Digital Chocolate Goes Free-to-Play on the iPhone with Fantasy Warrior Legends

Be it Diablo, Neverwinter Nights, or a multitude of others, isometric fantasy action-RPGs have always been a popular niche. Between of the engaging stories, simple controls, and an ongoing quest to collect better loot, these games have attracted both hardcore and casual gamers. In light of this, social developer Digital Chocolate recently launched a new title of the same ilk on the iPhone, Fantasy Warrior Legends.

Controlling a hero named Rento, the player must dive into a fantasy world to prevent the revival of an epically evil demon lord. The demon was defeated using the “Crystal Skull” (no, not the Indiana Jones one) and his hand, eye, and heart were scattered and hidden to prevent his return. Well, as the storyline goes, evil minions are trying to remedy that, so it’s up to Rento to stop them, and if Japanese anime has taught us anything he will… because his hair is very spiky and very blue.

The game controls are simple enough. Tap a location to run to it, and tap an enemy to hack away at it. As players progress, they will also discover sacks of gems, armor/weapons, and health potions around the world. These are the key elements to aiding oneself in combat. As players find new items, they often represent spells that can be dragged to a hotkey bar in which they become special abilities available for use. As an early example, players get the Crystal Skull right from the start, and it pretty much vaporizes anything it with it. Later on, spells include paralysis, massive area of effect spells, and so on.

Now, unlike most games, Legends does not use a “mana pool” to limit the casting of spells. Coupled with a cool down period, each spell requires X amount of gems to cast; a resource that is technically finite in game. If you do not use them wisely, you could find yourself in a situation later in the game that you cannot fight your way out of by conventional means.

This is where the free-to-play model comes into action. With costs ranging from $0.99 to $9.99+ users can buy more gems (in generous amounts) as well as better armor and equipment directly through the game, with transactions handled by the Apple App Store. This concept makes the game much easier, and since the game is free to download, makes the prospect of purchases more likely. Of course, it is entirely possible to get through the game without paying a cent, so users do not have to feel pressured into doing so.

As an added additional element, the game is enabled through OpenFeint, which means it comes with leaderboard rankings, forums, and all sorts of achievements. However, this may be a double edged sword, as some developers report that the programmatic weight of the OpenFeint add-on significantly hinders loading times in a game.

Whether or not this is true is unclear, but Legends does, in fact, have horrid load times. Basically, the world is broken up into various zones that must be loaded when a player transitions into them. Each zone takes about three to five minutes to clear of all enemies, but it takes 30+ agonizing, flow-breaking seconds to load the next area – and god forbid you accidentally walk back to the prior one after it finishes. Furthermore, the levels themselves often have hiccups where the game locks up for a second or two, and even the opening cinematic, as it were, chug a bit.

Beyond this, the game does have some annoying bugs in it from time to time. The most apparent one is getting stuck in areas in which you cannot move or get out of. We’re confident this will be fixed in a coming update. Also, it is worth mentioning that this was not a common occurrence.

Game play wise, Legends is not too bad. It doesn’t really bring anything truly significant to the genre, but it is quite fun for a free game (if you can tolerate the load times). Honestly, the only issue in this department is slightly clunky controls. Considering how the pacing of combat can drastically increase, it takes some getting used to, and is particularly unfriendly to those with big fingers.

In the end, Fantasy Warrior Legends is a decent game for the iPhone. Especially when you consider it is free. If you’re looking for a free source of about five or so hours of entertainment, Legends is worth a try, but it might be best to wait for an update or two.