I know this is not what you want to hear if you are a fan of Spacetime Studios and were really excited about it new title, Dark Legends, but here goes: The energy mechanic that seems to have so many players upset is really not that bad at all. See, at some point many games decided to use a limited amount of energy to fuel character actions, and once it runs out, it seems like game over. It has always been the case (ever since Farmville first made the mechanic so popular that misguided gamers thought Zynga had somehow invented it) that energy in these sorts of games refills naturally, over time, for free.
I played through Dark Legends on launch night and was able to complete an entire campaign with some energy left over. Sure, I had to pause once to refill a couple of bars (they take five minutes each to refill), but other than that, I had no issues with it. If the energy becomes an issue at later levels, I do not know.
Let's not confuse things here: The energy mechanic in Dark Legends is nothing new, it's not a scam, and it does not force players to do anything. Allow me to explain, then we're moving on to other mobile MMO news.
First, let's picture ourselves in the latest hardcore PvP sandbox. The developers took the time to include "stamina" in the system so that a player's character will "tire out" and need rest to regain the ability to do any heavy lifting. Of course this does not stop the player from doing other things like shopping, socializing, and stuff that we actually spend most of our time doing in many MMOs, but we take it as an attempt at realism. We accept it as "hardcore."
Dark Legends, and heck, even Farmville, is doing precisely the same thing. Are the time limits different? Are the levels of activity nerfed more in those games? Possibly, but let's not forget that they are casual games and always have been. Spacetime Studios, from the very beginning, has talked about the need to have a game that players could play in bits and pieces in between office meetings and such. To the studio's surprise, players demanded to play more and did, sometimes for several hours. The devs had to adapt and add more content, actual open worlds that resemble any zone in EverQuest, and other activities like crafting. Sure, the company charges you to speed up almost any process, but bear in mind that you can simply ignore the offer.
We also have the issue of Dark Legends' featuring actual, purchasable experience that players can use to level their characters with. Once again, I knew my recent Soapbox article would come in handy, but for those of you who did not catch it, let me paraphrase: If a developer decides to sell the most powerful items or characters in game for real-life cash, that's fine, and it's much better it does so from the very beginning. Calling it cheating assumes way, way too much about many players. In other words, some people want to get in, gain access to cool stuff, and get on with kicking butt. They don't care about other gamers' definitions of honor or glory... to them it is a pastime, and there's absolutely nothing wrong with it.
Look for a more in-depth first impressions of the game later.
Next I wanted to talk a bit about Thinix, an inexpensive software option for those of us who have Windows-based touchscreen devices. It essentially wraps a shell over the current Windows 8 preview OS I am running on my Inspiron Duo. I was a bit scared for a while that the little netbook would not get as much use as I would have wanted, but the preview and (I can't believe I am going to say this) the speedy Internet Explorer 10 transformed it into a pretty powerful tablet device. Most Windows-based tablets are still a bit pricey, so I am thrilled. Thinix sets it up even better with huge buttons, a fully customizable interface, and a nice price tag of around $35 US, and it includes a browser that is much friendlier to touchscreens. Thinix alone has made my little device a true favorite. It's still a little weighty, but I use it several times daily now when I feel like playing from bed or while standing up (yes, I play while standing up).
Parallel Mafia launched this week as well. If you are not familiar, it's a futuristic version of Parallel Kingdom, a browser-based, location-based MMO that is really unique and quite in-depth. Parallel Mafia feels more combat-focused and hectic. While many of the mechanics are the same as in Parallel Kingdom, Parallel Mafia is glossier and looks better on the smaller screen of my Android. I spent the week creating safehouses and business fronts across my real-life map as I shopped, ran errands, and grabbed cups of tea.
I like the fact that I can travel to any of my safehouses that I've built up in my real-life travels, and the occasional attacks on and theft of my businessfronts made things a little uneasy. It's a great game for playing several times during the day or especially during travel. While the depth of Parallel Kingdom is missing from Parallel Mafia, I'm sure the games will level out in time. I also like the optional add-ons to your character that come in the form of bionics and optics that actually change the way your character looks. In fact, there are a lot of ways to customize your character, as tiny as he or she is.
I do have an issue with the "XXX" vibe that the game comes with, sort of like a Grand Theft Auto-light. As I sat with my wife at a food joint one day, I pulled out my phone and built a buisnessfront, essentially claiming the territory. On my screen appeared a "XXX" store. There are also strip-joints and other cheesy and over-used Mafia themes in the game. I wish the devs had kept it as a future survivalist game or perhaps a Bladerunner-esque crime drama. I would prefer anything to the few sexist designs in the game. I've had enough of that in gaming over the last 12+ years. Other than that, I enjoy the game, but it needs to grow some more. I like the design ethic at the Perblue team, and the devs stay in contact with their playerbase through constant updates and social media. Just get rid of the porno-shtick and I'll dig Parallel Mafia even more.
The world of mobile gaming is popping up like crazy. I wanted to comment on the recent studies that show that younger players are dropping standard, single-player games for social-style games, and I was going to mention a handful of other games. Luckily, they'll still be there next week. See you then.
Each week in MMObility, Beau Hindman dives into the murky waters of the most accessible and travel-friendly games around, including browser-based and smartphone MMOs. Join him as he investigates the best, worst, and most daring games to hit the smallest devices! Email him suggestions, or follow him on Twitter and Facebook.