Arcane Legends screenshot
Spacetime Studios' newest title, Arcane Legends, which just launched officially yesterday, didn't quite excite me at first. This was before I had played the game or really caught a glimpse of any in-game artwork, but after three titles, I'd been wondering whether Spacetime could change its tune a bit. The last three titles have been basically the same game, albeit set in different genres and universes. First we were given Pocket Legends, a fantasy dungeon-crawler that surprised us with how much content and fun was to be had inside. Then we got Star Legends, a sci-fi version with a few tweaks. Next up came Dark Legends, a vampire-themed modern adventure that introduced us to action-based combat with a more "adult" tone.

It's not that all of the previous titles were no fun to play. Instead, each one offers a smooth experience that's easy to jump into and sometimes hard to put down. But each one felt a bit more like a variant on a previous model, a build-up to something more finalized and slick.

Is Arcane Legends that better product? Did it take three tries to finally get things right in the Legends line?
Well, yes and no. Arcane Legends is not going to feel like an alien experience to anyone who has played previous Spacetime titles. I'm not sure that it needs to feel completely unique or different. After all, the Spacetime design and game formula seems to have enjoyed nice success and set Spacetime as a studio with a lot of firsts under its belt. Still, no one wants to just play Pocket Legends 2.0... right?

Again, yes and no. I want to play an advanced version of all of the previous Legends titles. This is a great opportunity to release a new flagship title, to perfect the formula that got us here in the first place, and to challenge players with new systems and new ideas. But I have to admit being a little tired of the same control systems, the same look, and the same general gameplay. I've played the heck out of all of the Legends titles (except maybe Star Legends, my least favorite) and do not want to play more under a different name.

So what does Arcane Legends do to set itself apart from its earlier cousins? A few things. First, it combines systems and mechanics from all of the previous games. There are really too many to name, but I can break down some of the more notable systems.

Arcane Legends screenshot
Arcane Legends features an open map that players can either walk across or teleport across. We first saw this in Pocket Legends, a system that set the first title firmly in the MMORPG camp. These are complete worlds now, ones that we can freely explore and move across. Arcane Legends also features a very robust pet system. We've seen pets in Pocket Legends and Star Legends, but nothing like this.

In Arcane Legends, pets are collectible and cute, even alien as most of the game has a sort of sci-fantasy feel. These pets do a few things besides make you look cooler. They help fight or heal, level up, and become stronger, grab loot, and smash objects that might contain goodies. They also they need to be fed and cared for. It's sort of a Pokemon-lite system, a good balance of whiny pet mechanic and healthy combat partner.

The action-based combat that I first loved in Dark Legends has a heavy presence in Arcane Legends as well. In the first two titles, combat was always an auto-attack thing. Players push the attack button, and the character on the screen fires off attacks like crazy while locking on to targets. In Dark Legends, players must push a button to make the ability trigger. Holding down an ability charges it up as well, firing off a much more powerful attack. Arcane Legends takes this one step further by allowing every ability to be charged up. On top of that, each ability has five different add-ons that can be learned, making builds and tweaks a part of Legends gaming... finally. I imagine that the developers can even take this several steps further later on.

Arcane Legends screenshot
The artwork in game is really the standout. It feels similar to the other Spacetime games but is sharper and more stylized and slick. Polish is the key word here, and it finally feels as if Spacetime is making something that many gamers would consider a true gaming experience, one that is closer to a desktop version. I've always enjoyed the studio's titles, but the previous graphics were a bit too... mobile-looking. Now the game offers cutscenes and voiceovers. There are plenty of humorous moments and neat options for character customization. Of course, the cash shop plays a large role in the game, but this has been a standard in Spacetime's lineup for a long time. If you have a problem with it now, then you should have always had a problem with it. The idea is to get a player in, load him up with stuff if he wants it, and get him kickin' butt.

Arcane Legends feels closer to a good old fashioned dungeon crawler, but one set in a more unique universe than we've seen before. Each mob or character seems familiar but not quite -- in a good way. This is a unique world that has been created, and it's about time.

If you've played previous Legends titles, you will surprised at how many little twists on the old formula you'll find. If you've never played one before, you'll just find a fun dungeon-crawling romp with a neat pet system, great customization, and full MMORPG options that can fit in your pocket. All I could think while I played the game this week was, "What will this team be able to accomplish in only a few more years?"

I want to be there when they do it.

Each week, Free for All brings you ideas, news, and reviews from the world of free-to-play, indie, and import games -- a world that is often overlooked by gamers. Leave it to Beau Hindman to talk about the games you didn't know you wanted! Have an idea for a subject or a killer new game that no one has heard of? Send it to beau@massively.com!

This article was originally published on Massively.