Pocket Legends Review - The New Way To Sit Through Meetings
Neil Kewn (Murxidon) - OnRPG Journalist
Providing you haven't been living under a rock for the past three years, you may have heard something about one company and their range of mobile devices. Whatever you may think about Apple's minimalist approach to product design and somewhat random pricing decisions, there's no denying that the iPhone, iPod Touch and now iPad have revolutionised mobile computing. The App Store has become a cash cow for thirsty developers to milk to their heart's content. And with millions of people all around the world holding an iOS product in their pocket, it was only a matter of time before someone had a shot at replicating the resounding success of desktop MMORPGs on your Apple phone.
Pocket Legends is one of the first attempts at giving those people who have the unfortunate commitments of work, school or a social life a bit of 3D online gaming on the go. Developed by Spacetime Studios, Legends is free to download from the App Store and is compatible with any iOS device. Set in the world of Alterra, Legends offers a decently sized slice of online role playing from the comfort (or discomfort, depending on how you hold it) of your phone.
Upon first launch of Pocket Legends, you are tasked with the simple account registration process. Nothing too taxing here, and you don't need to register a credit card to play. You must validate your account by way of a verification e-mail, otherwise it is deleted after 24 hours (it's advisable to do this as soon as possible, as one reviewer woke up to find his pocket adventurer nowhere to be seen). From there, the realm selection screen displays the only available server, which usually has a population of around 250 to 500.
In Legends, there are three classes to choose from. A noble bird-like archer, the mystical elven enchantress and the Ursan warrior bears. And that's it. Pick your class, type in your name and you're done. If you were looking to kit out your character with flashy haircuts and face paint, you're going to be sorely disappointed.
No cheekbone depth sliders here
Different, but it works
Now, you would probably expect to be taken to the world of Alterra, where you can begin your online adventure in a large world filled with a couple of hundred other players, right? Well, Pocket Legends takes a slightly different approach to the classic thesis adhered to by most desktop MMORPGs . The majority of the game is instanced. Players can create their own "games" that other players can jump in to at any time. Instead of a fully realised world brimming with pixelated pocket delights, Alterra is divided up into campaigns. Each campaign features a number of levels, which each take several minutes to complete. Currently, only the "Forest Haven" campaign is available for free players, with a healthy 15 levels to trudge through.
The Ye Olde Towne acts as the social hub of the game. A safe zone, where players can meet up, chat, trade and go about their daily business. The Towne is usually bursting with players, giving you plenty of opportunities to swap your spoils for gold.
Once you have entered a campaign, a short loading screen takes you to something quite striking. A fully 3D MMORPG on your iPhone. Most of what you would find on your desktop is now in your hand. A chat system, friends lists, trade, private messaging, parties, stores and even PvP have all found their way into Pocket Legends in one fashion or another. Like many other iOS games, movement is controlled via a virtual thumbstick situated on the bottom left of the screen. your current attack button is on the right. As you level your character, new abilities become available and are situated above your current attack button.
Your typical MMO, only... Squashed
Approaching any hostile being will draw up an orange line between you and the enemy, along with helpfully auto-focusing your attention to it. From there, it's just a case of moving in and clubbing, shooting or casting the baddy around a bit. Campaigns will usually group you together with three or so other players, resulting in a senseless group slaughter that never fails to entertain. When a level ends (usually by killing everything in sight), you can continue the campaign or jump back into the main game selection screen.
Any respectable MMORPG features a competent PvP element. Legends is no exception. The PvP component is hardly the most exciting player-murdering blood fest you will ever see in an MMORPG, but it does provide a fun and entertaining respite from the constant campaign running and town visiting. Deathmatch arenas are available for 3-on-3 and 5-on-5 slaughter houses, with one arena being available to free players.
Pocket Legends makes good use of the common controls found in Apple's iOS device catalog. If you've ever picked up an iPhone before, you will immediately know how to navigate your way around the game. Most of the multi-touch gestures have been transitioned over, ensuring that a learning curve is pretty much non-existent. Pinching the screen zooms in, and the camera can be freely rotated by swiping your finger around your character in a general direction. Not only is it intuitive, it is responsive and comes naturally to most people. Buttons and actions are clear and suitably placed, with an inbuilt help system guiding new players through every aspect of the game's play window, mechanics and menu screens.
The Chat system uses Apple's own iOS keyboard
iPhone games are not renowned for their graphical quality, and Pocket Legends doesn't impress on the graphical front by any means. With such a huge lack of character customisation, a lot of players will look almost identical. Enemies lack variety and the environments themselves look blocky and bland. One place where Legends does excel is with the player abilities, with special animations and effects protruding from your character as you activate devastating spells and abilities.
The developers have taken into account the fact that most players won't be using their iPhone all day, at least not to play Pocket Legends. The game, and in fact the platform, are best suited to casual games. Whilst we have all become used to spending a good few hours in front of our mice and keyboards, not every Legends player will want to play for extended periods of time. As is the case, Spacetime Studios have gone out of their way to provide users with a quick and easy way to jump into MMO gaming whilst away from their computer. Some may perceive "casual" as "lacking in depth", but Legends is certainly addicting enough to keep hardened players engrossed in the world and playing for hours, just don't expect your battery to be very forgiving, or your credit card balance.
Spacetime Studios have opted to use Apple's in-App micro-payment system to fund the game. Spending your hard earned cash on Platinum points unlocks a whole host of goodies. Available directly from inside the game, you can buy extra campaigns, ability enhancing potions, character re-specs and perhaps somewhat controversially, in-game gold. With a level cap of 13 for free players, there is a large incentive to pay up for one of the many other campaigns, and as the game grows in popularity, it is likely you will start to see more and more games on the selection screen be those that require a paid campaign to join.
Level 13 - Unlucky for all
If there is one word to describe Pocket Legends, it would be "harmless". The game never takes itself too seriously, and offers a unique and hugely fun MMO romp. It's difficult to criticise Legends for lacking the depth of other MMORPGs, when what has been done on Apple's platform is so spectacular. The transition from desktop to handheld has been a resounding success, with all of the fundamental components of massively multiplayer online roleplaying games popping up in a 40MB download. You're going to need a credit card to get the most out of this game, but the absence a monthly fee and an ideology of casual, pick up and play gameplay, Pocket Legends is well worth the price of admission, even if you choose to pay nothing.
A 3D MMO in your pocket
Pick up and play - Jump into a game wherever and whenever
Chat, friends, trade, PvP - It's all here
Free content is limited to one campaign with a level cap
Screen can become cluttered with text and abilities on an iPhone/iPod Touch
Lack of character customisation