Arcane Legends does a great job of delivering the MMO experience to your mobile or tablet
Massively multiplayer online games have long been the near-exclusive domain of the PC, which historically has meant that they're something you play while hunched over a keyboard, your face mere inches away from your monitor - and certainly not the sort of thing you carry around in your pocket. But Arcane Legends takes a big step toward changing that, serving up a full-on and surprisingly good MMO experience without tying you down.
The game opens with goblins running amok, burning villages, terrorizing innocents and getting up to all the usual sorts of nastiness for reasons that I didn't really pay attention to because it's an MMO and so the plot is entirely irrelevant. You, despite being an inexperienced nobody, are chosen by the local good guy to undertake a mission of marginal importance, and of course from there it's not long before other people are heaping tasks upon you and you're well on your way to becoming a Real Hero.
You begin by choosing one of three classes - the usual mix of warrior, rogue or mage - and changing up your appearance, if so desired, by way of a few relatively limited customization options. You then pick a pet, which will assist you in battle and help collect treasure, and after tying up a few loose ends you're tossed into the fray. Following a brief tutorial, the game begins in earnest, although instructional bits will continue to pop up now and then as new content is introduced.
Arcane Legends looks fantastic, with colorful graphics, smooth animations and plenty of small visual details that pull it all together. There's no voice work to speak of, which isn't really unusual for an MMO, but the sound effects are very good and the music is outstanding. Controls consist of a virtual thumbstick for movement, a primary fire button and several other buttons for casting spells, quaffing potions and accessing menus. It's crowded, but it works pretty well--even the virtual stick, which offers a surprisingly fine degree of control over movement. And I say that as someone who really doesn't like virtual thumbsticks.
Your adventuring career begins in the town of Windmoore, in the company of dozens (or possibly hundreds) of others. You can talk to various NPCs to learn more about the game, stock up on equipment and sign up for quests, or even nip into the local tavern for a virtual drink, but sooner or later you'll want to head out into the big bad world to take care of business. Unlike the town areas, quests in Arcane Legends are instanced, meaning that small player groups of comparable levels are matched up to play through individual "copies" of dungeon and combat zones. It's perhaps not as exciting as the chaos of a heavily-populated game area, but having a dungeon area to yourself means you'll never have to line up with half the game's population, waiting for your turn to kill the bad guy.
Quest areas are very linear, to the point that even outdoor segments are virtual corridors, and are populated by a constant, set number of enemies that culminate in a boss fight. Forming parties with your fellows is optional but definitely recommended, as the world of Arcane Legends is a very dangerous place. In a nice touch, completed quests can be turned in through a network of "Quest Drop" boxes that cover the realm, so you can claim your rewards for a job well done without having to travel all the way back to where it began.
You start the game with just one pet but you'll have the opportunity to collect many more on your travels, which can be kept in your very own virtual stable. Of a more practical value are the skills and spells you'll learn, which can be further enhanced as you increase levels. In typical RPG fashion, you'll also assign points to your three character attributes of strength, dexterity and intelligence, which affects your damage, health, dodge ability, mana points and other stats. You'll have the option to travel to the starting point of any individual quest you've undertaken, and a teleportation system enables direct travel between the world's numerous locales.
And in a very cool twist, at least for those of us who haven't experienced such a thing in the past, it's not restricted to mobiles: Arcane Legends can also be played as a far more conventional MMO through your PC's web browser. Aside from being bigger and controlled with keyboard and mouse, it's virtually identical to the mobile version, and by logging in with Facebook or Google your character will automatically move back and forth between the two versions, so you can join up and go questing with friends no matter where you are.
There are a few areas of concern but as you might expect, most arise from cramming a full-blown MMO onto a screen that fits in your pocket. Arcane Legends does an excellent job of managing the overload, but a certain amount of clutter and clumsiness is inevitable, and while the graphics are sharp and the screen can be zoomed, frantic battles or big crowds of players can make it difficult to tell what's going on or interact with NPCs. The chat interface is a bit on the awkward side, especially in the heat of battle, and the short auto-targeting range means it's tricky for rogues and wizards to be useful in fights without getting themselves into trouble.
And as a free-to-play game, Arcane Legends does push players pretty hard to buy platinum, the in-game currency that's used to purchase everything from resurrections to elixirs, "mystery chests," equipment bundles, extra character slots, food for your pet and more. It's not mandatory by any stretch and I don't think Spacetime is being unfair about it - I've yet to reach a point at which I felt I needed to fork over real money to progress - but it's pretty obvious that people who are willing to pay are going to get a better--or at the very least easier--experience.
It isn't overly remarkable as an MMO, but for putting the complete massively-multiplayer online experience on your phone, this is a very remarkable game indeed. It looks great, it plays well, the free-to-play aspect seems reasonably balanced and it switches instantly and flawlessly between your mobile and your desktop. If an MMO you can take with you is what you want, then Arcane Legends is what you need.
- All the features of a standard MMO on your mobile, with excellent graphics and a control setup that actually works very well.
- Probably best on tablets - screen can get pretty cramped on phones.