Falling Into the Pit of 'Meh'
Wings of Destiny is an MMORPG that you play in your browser. A similar title would be Crystal Saga. Released November of last year, the developers at IGG decided to take a more ‘social’ approach to the top down isometric style. Some of you may jump at that prospect, I know I did. However, besides some interesting artwork and musical scores, the gameplay seems to fall short and the story is forgettable. As I pick apart this title and try to separate the good from the bad, I should probably let you know ahead of time that I wasn’t joking about the ‘social’ approach I mentioned above. For some people, this is a factor that they simply will not deal with. Read on to find out what I mean.
As said above, the aesthetics of the game are actually not too bad. There were some armors and creatures that I got a distinct Disciples II feel from, and the maps themselves are very nice to look at. However, there are certain bits that strike me as very generic. The armors and weapons present in the character creation are good examples of this. The music had some ups and downs, but for the most part it was well orchestrated (and could have been where all the money went during development). Some of the lacking points are the quality of the recording and the repetitiveness of it all.
Once in game, the UI gave me a ‘meh’ feeling, and looked as if it was quite a few resolutions lower than my monitor. I had to change some things around because of this, since some letters and numbers were too difficult to see. Looking at the whole game from the announcer’s booth, I have to say that WoD looks like it was designed ten or more years ago, and besides the Disciples feel I felt earlier, it wasn’t exactly hitting that nostalgic bone. Despite some rather pretty landscapes, the animations seem to have been forgotten in development. Movement consists of only a few frames and virtually everything on screen moves in a very jerky fashion.
This is where Wings of Destiny seems to slump to the side and fall asleep. It uses an isometric style similar to series like Diablo or Torchlight, however the combat is starkly different. IGG opted to use a point-and-click-and-click-and-click style with some occasional mashing of the number keys. I’m not saying this style of combat didn’t work, WoW is a shining example of that, but the way it was executed in this game was just subpar. I don’t feel like I’m engaged in the fighting, more like a monkey who just has to press keys in the correct (but simple) order.
WoD also features a pet system similar to the one present in the Torchlight series, but it starts with something pretty sizeable: a large lizard/wolf-like creature. The game itself uses a traditional quest system with grinding for trophies and objectives to turn into people who have that all-too-familiar question mark above their head. However, WoD tries too hard to make this a carefree experience, because you can simply click on the hyperlinks in the quest log and complete everything that way. This makes the story largely forgettable, and immersion and interest in the world is virtually nonexistent. In addition to this, there is an item you get frequently that teleports you to the quest target, so a player doesn’t even have to explore or experience the world. They can just click that magic button (so long as they the item, which is earned through quests and cash shop purchases), and boom, you’re at the target.
Wings of Destiny doesn’t bring much new to the table but it does have features that are not often seen in MMORPGs. One in particular is the auto-pathing system. I mentioned these above in a rather negative light, but the ability to have the game do all the movement for you can be pretty nice, especially if you’re doing other things. That last point is something that holds true for most social games, as more often than not they are meant to be played in moderation. However, the auto-pathing still causes the issues for immersion and story listed above, so the real question is if this feature is really ‘worth it’. There are also daily rewards, and a slot machine that gives one free spin per day. Using that free spin doesn’t hide the lottery button, however, so you have another various button on the screen that pushes you to buy.
Remarkably, I ran into very little issues throughout my play-through of this game. They offer a few different ways to report issues as well, with Live Support, a Service Center and the ever-useful forums. Even though the rest of the game’s features are a mixed bag, they’ve certainly done a good job at optimizing and polishing the final product. One thing about the UI that drove me crazy however is this constant “BOOKMARK US” notification. Normally I wouldn’t mind something so trivial, but this button is just down and to the left a bit of the screen, so you constantly see this notification. Not only this, but every time a player bookmarks the page, a global message is sent out saying they did. This combined with a scrolling text detailing offers across the top of the screen sends this feeling of ‘Please, buy stuff from us’, and that constant pandering doesn’t sit well with me.
Speaking truthfully, it was difficult playing this game for an extended play session (2 hours or more). The game almost feels as if it shouldn’t be played for anything more than a half-hour at a time, if that. I did enjoy quick logins and blasting some fools with fireballs, but the gameplay became very monotonous rather quickly. This can possibly be reflected in the amount of other players on at any given time. The starting areas didn’t have many people, and the first major city I came across could’ve had more NPCs than real people.
All the major bells and whistles are present that are typical of an MMO, so contacts list, guilds, and an auction house. Something of note is the ‘Recent’ tab in the contacts list, which allows you to friend request or talk to people that you’ve recently interacted with. This may not seem like much, but it’s something that can come in handy quite often and should be a standard feature. A prominent issue mentioned by players is that gold farmers tend to dominate the chat window. While I did not encounter this often enough to cause a problem (could just be that I was on the newest server), many players have brought this up in discussions.
Besides various positives and negatives, I can’t say that this game is worth the time or money of a player. Wing Of Destiny becomes cash-shop reliant later on, and it altogether isn’t that very entertaining to play. I could see people playing the game in short bursts, but hardcore social gamers aren’t a particularly large crowd. WoD also likes to point out to you that they do have a cash shop and that they’d like you to use it quite often, the details of which are explained in the latter half of the Innovation section above.
There was some potential for WoD, but it has been drowned out by an overly simplified system and constant notifications pointing you to the cash shop. The model works for some, and fails for others, but the game seems to fall in this pit of “meh” which I think can be infinitely worse than a quick death or a long career. For someone who enjoys browser-based games, Wings of Destiny certainly has a lot to offer. However, for someone who is versed in the MMO world, this can safely be passed up. There are many other alternatives currently released for free or for a cost that will fulfill someone’s need for an isometric RPG.