Wings of Destiny is a new self-professed “hardcore” role-playing game for Facebook from IGG. Casting players in the role of an adventurer, the game is a clear attempt to provide a “social” take on popular isometric-perspective action RPGs such as the recently-released Diablo III and Torchlight II.
In Wings of Destiny, players begin by creating a character by choosing a class, gender and name. Appearances may not be customized, though each class and gender combination has its own distinctive appearance. Once this is done, the player is thrown into an initial tutorial where they are introduced to the game’s interface and controls. This tutorial is of the “large floating arrow” variety, monopolizing the player’s control until they perform the task requested. This particular breed of introductory sequence is rarely popular with “hardcore” players but thankfully it does not take too long for the player to be given a little bit more freedom, and future tutorials after the initial one are optional.
The main essence of Wings of Destiny’s gameplay involves completing quests. Most of the time this involves finding a character with an exclamation point above their head, accepting a quest and then either going out into the world to kill something or collect something, at which point the player must then return to the questgiver to receive rewards. This is a fairly conventional role-playing game structure used in many massively multiplayer online titles — Blizzard’s popular World of Warcraft, for example, is still based around this particular structure even eight years after its original release.
The issue with Wings of Destiny’s quest-based gameplay, however, is that it tries too hard to be too efficient. Players barely have to interact with the game at all — it’s possible to complete a quest entirely by clicking on hyperlinks in the quest log that automatically chart a route to the target and/or questgiver, and in exchange for hard currency players may even purchase an item called “Wing Tips” that allows them to immediately teleport to the next step in the quest. While this means that players can romp through content incredibly quickly and make rapid progress — at least in the early stages of the game — it also destroys any sense of involvement in the world. In other words, if there is no reason to explore the world, why bother?
This issue also rears its head when it comes to combat. Wings of Destiny claims to be an “action RPG,” implying it is similar to titles like the aforementioned Diablo III or Torchlight II, or even Web-based free-to-play games such as Drakensang Online. However, one of the core concepts of the “action RPG” genre is that the player is constantly in danger and needs to use fast reaction to respond to threats — in Wings of Destiny, meanwhile, enemies simply stand around on the spot twiddling their thumbs until the player clicks on them, at which point they can usually be despatched fairly easily with the use of a couple of skills. There is no tension or excitement to the combat whatsoever — players might as well be harvesting crops.
The presentation, while relatively good-looking in static screenshots, is also rather amateurish at times. The player will frequently enter an area before all the art assets have loaded, leading to pixelated backgrounds and character models with ugly spinning “loading” icons atop them. This problem is only exacerbated when using the instant teleport “Wing Tips” items, as the game struggles to keep up with the player’s rapidly changing position. Given that there are games running on Facebook or the open Web in full texture-mapped 3D that don’t suffer from this issue (such as the aforementioned Drakensang Online or Gravity Interactive’s Requiem: Memento Mori, which we reviewed last week), for a 2D game with graphics that look like a PC title from the late ’90s to display this problem so prominently and frequently — even on a fast fiber-optic Internet connection — is not really acceptable any more.
There are other issues, too — the in-game chat is riddled with spam from gold farmers, the interface is clunky and unintuitive (even after having been introduced to it by the tutorial) and uninvited, obtrusive flashing pop-up buttons regularly appear informing players of “guild invites” when, in fact, all this does is bring up a list of available guilds.
The game’s many problems are a bit of a shame because there was clearly some potential here. An effort has been made on the story and the presentation, when not ruined by loading assets, is pretty good — the music, in particular, is very atmospheric. The game’s social features would be solid if the gold farmers weren’t monopolizing the chat window, and the in-game item mall offers the potential for solid monetization — it’s just a pity the gameplay is left so lacking, as it’s this fact that will turn off “hardcore” gamers and see them returning to more well-established standalone titles. IGG’s COO Kevin Xu told Inside Social Games that the game’s user retention and monetization was already around twice as high as the company’s previous title Galaxy Online 2.0 — it remains to see if this will be sustained in the long term or if the many glaring flaws in the game will hurt its success to a significant degree.
Great potential; poor execution.