Animal Legends (iOS) review
Animal Legends is a hybrid game that incorporates elements of both citybuilders and casual role-playing games. Players are tasked with reclaiming the land from the evil vampire frog Skulk by building up their forces and taking on a variety of quests.
An initial tutorial quickly introduces players to the two main components of the game, beginning with battle. In combat, the player’s animal character stands on the right of the screen, while enemies appear from the left. By tapping icons that represent the character’s skills then on an enemy, the player may trigger various attacks that deal damage or inflict special effects on the enemies. Using all abilities — even a basic attack — costs “mana,” the game’s energy system, and if the player runs out of mana they may either switch out of a combat in progress to come back later, or pay hard currency to immediately refill the mana bar.
While the player is attacking enemies, they are also attacking back — battle is not turn-based, though most abilities do have a “cooldown” time before they may be used again, meaning the action is not completely frantic. If the player’s character runs out of health, they do not “die” and the battle continues — instead, following the combat, the injured character must spend a period of real time in the hospital before they can fight again. This delay may be bypassed with hard currency.
Something of an irritant in the combat section is that enemies continue to attack the player while they are browsing menus. This means that the somewhat cumbersome process of inviting a friend to join the player in combat usually results in the player’s character taking a significant amount of damage while scrolling through to find the right person. The action should really pause while this is happening to be truly fair to the player — though without a conventional “fail state” as such, it’s not as big an issue as it could be.
Outside of combat, the player must build up a small town with various structures to increase their income and attract new hero characters. Most buildings take a period of real time to build though this delay may, as always, be bypassed with hard currency. A series of quest objectives listed at the side of the screen explains what the player “should” be doing at any one point, and these point a natural progression path through the game.
Players may also level up their animal heroes in the citybuilding component by using a special “star” currency earned through completing quests tapping on various glowing rewards that drop seemingly randomly into the player’s town. Leveling up a hero improves their base statistics and becomes increasingly expensive with each subsequent level. Heroes may also be outfitted with equippable items that are either found after combat or purchased through the in-game store.
Ultimately, Animal Legends has some nice ideas but falls a bit flat in its execution. It’s nice to play a mobile social RPG in which the player actually gets to control combat rather than just sitting back and watching, but very little in the way of strategy is required. The energy system, too, is frustrating, particularly when it causes you to have to abandon a fight in the middle, and the lack of a “fail state” when running out of health mostly removes any sense of tension or excitement from the battles. Its presentation is good and features some nice touches such as the various equippable items being shown on the animal hero characters, but on the whole the game is just a little unsatisfying to play.
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Some good ideas on display, but presently wrapped in a rather unsatisfying and somewhat frustrating package.