Spacetime Studios, makers of the current heavyweight champion of the mobile world Pocket Legends, has expanded its lineup by adding Star Legends: The Blackstar Chronicles. I was more excited about this title than almost any other that was announced this year -- and for good reason. Pocket Legends proved that a real mobile MMO complete with a persistent world, real-time chat and multiplayer interaction is possible. Over this last year the developers have added on a lot of new options and kept the game moving forward. If their new game was going to follow the same patch as Pocket Legends, then more power to Spacetime.
At the same time, would they be able to overcome or improve some of the basic issues that comes with mobile gaming? And what exactly was the goal of making a second mobile MMO if a lot of your core design would remain the same... and a lot of your players would as well?
Click past the cut and I'll tell you what I found this week!
First I want to say that I like to spend between 10 and 15 hours with a game before writing it up for Rise and Shiny. That's a good, solid set of numbers and I've heard them used before by many writers. After all, an MMO is not some console-based first-person shooter that has a limited time campaign programmed into it. But I could spend 10-15 hours alone with the crafting systems of many MMOs and still barely scratch the surface. This is why I have had to repeat the premise of this column so many times over the last year and a quarter that it has existed. It's inevitable that someone questions whether or not a proper "review" can ever be done on an MMO --to which I answer, "It's not a review, it's a first impression. I have to stop playing at some point and start writing." Usually that does the trick. Be upfront with the intentions of your column and you've covered your back.
"You would be surprised at how location really effects your MMO play. Think about it...you have probably been playing MMOs in basically the same way, possibly in the same room, and generally on the same setup for years now."
Well, Star Legends doesn't exactly lend itself to being played that much. It could be played that much, just like chess or other games, but it sort of works perfectly in small chunks. I would pick up the game, shoot my way through two or three missions, then set it down until later. Another funny thing happens when you play mobile games, something that doesn't happen with standard MMOs: your location changes. You find yourself gaming in all sorts of different areas. I was getting some repair work done on my car, so of course I pulled the game out. Later I might be laying in bed watching some cruddy TV, so I would run myself through a mission or even just log in to poke around. I even showed it to my little brother (I volunteer for Big Brothers Big Sisters) but unfortunately I only had access to one client and we could not play together.
You would be surprised at how location really effects your MMO play. Think about it... you have probably been playing MMOs in basically the same way for years now, possibly in the same room and on the same setup. When an MMO can be popped up from your pocket at any time (even on mobile connections this game works fine), it changes how you approach playing it.
If you have played Pocket Legends, then you might not be too surprised about Star Legends. The differences aren't as numerous as they are large, but the design and art is definitely from the same studio. I was happy to see them sticking to their strengths but admittedly curious as to how they are going to make the two games stand out from each other.
For starters, there are guild halls in Star Legends. Real, instanced guild halls in which you and your guild can meet. They come complete with social areas and special health potion vendors. Heck, I can name several "real" MMOs that don't even have housing of any kind yet. Of course, I've been told guild houses will be making their way into Pocket Legends, so how else will the two differ? Well, in both you can instantly teleport to the location of your quest, but in Star Legends the map is broken into sectors or different areas of the galaxy, while Pocket Legends features a map through which you can either walk across in real time or teleport.
The real difference for me came from the barrage of lasers that might be typical in a sci-fi game. It is glorious to get into a fire fight and have your tiny smartphone speakers straining against all of the noise. In a weird way, fighting in the metal corridors of Star Legends reminded me so much of those famous laser battles in Star Wars -- all that was missing was a rope swing across a metallic ravine. Star Legends definitely feels sci-fi. There are robots, aliens and cool space-armor. There is even one NPC who randomly wanders around the Blackstar -- the home base for everyone -- wearing a bubble-topped suit. The design is cute but not silly; definitely cartoony but not goofy. The graphics are actually rather impressive when you realize they come only in mobile version.
Besides the setting and the obvious example of lasers, what differences will there be between the two games that would make a player want to switch? Is Star Legends just Pocket Legends in a sci-fi skin? I'd have to say that, so far, it is. Remember that Pocket Legends is a lot further along in development, though, and Star Legends players will see a lot of that development trickle into their game. Or better yet, development might go both ways, as in the case of guild housing. While it is true that Pocket Legends players will not feel completely alien to this new game, the different abilities, classes and locations are plenty to satisfy, even if just until Star Legends becomes a more unique MMO.
Personally, I cannot wait to see what they planned for Star Legends. Pocket Legends is dramatically different now than it was when it first came out, so I imagine the same happening to its sci-fi cousin. Space flight or custom homes would be great at some point. The sci-fi location actually opens the game up a bit more to different design than a fantasy world. After all, good technology really just looks like magic, but you can't put a robot in a fantasy world (and I'm not talking about some steampunk version). Anyway, here's to a bright future!
Next week I will finally be taking a deeper look at A Mystical Land, a browser-based crafting and social MMO from Neonga.
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. I welcome any suggestions for games -- drop me a note in the comments or email! You can also follow me on Twitter, Facebook, or Raptr!