, movement can be awkward sometimes as your thumb slips away from the joy stick area. At this time, there isn’t a way to create your own private dungeons either, like you could in Pocket or Star Legends. It’s all one huge world and although dungeons are instanced, you can’t create one.
Combat in Arcane Legends is active. You have to tap to strike, hold to charge up a rage meter or tap to deploy a skill. Skills are neat in that they do not build up. It’s not a tree or even a waterfall. You have to have one point in the base skill to learn it, but after that, you can decide to put a point in the 5th level first before the 2nd. That said, they are all cumulative. For example, the Chest Splitter skill for the warrior is a powerful strike at a single enemy. Level 2 upgrade Extended Reach increases the targets to two. Level 3 Decimation gives a chance for enemies killed by this skill to explode, causing AoE damage, Level 4 Relentless Strike is a chance for a pushback, Level 5 Staggering Blow is an interrupt and a chance for stun. Having a point in every one of these levels will provide the full gamut of effects.
Passive Skills are common through the characters and as of the update, can also be increased with skill points. They increments to the character stats of Strength, Dexterity and Intelligence (Might, Agility and Knowledge) as well as Armor Class, Speed, chance of Crits and Damage (caused by whatever means your character uses)
Every class has a heal skill that can be invested in, that is characteristic of the class, which adds not only variety, but to the uniqueness of the class. The warrior has a Horn of Renew which DoTs enemies and buffs allies. One of the upgrades adds a taunt as well. The Rogue has Combat Medic which chucks healing packs that heal allies when picked up, upgrades include a self heal component and a heal over time benefit as well. The Sorcerer has Lifegiver which is an AoE heal and upgrades include mana regeneration as well.
Other than those skills, players have to rely on health and mana potions to keep their life and mana bars up during combat. Recovery is swift so there is little downtime even if you don’t invest in dozens of potions before each battle. Only four skills can be actively mapped at a time.
Combat is fast and active. There’s no auto-attack here, and enemies do run away from you. There’s also a line of sight component so you can’t run away and expect your spells to hit. You’ll just waste your mana. The bosses in Arcane Legends are a kick. They are reminiscent of those nasty pain-in-the-butts of PC based MMOs where you needed a full group of epic equipped players to take down. In Arcane Legends however, they are rendered rather… cute. By graphics and animations, but no less a pain as some are tethered, running back to get a complete heal, they call in mean buddies when they are low in health, cloak themselves in invulnerability or invisibility at critical moments. However, they don’t take a half hour to kill. Just a good enough party.
Pacing is good, difficulty is fair. Star Legends was just hard. So hard that after I reached level 20 and reviewed the game for MMORPG, Spacetime Studios dropped the difficulty of the first 20 levels. Playing an Engineer or basically, a healer in Star Legends was a challenge. In Arcane Legends, the difficulty has been dialed down. It is entirely possible to run through the game mostly solo, only partying up for the bosses. Before the update, it took my nine-year-old nephew to almost max his warrior (level 14) – without using platinum – in three days and only 15 deaths. I will admit though that he subscribes to the adage of running away to fight another day and skipping quests that are “too hard” (TM!)
Loot drops, like other Spacetime Studios game, is random and personal. There’s no requirement to roll for loot; it is random. You do see what party members get so you can ask to trade for items that you can use. The trading system in Arcane Legends is the way to earn gold and obtain items other than combat or buying it outright with real world cash. Items can be sold directly from your inventory for pittance or sold to other players through the trading system in town.
Questing and progression in Arcane Legends is mainly linear. You may find some quests in the next town you encounter that have you hunt in the areas you just passed through, but they are mainly to fill your character out; a chance to collect more pets or some gold and xp while you pass through the area again to the boss for that rare armor drop. Daily quests can be had at any town and if there’s a quibble I have here, is that quests cannot be shared. Different services are also found in different towns. Convenient Quest Drop boxes are found in every town for completion of quests picked up in the field, but the Stash (bank) is not found in the newbie City of Windmoore, nor the Guild Hall in the first progression town of Travelers Outpost, only in the Great City of Kraag.
Travel is convenient as opening your menu and world map and selecting the area you need to go to. Some quests also provide an option to go directly to the quest area. However, maps are unlocked through combat progression and you are required to complete one area to get to the next.
Pets in Arcane Legends are functional. Each pet has stats and buffs and they attack enemies as well. They also function as status symbols as most are quest only, some attainable only by high-level players, and some must be purchased with real cash.
Arcane Legends is the first game in which Spacetime Legends takes advantage of the more robust hardware available to them. It requires at least the iPod Touch Generation 3 and iOS 4.3, and Android 2.2 on up. The graphics are really quite gorgeous. Character animations are smooth, combat and spell effects and textures are detailed, and the other minute details that make a scene come alive, such as waving banners are evident. On the screen of a smartphone, it looks brilliant. On the iPad, it is not pixilated and really looks good on the hi-res screen of the iPad3. There isn’t any voice acting, which may be strange in this day and age but hey… it’s a mobile game and sound files are huge. Sound and music is sparse but spot on, adding to the atmosphere when it does make itself known.
The UI keeps the essentials on top. The visible HUD is kept at the corners of the screen and the menu contains the rest, the functionality that you would usually access only in a safe area, such as inventory, world map, etc.
Arcane Legends is one of the few cross platform MMOs that all players are playing on the same servers across the various platforms. I started the game on my Android phone, played it on PC web browser and am still playing the same game on my iPad. However, Spacetime Studios achieved this with Pocket Legends. There isn’t any new innovation per se.
Arcane Legends seems unfinished. Guild management is lacking and the perks we are used to seeing such as the ability to create private dungeons are missing. That said; there have been few bugs reported and the search filters in the market place, the ability to view items on your character and compare items to your equipped items before purchase is superlative.
Early players maxed quick and ran out of things to do, but the new update has added new areas, new pets, vanity items (finally) and I am sure that PvP will be available very soon. Also, the three classes are different enough that there is some replayability, and selection of dungeon difficulty will also be available. It’s a mobile MMO, and as far as those go, this one has just as much waiting for you as the others and its content updates will likely be swift along with past Spacetime games.
Guild chat is old school. Its tough enough trying to chat on a phone, but having to type /g for guild chat and /p for party makes for chat deficiency. Default messages like “Follow me” are also missing in Arcane Legends. Guild Halls can only be accessed through the Great City of Kraag, and there’s little functionality at this time besides a couple vendors. There are official forums and players are helpful there, but in game, there is a dearth of social interaction. Lots of players hanging around the city… mostly around the trader and no one talking.
One thing I must say about Spacetime Studios’ freemium business model is that I’ve never seen it done better. You can play the game completely free from paying them a single red cent, yet the convenience items are tempting: XP boosts, speed boosts, health and mana potions, re-speccing characters, additional pets. That also helps. You get one character slot free, but each additional slot is not expensive and neither is additional stash space, which is shared across your characters on one account. You can purchase weapons and equipment, but it is easy to acquire weapons and equipment in game. You are given a “treasure chest” each day you log in which contain an elixir of some sort, to give you a taste of what boosts are available. The recent update also brought vanity items.
Gamers looking for a mobile MMO that they can pick up for a minute and drop in a manner of seconds will enjoy Arcane Legends. Players of Spacetime Studios’ other mobile games may wish to take a few minutes to familiarize themselves with how Arcane Legends functions. There are differences. It may be slight enough to ignore in the early levels, but if you don’t like to die, you’ll need to pay attention. The game is in its early stages of growth and may be missing some features, but it is totally playable and absolutely fun.