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Rise and Shiny recap: Pocket Legends


Over the last two weeks, I have been taking a look at Pocket Legends, a fully functioning MMO made for the mobile player. I did not publish a Rise and Shiny last week (I was busy writing up my GDCO coverage) but that is a good thing -- I had no real time to play the game anyway. I've jumped in and out, played through a few dungeons and scoured the cash shop. After hearing Cinco Barnes from Spacetime Studios -- the developer of Pocket Legends -- I really saw how well the company's design choices were working in practice.

What I found is a game that works and is stable. While that isn't the most glamorous description, you would be hard-pressed to find a game that has succeeded without either of those traits. The key here is that it runs while in the palm of your hand (or lap, in the case of the iPad). But let me take you through a bit more of the game before I pass judgment.

Before we begin, it's important to note that all of these thoughts are about a game that runs on an iPhone. Yes, we should look at it as any other MMO, but we must take into consideration how really freakin' cool it is to have an entire world in your pocket. All I am saying is to just bear that in mind.

Graphically, the developers were very smart. As Cinco pointed out in his chat at GDC Online, playable humans characters would require more customization than the team was originally planning on putting into the game. Instead, the devs went for an elf, a bear, and an eagle. The world is bright, but not Anime bright, and the environments definitely do their job of sucking you in. In fact, you hardly notice how simple the textures are or how many sounds are on infinite loop -- it all just adds up to a relatively immersive experience.

When it comes to systems, the game is not going to win any real awards. Again, though, I can see how the developers wanted to just make the darn thing work before they started piling on complicated crafting or housing. The tactic seems to have succeeded. Since release, Spacetime has slowly but steadily released patch after patch, adding more depth and customization -- even connecting paths that allow for non-instant travel -- and the team shows no signs of stopping. The client looks good enough to last for a long time, so I have total confidence that more in-depth systems are coming.

How fun is the combat? Fun, if you are into hack-and-slash action. The auto-attack feature works pretty well, considering the limited choices of mobile design. As a ranged character, I enjoyed hitting the auto-target/attack button and watching the arrows fly. Occasionally that would result in targeting something other than what I intended, and I couldn't figure out how to untarget it. You can move using a smooth on-screen joystick, or you can touch the screen for movement. Choosing a target with touch is more clunky, but it's a good alternative.

The idea seems to be to jump in for a dungeon or three, gain a level or two, and outfit your character. If you think about it, that's not much different than many larger "normal" MMOs, games that have many loyal fans. It's really a reliable recipe, if history has anything to say about it. Grinding, leveling and customizing are some of the most basic developer tools.

That is, if you enjoy such a thing. I can say that one of my least favorite things to do is to grind out level after level, dungeon after dungeon. It's boring, for the most part. How Pocket Legends defeats most of this boredom is by balancing the urgency of dungeoning with many different ways to go about it. You can jump into a dungeon, and (as was frequently the case with me) if you have to leave halfway through, you can start at the beginning once you log back in. While it sounds annoying, progressing through the dungeons is not some monumental task, thanks especially to the automatic grouping mechanic. If you find yourself alone and outnumbered, simply wait a short while and someone will pop in.

Overall, the game does a lot with very little. While it's not really my cup of tea, the potential of this stable game is very exciting. You can play it in bed, waiting outside, or during a long meeting. Pocket Legends just came out and did what it wanted to do and didn't fuss around with trying to be something it is not. It's a portable dungeon-grinder, but one that is convenient and humorous. It's also free to download, with the option to buy new levels of content. Let's just call it a velvet rope model. So, will it stay on my phone's (and iPad's) hard drive? Do they have hard drives? Either way, yes. I cannot wait to see what Spacetime will do with this thing.

Next week, we will be looking at Legend of Edda, a "cute and hardcore" new game from Games Campus. My character's name is Beau, and I'm on the Gaia server, Titan side. Now, go log in!

Each week, Rise and Shiny asks you to download and try a different free-to-play, indie or unusual game, chosen by me, Beau Hindman. We meet each Tuesday and Friday night at 9 p.m. EDT (6 p.m. PDT); the column will run on the following Sunday. I welcome any suggestions for games -- drop me a note in the comments or email, or follow me on Twitter or Raptr!

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