Fallen Realms is big on looks, light on gameplay

Like a vacuous reality television star, the Android RPG Fallen Realms is pretty to look at and seems like it’d be a lot of fun to play with. But once you start paying attention to it, the truth comes out: for all its good looks, it’s about as deep and engaging as a puddle on the sidewalk, and after a few minutes you’re probably going to start wondering what you ever saw in it.

Fallen Realms is undeniably easy on the eyes. For the most part, the in-game graphics are sharp and colorful, while the backdrops of the “dungeons” you’ll walk through are stylishly out of focus and the loading scenes – of which there will be many – look like details taken from a great oil painting depicting epic clashes of good and evil. The orchestral, bombastic music makes a good first impression too, like something you’d expect to announce the arrival of a conquering king. The menus can be a little cramped at times but for the most part are fairly easy to navigate, and the initial setup is also quite simple. Choose to be a warrior, a mage or a rogue, optionally sign up for a Papaya account and give yourself a proper name, and you’re off explore dungeons, battle evil, recover great artifacts and save the world!

Fallen Realms

Except that in reality, you’re off to touch the screen when you’re told to, engage in perfunctory, turn-based battles with the usual mix of fantasy bad guys, and enjoy absolutely no exploration whatsoever.

Moving through dungeons (which can actually be any one of a number of different environments, like forests or ruins) is entirely linear and nothing more than poking the screen to move ahead a “step,” the distance with which dungeons are measured. You’re constantly moving straight ahead, with no option to choose a different path or even look around as you move. Combat happens randomly and arbitrarily as you go, and the occasional generic traps that spring up appear to be completely unavoidable, even if you’re playing a rogue character.

You can control up to two characters aside from your own on these dungeon crawls, which is where the social side of Fallen Realms comes into play. The Guild option allows you to befriend other players and drag them along with you on your quest for fame and fortune. I was invited to friendships with two other players my first day in the game and I threw out a few invites of my own, not because I’m actually interested in being pals but because I could use some extra muscle. It makes life a lot easier having a couple of relatively high-level players backing you up, but calling it “social” is a stretch.

Fallen Realms

But the most frustrating thing about Fallen Realms is that it quickly becomes impossible to play for more than a few minutes at a time unless you’re willing to pay for it. Your character has a set amount of “Brave,” effectively a measure of stamina, and each step in every dungeon requires a fixed number of Brave to take. The higher the level, the more you need; the Troll King’s Throne, for instance, is 30 steps and requires five Brave per step. But when my character entered that dungeon she had a maximum of 71 Brave, and you don’t need to own any rocket appliances to see how that’s a problem. Brave recharges at a rate of about one point per minute, making lengthy mid-dungeon breaks or purchases of relatively expensive Brave potions unavoidable.

Some of the English translations feel a little bit clunky, and I still have no idea what this means: “Authorize friend request failure. You cannot make friend requests beyond limit to the number of him.” Fallen Realms can also suffer from some very long load times, as it’s constantly in communication with the internet and a slowdown anywhere along the line means a wait. I have no idea how much data it’s actually sending and receiving, but if you’re stuck with a low-cap data plan you might want to reserve your playtime to Wifi networks.

Fallen Realms is one of those games that does what it does reasonably well, it just doesn’t actually do much of any interest. It’s not even very useful as a waiting room time-killer because after a couple minutes of play, you’re forced to either take a half-hour break or open up your wallet. “Pretty and empty-headed” may have been fine for a prom date, but these days it just doesn’t hold my interest like it used to.