If there is one genre where mobile devices have a lot of catching up to do, that is the MMORPG genre. Flooded with cookie-cutter games and lackluster ports of PC games, mobile platforms need a serious shake-up to finally deliver the quality that we, the players, warrant. I regret to inform that Era of Legends isn’t that game, but it’s a step in the right direction.
The least that I can say is that Era of Legends takes inspiration from one of the greatest. Comparisons to World of Warcraft are unavoidable, so blatant are the similarities in look and feel, that it almost feels like a beloved tribute to Blizzard’s remarkable achievement. Or an unabashed clone – you choose.
Amusingly enough, one of the touted features on the official Era of Legends website is “interactive gameplay” – I wish I was making this up. It goes to show you the kind of bad reputation that mobile MMORPGs have come to enjoy.
Do You Want to Watch a Game?
Era of Legends tries its best to appeal to every category of player, with all its inherent shortcomings and mistakes. You have eight archetypes that represent the staple fantasy classes: Warrior, Shaman, Priest, Mage, Assassin, Archer, Witch (is she really called Loli?) and Druid. Each class is seamlessly designed to fulfill a specific role, so Era of Legends feels well-adjusted in this regard. The downside is that the classes are gender-locked and there is no customization, not even in the slightest, something that feels odd in this day and age, even for a mobile MMORPG.
At a certain level you may unlock a new skin, earn one from an event or feel tempted to purchase it from the cash shop, but this is another aspect that reinforces the rudimentary approach to character customization. It would be nice to see your character’s appearance changing as you equip new gloves, boots or necklaces, but it is pretty much a disappointingly static affair. At least, your weapon skin changes as you equip a new item.
Era of Legends comes with one of the biggest video game conundrums ever devised: auto-play. Nothing grinds my gears worse than auto-play. You character can automatically follow questlines and climb experience levels, with an additional auto-combat option for you to toggle as well. I was never one to appreciate this process, since the idea of taking control off your hands seems to come with second intentions, most commonly quickly reaching a paywall and feeling forced to purchase items to “enjoy” the rest of the game. It also feels badly implemented – every conversation seems to pause auto-play, forcing you to return to the game to manually skip dialogue.
I, for one, prefer to play my games instead of purely watching them – even the slightest challenge is more rewarding than observing your character effortlessly roaming the land. Idle gaming is a phenomenon that I just can’t wrap my mind around, although it seems to be a big thing in Asia. Boasting an open world and then having the game do all the roaming and questing for you sounds like a colossal, almost unbearable paradox in my book.
Luckily, auto-play is off-bounds when it comes to dungeons, forcing you to… gasp… play the game and act as a proper team player, using skills, pets and Familiars in battle. In this regard, Era of Legends doesn’t break any new ground but delivers what you would expect from a fitting MMORPG. Most dungeons have a few bosses to overthrow and you can barter for a specific reward with your teammates.
Era of Legends features a decent skillset for each class, with the option to upgrade them in exchange for some coin. Another staple in the genre is the option to advance your gear level and stats using materials or by socketing gems, something that is mandatory if you want to raise your character’s power and have a shot at some of the higher dungeons.
Magic beasts, or Familiars as they are known in the game, are critters that will give you a hand in battle. They can help you by distracting dangerous foes while you pick them apart from a safe distance and some of them can even heal you and give you buffs. Don’t mistake Familiars for pets, as they are two completely different things and you can even go find some of these critter eggs in a related quest.
Can I Copy Your Homework?
Era of Legends ticks every box that you can expect from an MMORPG, but it does so in an exceedingly generic, me-too way. You have friends, guilds, mounts, daily events, life skills (Tailoring, Blacksmithing, Alchemy and Leatherworking), fishing, the ability to send your Familiars on quests, in-game chat, the whole nine yards.
However, a few additions were made in order to add some much-needed variety to the proceedings, with dubious success. One example is a recurrent jigsaw puzzle that even a five-year-old would be able to accomplish in a couple of minutes, let alone in the time limit of an hour or so that the first puzzles offer. Other section puts you in control of a ballista while an ill-tempered boss draws near, but it is unexcitingly over in a few seconds. Another quest tasks you with blasting poor creatures from the comfort of your aerial mount, being the more interesting of the bunch. But these distractions are few and far between and don’t do much to break the monotony of your standard fetch quest gameplay.
PvP comes in 3v3 and 5v5 arena modes and thankfully ditches auto-combat entirely, making use of player skill and team tactics just as it should.
If you have played World of Warcraft or any other MMORPG during the last decade, you should know what to expect. Era of Legends feels like a pastiche of the genre but in its favor, it works every bit as you would expect it to. Auto-path and auto-combat may represent a depressing state of affairs for the MMORPG, but if you get past that you can enjoy what else there is on display, particularly the dungeons and the guild gameplay.
Dungeons can be challenging and soon enough will require strong team organization, as you won’t make it that far without a balanced party. The bosses are resourceful and have a couple of tricks up their sleeve, including turning heroes into harmless sheep.
Era of Legends brings as much innovation to the table as your average Battle Royale or Hero Collector game. There is no sugarcoating it; it is what it is, and it isn’t even trying to conceal its inspiration or ambition. This is a clone of World of Warcraft, on mobile.
Learning Curve: 8/10
It’s unbelievably easy to get into Era of Legends. This is in part to blame on its lack of originality and familiar mechanics but should also be pinned on the accomplished UI design. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, as they usually say.
Graphics / Sound: 8/10
Era of Legends looks good, in a somewhat generic and cliched kind of way. You have your typical groups of elves, orcs, dwarves, goblins, druids… you name it. It’s a shame that you can’t see the individual pieces of equipment changing your character looks, regrettably leading to an unremitting army of clones.
The world is colorful, with an angular but consistent design and some huge buildings or trees that help convey the epic feel of the environments. It’s quite an achievement and aiming for more detail than this would either result in even smaller regions or lower player count. Occasionally we are met with a high-quality CGI cutscene, something that is as unexpected as it is appreciated.
The soundtrack is suitably relaxing or frantic according to your current location and is mostly nicely done. However, some of the voice work is atrociously bad, especially the dungeon boss one-liners.
Value for Money: 8/10
Persistence is the key to level up and avoid regular trips to the cash shop. You can buy some items with gold, silver, friendship points and other in-game currencies but when it comes to the good stuff™ (mounts, skins, familiars and various boosts), be prepared to fork out some real money to acquire the Runes currency. Having said that, I did enjoy my time without feeling pressured into breaking the piggy bank.
Era of Legends is one step above most of the mobile competition and yet it remains a few steps below its source of inspiration, World of Warcraft, a PC MMORPG dating from 2004. It is an unabashed tribute and it does what it set out to do in the most generic way, without taking risks or breaking any new ground. This is an enjoyable game with all the features that we’ve come to expect from an MMORPG, but it also brings a few more that we could totally do without.
• A dumbed-down World of Warcraft on mobile
• Easy to get into and even easier to enjoy
• Great graphics
• All the features that you need from an MMORPG
• Auto-path and auto-combat if you have something else to do…
• … Then again, why are you “playing” games? Go finish your stuff!
• So generic that it almost makes you cringe
• No initial character customization whatsoever