Perfect Ten: My mobile MMO experiment, part 2

Justin Olivetti
J. Olivetti|01.22.15

Sponsored Links

Perfect Ten: My mobile MMO experiment, part 2
hello hero
Last week on Perfect Ten I began an experiment to "taste test" a batch of mobile MMOs to see if there's anything out there that's worth playing in this day and age (apart from the often-recommended Order & Chaos Online and Spacetime Studio's lineup). For the record, I would absolutely love a great mobile online RPG, but it would need to be a game that's tailored to such devices and offers a compelling experience beyond trying to clone a generic MMO.

Let me sum up my adventures so far: While I did discover a couple of interesting titles, there was nothing in the first five games that made me want to keep them on my smartphone. Let's hope that this week's group brings out the big guns because I will be despondent if this experiment is in vain!

Experiment #6: Hello Hero

Any game that has a guitar-playing, sunglasses-wearing cactus on its official website can't be all bad, right? It was apparent from the get-go that Hello Hero's tongue is most definitely stuck in its cheek, which is something that I dig. I don't know how I feel about there being a literal "damsel" in distress one minute into the tutorial, however. Satire? I'll give it the benefit of the doubt.

Hello Hero takes a different approach by placing an emphasis on party (deck) building and collecting characters. You get to assign five characters to your dungeoneering party (two front-line and three back-line) and then go through a series of very linear instances to earn loot, gold, and even more characters. Seriously, there are scads and scads of often-bizarre heroes to collect (hence the title), and each of them comes with his or her own skills and goofy persona.

The look and endless stream of battles actually made me think of the Final Fantasy titles -- and not in a bad way. Actually, Hello Hero has a pleasing art aesthetic, fun animations, and a slick UI to make these infinite instances enjoyable. As I found, most all of a player's critical decisions are made in setting up the team; the instances can be played on automatic and in high speed (and in fact, my phone is playing without me as I type this) to see whether your build will hold up to the challenge. I don't know how I feel about that, to tell the truth. Convenient, yes, but there's such a thing as so convenient as to render the player unnecessary.

Hello Hero isn't a home run, however. It's as pushy and prone to mobile free-to-play antics as you might fear, it lacks any open world exploration, and its multiplayer is limited to joining a guild, fighting in arenas, and partaking in community-wide events. I'll keep it on my phone for the amusement factor alone, but I don't hold high hopes for its longevity.

Experiment #7: Avabel Online

Beau wasn't a huge fan of Avabel in his 2013 review of the title, but it came up enough in my search for recommended mobile titles that I had to at least give it an honest try. After a half-hour of slogging through it, I wished I hadn't.

Avabel starts out somewhat promising, with a more traditional over-the-shoulder, free-roaming format and attractive enough graphics. That's about the start and end of my praise, since everything else turned me off so fast. Was it the ugly-as-sin interface and text? The lack of adequate explanation? The dearth of initial classes and skills? Or the fact that I spent my half-hour mindlessly slashing away at oversized chickens and was rewarded only with "white fluff?"

At least Avabel delivered one memorable moment when a popup notified me of a crucial achievement: having played the game for five minutes. In the vast field of pointless achievements, this may be the most pathetic I've ever seen. I should get an achievement for that.

Experiment #8: The World of Magic

The further I go along with these experiments, the more I realize that mobile MMOs are all about trade-offs. Slick user interfaces, good-looking graphics, open-world questing: It's as if you can only have two. The World of Magic is a prime example, as it obviously boasts a fairly robust playing field with lots of other players (just look at that screen!) but fails to bring a decluttered UI, modern looks, or true variety.

Wielding graphics from an older era and an absolutely terrible D-pad, TWoM has all of the nuts and bolts of an MMO but none of the spirit and polish. Character choices obeyed the Rule of Three: three hairstyles, three hair colors, and three classes. I went with a Ranger and spent a sad introductory session pounding on the attack button only to see my character display a single frame of attack animation before the enemies would mysteriously fall over dead. To make things more interesting, I pretended that it was due to a poor health care plan in this SNES country.

I couldn't find the fun anywhere in this title other than perhaps watching kids with names like XxImpactxX and XKillerXD bicker with each other. Maybe this game is an elaborate time-out room for teenage offenders? I shall contemplate this some more as I delete this app.

Experiment #9: Dawn of the Immortals

One of the most-asked for character creation options that I hear from MMO players is the ability to put a smaller monkey head on top of your character's actual head. I'm happy to report that Dawn of the Immortals is part of the very select club of games that made the effort to include this.

After having plowed through some truly abominable pieces of mobile crap, I found Dawn actually quite refreshing. Oh, sure, it's as generic as fantasy games can be, but it looks and sounds terrific, right down to the busy animations during combat. It's also a strong candidate for MMO on Autopilot Award of the Year, since you can both tell the game to automatically go to the next quest objective and fight without any input. It might be a way to get around mobile limitations, but it serves to remove the player from vested interest in the world -- and it kills immersion.

It seems that everything good about this title has a bad counterpart. The lush graphics are offset by an extremely cluttered and distracting UI (the swirly animations around some of the icons were the worst part of this). The humor in the dialogue was dragged down by the banality of the storyline. The fact that I was given both a pet and a home in the first 10 minutes (!) was diminished by how rigid and rapidly the tutorial pushed me past exploring these features at my own pace. After an hour I was making good progress with levels and gear and whatnot, but I couldn't tell you anything about my character's stats, skills, or what I was even doing because of the hand-holding.

All in all, Dawn of the Immortals is one of the stronger contestants in my experiment, although I don't see much here to entice me to continue playing.

Experiment #10: Heroes of Dragon Age

I'm not the world's biggest Dragon Age fan, but I heard that this was a slick little title, so why not wrap up my marathon with it? Anyway, unlike the single-player RPGs, Heroes of Dragon Age focuses on squad-based battles. As in Hello Hero, you build up a squad, go on quests, and try to ignore the stereotypical Elf giving you military advice. It uses a tabletop aesthetic, so all of your characters are presented as animated pieces, but other than that, it's a typical back-and-forth slugfest.

EA has a banged-up reputation in the mobile space for being -- how shall I put it? -- money-grabbing joy vampires. This title certainly does contain freemium aspects like the silly energy mechanic and the pressure to constantly buy more "packs" of heroes for your squad, but I can't say it's terribly egregious for this type of game.

Including Heroes of Dragon Age on this list may be a weird fluke. It came recommended to me as an MMO, but after some time with it, I can say it's clearly not. There's only a series of instanced battles to progress through and some PvP with human opponents, but any visions of a Dragon Age MMO evaporated quickly enough.

Experiment conclusion

There are more mobile MMOs out there (including access to the thousands of MUDs that can be played via mobile devices), but from the sampling that came recommended, I have to say that the field is remarkably anemic. So many of the games I tried lacked at least one major MMO factor, whether it was rubbing elbows with other players, a functional user interface, or that ever-elusive fun factor. I feel confident that I haven't been missing out on much so far, which is actually a shame.

I was hoping to be wowed by at least one title, but nothing really surprised me enough that it would make me want to play it again over the silly puzzle and tower defense titles that infest my phone. Maybe some day we'll see a developer get the right combination and produce the breakout mobile MMO hit that I sincerely hope to see.

Justin "Syp" Olivetti enjoys counting up to ten, a feat that he considers the apex of his career. If you'd like to learn how to count as well, check out The Perfect Ten. You can contact him via email at or through his gaming blog, Bio Break.
All products recommended by Engadget are selected by our editorial team, independent of our parent company. Some of our stories include affiliate links. If you buy something through one of these links, we may earn an affiliate commission.
Popular on Engadget