By: Ojogo, Mobile Guru
At this late point in the gaming cycle, people should already be familiar with how mobile devices do action adventure games. There’s practically a template developers follow, unconsciously or not. It’s always the same battle-centric beat em up where everything else outside combat is just a glorified RPG skin for micromanaging your stats and equipment. It’s always the same side directional pad and mashable attack button with the auto-combo, surrounded by hotkeys for your character’s designated skills.
Not that there’s anything inherently bad with this system. Familiarity is a good way of getting long-time fans of the genre easily into new titles. It’s just a matter of mixing it up and putting something else on the table to make them stay.
Taichi Panda is a free-to-play online multiplayer action-adventure dungeon crawler by Snail Games. As the title puts it, you can safely assume that you will be playing as some reskinned variation of Po from Kungfu Panda, though you can also choose to play as a quick female assassin or a brawny warrior as well. Basic plot has it that the character you decide to play as is the one hero tasked to restore balance to a world that has dark and evil forces plaguing it. Whether your goal is to defeat the dark forces or just destroy the entire world they are plaguing on the other hand is a bit vague.
As mentioned earlier, controls and gameplay are quite simple and reminiscent of many, if not all, known action games for the mobile devices released so far. What’s interesting to note though is their touched up edition of the interface offers a more personalization options and intuitive systems than the typical jaunt in the genre.
Rather than having a fixed position, the virtual d-pad is accessed at any point of the general bottom left area in the screen. You could be dragging and tapping your left thumb through the middle left of the screen and the movement controls will still apply. It’s a minor thing, but it’s a nice touch knowing you don’t have to constantly restrict your muscle movements to intense memory to match a virtual unmoving analog stick for ideal feedback. The only main controls fixed on the screen are the attack buttons which is familiarly situated on the bottom right corner to mimic standard handheld gaming devices.
As far the gameplay goes, Taichi Panda satisfies on levels ranging from being just a simple hack and slasher to a tactical combo-oriented action game. Your character travels through a map, fighting waves upon waves of enemies.
You may blindly hack your way through the fog – dodging, moving, and timing your skills being the only notions of strategy, or you can work through combos and juggles to gratify the war exhibitionist in you.
Certain moves can cause certain states to the enemies, such as stun and a juggle-able states that can enable you to cause much more damage to your enemies. The game makes it so that going through such troubles isn’t exactly necessary, but it does reward you if you do decide to go the distance.
For example, most enemies have a certain degree of armor that allows them to ignore getting hit. They still get damaged, but getting smacked in the face doesn’t really stop them from hitting you back. But hit them enough times, or with the right moves, and you’ll stun them or launch them into the air, allowing you to juggle them. If your timing is spot on, you can keep them bouncing in the area for an extended period, maximizing your dps. What’s nice is that this applies to everyone – the level boss, PVP enemies, and your character as well. It presents a fighting game-esque system that encourages players to try and go the extra mile with how they can strategically manage to break the enemy and get hits in, which is something most action games usually put minimal emphasis towards.
It also features a pet system, wherein your pets act as your support party. They are controlled by the game’s AI, but they provide adequate support cover fire, and defense.
They can be customized with their own equipment and can be leveled by feeding so they can keep up with the game’s progressing difficulty. If you want to maintain a pet that actually contributes, you’ll need to continually feed them to boost their power to match the progressively rising difficulty. Another thing to take note is that pets can be attacked, and are usually the first things enemy monsters target in dungeons. This adds some tactics to the concept of retreating, as kiting foes with cheap tricks for too long will usually leave you without a pet for the remainder of the dungeon. Sometimes it’s necessary to sacrifice your pet to buy your party enough time to regroup after some bad plays against a boss.
The hack and slash brawler experience Taichi Panda gives is deep and sophisticated enough to be compared as a mobile version of Diablo 3 or Dungeon Hunter. The single player mode is rich enough for it to stand alone without its many online features. But since this IS a mobile game, dare we dream that we can’t have any of that.
Taichi Panda works out the usual tired mechanics and pays a little more attention to detail to fully suit player needs. Well, more of wants, than needs. PVP now feels more like an actual console or PC-based PVP battle. In arena, players face off with each other in asynchronous battles with each player having the boss-type armor to compensate for the lack of an intelligent reactive person behind the wheels. This tends to lead to a fulfilling game of cat and mouse as you must time the missed initiation of your foe before going in for the key armor break to open your foe to a juggle combo. Whichever side manages the first extensive juggle usually takes the win. Another simpler form of PVP is the typical stat comparison where you raid and try to steal items other players have for an item fusion system.
Taichi Panda has a whole lot more of other micro features that are worthy of noting, but the point is the game is one of the most “complete” mobile games out in the market right now.
The core gameplay is already deep and sophisticated on its own, and every little detail and feature streamlines with it to make one whole consistent product. You don’t see a lot of those right now, as Taichi Panda is clearly setting a bar too high for the competition to meet. Sure, it still has some purchasable content and bonuses not accessible for free players, but it doesn’t really depend on any of that to make the gaming experience worthwhile.
In all honestly this game carries the quality of the buy to play titles on the app store, and seems like a charity that Snail offered it for free. Taichi Panda is a glorious and beautiful example of where the future of mobile gaming is heading. True, it does follow a typical game formula, but it delivers much more than its rivals in the action RPG genre have so far.