Dark Legends is the third title in Spacetime Studios’ Legends series. The first two entries, Pocket Legends and Star Legends, have enjoyed considerable success on mobile devices, but Dark Legends is the first to launch as a cross-platform Android, iOS and browser title, with the latter being distributed via the Chrome Web Store.
[Note: This review is primarily based on experiences with the browser version. Differences between the versions are confined to the control scheme, and the iOS edition is not yet available.]
Dark Legends is a free-to-play vampire-themed role-playing game. After choosing the gender of their avatar, players are immediately thrust into a tutorial showing the two main aspects of the game’s “campaign” gameplay — actions and missions. Both of these cost energy to take part in. Actions can be likened to “jobs” in text-based role-playing games such as Mafia Wars and its ilk — the player has simply to click on an action space to be rewarded with a short animation along with money and experience. Occasionally, random chance determines that the player will have achieved a “critical success” with their action, but otherwise these are largely non-interactive.
Missions are where the main bulk of player interaction takes place. During these short tasks, players take direct control of their avatar and guide them through a simple “dungeon,” defeating enemies, collecting treasure and occasionally defeating a stronger “boss” enemy. Missions may be played either solo or cooperatively with up to three other players. In the browser version, players move around with the keyboard and attack by clicking on icons in the corner of the screen. In the mobile editions, a virtual thumbstick is used coupled with the same icons. The control scheme is clearly designed more with mobile than desktop play in mind, as the combination of mouse and keyboard controls is somewhat clumsy, but works fine on a touch-based device.
Once the player has completed the tutorial, they then get the opportunity to name and customize the appearance of their avatar. They are then sent into the game’s main world, which is split between linear campaign episodes and a social “Vampire District” where players can hang out in real-time, chat, buy new equipment and customizations for their character and challenge other players to battle. This “vampire district” is the only part of the game where the game’s “massively multiplayer” component is particularly obvious, as multiplayer missions are limited to four players at once, and the rest of the game is a rather solitary experience. This is a format which has worked well in the past, however — players can focus on making progress by themselves and have the option of meeting up with other people when it is convenient to them.
The game monetizes through the sale of its hard currency Platinum. This can be used to purchase vanity items to give characters a more distinctive look and “mystery boxes” which contain weapons and other useful equipment. Players may also purchase energy, soft currency and even experience points using Platinum. Those who do not wish to spend real money on the virtual currency will also be able to make use of an offer wall, though this feature has not yet been implemented at the time of writing.
Dark Legends will be an interesting experiment in cross-platform gaming, particularly once the iOS version is also available. While its gameplay is quite simplistic, this will make it more friendly to casual players and inherently suitable for mobile. Massively multiplayer role-playing games are often very complicated, time-consuming affairs in their computer-only incarnations, but Dark Legends is easy to learn, accessible and, being free-to-play, a risk-free affair for players to try out for themselves. Its monetization gives players the means to set their character visually apart from others rather than offering a “pay to win” scenario, providing those who wish to show their support for the game financially with tangible rewards that don’t break the game balance.