Another healthy helping of action RPG

Here’s a timely lesson straight from the just-ended holiday season: empty calories can taste really, really good. Sure, you might regret that extra helping of stuffing or second desert, but not while you’re eating it. Glu Mobile’s Eternity Warriors 3 is something like that, a gluttonous serving of free-to-play action-RPG carnage that provides little nutritional value but tempts you to keep coming back for more.

At the risk of stretching that opening analogy to the breaking point, one of the ingredients in the Eternity Warriors 3 recipe is a story. That is, there’s a reason you’re taking your Warrior or Monk and pitting them against hordes of enemies in Diablo-esque fashion. It’s just not that important. Consider it a garnish, there for presentation purposes only.

Eternity Warriors 3

The real meat is in hacking and slashing your way through dungeons, and the game gets you into the action quickly, teaching what you need to know along the way. The controls are simple, and despite my general disdain for virtual thumbsticks, this one is responsive enough to deal with the fast-paced combat. A large button handles basic attacks with smaller ones for skills, which draw down your mana and also have cooldown timers.

There’s nothing subtle about what you’re asked to do in each level, which is eliminate undead, demons, wolves, and other monsters in the shortest possible time – and you’re actually graded on how fast you can clear them all out. Mini-bosses in the final zone of most levels are a little tougher, and the actual bosses of the three kingdoms provide nice challenges. Mostly though, it’s quantity over quality, putting your reflexes to the test against waves of enemies.

Eternity Warriors 3

The loot also comes in generous portions. Weapons and armor are always appropriate for your class, which is nice, and you’ll find yourself with tons of options before long: more HP or more defense, greater chance at critical hits versus a higher likelihood of additional item drops, and so on. A two-pronged system allows you to improve your gear; the first allows lesser items to be sacrificed a la card battle games to buff the better item, while the second uses reagents to boost the item to a higher tier.

If that’s not enough to get your Gear Score up to snuff, the game’s monetization scheme can also be used to your advantage. Offerings to the deities of the Eternity Warriors 3 universe can get you random rolls for more loot. As you might expect, the common offerings are fairly easy to come by via quest rewards. The rarer ones are purchased using Gems, the game’s premium currency. It’s not pay-to-win, but combined with the way world events award rare items to players atop the leaderboards, it does contribute to a “rich get richer” syndrome that affects many mobile games these days.

Some other design choices rankle or confuse just a bit. A little grinding is expected in this genre, but when quests flat out call for you to replay the same level five times to complete them, that’s a bit much (the one I’m thinking of is repeatable daily, which just adds to the ludicrousness). The third class, the Mage, probably serves as a nice change of pace to the not-really-that-different Warrior and Monk, but she’s not available until you beat a specific level. Glu also seems pretty proud of the social features it built in, like the ability to form or join guilds and chat with other players in town between quests, but they don’t feel essential in any way.

Eternity Warriors 3

The extremely impressive visuals, on the other hand, are pretty vital to the EW3 experience. I upgraded from an iPad 2 to an iPad Air just after Christmas, and this was the first game that made me thank whoever invented the A7 chip and retina display. Many mobile games boast console quality graphics, but this really looks like something you could play on a previous gen machine (and yes, we can officially call PS3 and Xbox 360 previous gen). As long as you’ve got a solid internet connection, expect the action to zip along at a buttery smooth frame rate.

Maybe that makes Eternity Warriors 3 something more akin to the fast food of mobile games. It’s slickly packaged, you know exactly what you’re getting, and it hits the spot even if it doesn’t challenge your gaming palette in any way. And with that, I’ve officially hit my limit on food comparisons in a single review.