Pocket Legends

Is this the first true iPhone MMO?

My hands hurt. They hurt in a way they haven't for years, not since my long days in Azeroth circa 2006-2008. Oh Lord, it's happened again. I have Warcraft Claw. This time, though, it's my phone's fault. I never knew my index finger could kill so many skeletons.

Is it really possible to play an MMO on an iPhone? Pocket Legends says yes - as long as you're happy to redefine what you mean by "MMO". It's a cheery little online-only dungeon-crawler, best played in groups, with levelling and looting and trading and endless tap-tap-tapping (hence the Claw).

It's not a large open world filled with thousands of players going about their business, however. Instead, its hub is a server browser, a list of instanced missions which you can jump into in pursuit of wealth and power. It's much more a multiplayer Diablo than a pocket World of Warcraft - but that's an impressive enough achievement in itself.

You've a choice of three character classes. There's the fighter (a bear), the archer (a bird), and the enchantress (an elf - is Pocket Legends suggesting elves are no better than animals? Racist!). Simplicity, both on a practical and technical level, is obviously key to getting this ambition working on an iPhone, but seeing the same three faces appear again and again does add a certain sterility to the cartoon charm the game shoots for.

1

The town, or Towne. That extra 'e' means you're in a fantasy game, kids.

Unfortunately, repetition is in Pocket Legends' bones. You'll have a very clear picture of the scope and scale of the game within ten minutes of picking it up. Go to dungeon, incessantly hit a couple of buttons until everything in dungeon is dead, go to town, buy better stuff, go to dungeon... Again! Again! Push that rock, Sisyphus!

With everything compartmentalised and instanced, there's no sense of flow. You disappear somewhere to blindly kill things, then return to an unchanged situation. There are no quests, each set of dungeons instead being chopped into neat but generic little pieces which you can play in any order you want. Or, more like, play random segments of over and over and over again until you're high enough level to survive the next set of dungeons.

And to access the next set of dungeons, you'll need to spend extra money. Pocket Legends has taken the brave decision to be ostensibly free to play, allowing you to duff up as many skeletons, zombies and guard thingies as you like, but setting a level cap of 10 and limiting you to the first 13 five-minute dungeon chunks.

2

The King of Bling: but is he an early boss, or the guy who thought up the game's micropayment system?

There is a good couple of hours of mindless happy-slashing in that, so it's totally worth the free download. Whether you're happy to spend 2 on the second chapter (and the same again on the third, fourth and likely ongoing dungeon sets), 60p on a respec, 1.20 on the small set of emotes or another 60p on additional character slots is a different matter.

Obviously Pocket Legends has to make money, but it feels too divvied-up, too many necessary elements carrying their own little pricetags. Again, it's a matter of flow - by portioning itself so much, the game feels stilted and overtly mechanical. It thinks offering a new dungeon for sale every few weeks is equivalent to a subscription fee, but when spending the money is an active rather than passive action, the game becomes more a mail-order catalogue than a fantasy adventure.

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