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GD Star RatingDungeons & Dragons: Arena of War,
Wizards of the Coast, the publisher of Dungeons & Dragons has released the first ever free-to-play D&D mobile game. Arena of War is a battle RPG, built on the Mobage gaming platform.
The Sundering, a historic event that will reshape the world and the heavens, is underway and threatens the balance of power between the gods of good and evil. You will be called upon as a champion to fight on behalf of good against the adversaries of evil and help set the balance of power before the Sundering is complete.
When I heard of the release of the first D&D game for iPad, I was so excited. Whilst not a classic tabletop D&D gamer, I’ve enjoyed many hours playing the online PC game and spin-off board games like Wrath of Ashardalon and Castle Ravenloft. As a dungeon crawl fanatic, I couldn’t wait to jump into Arena of War. I wish I hadn’t bothered. How Wizards of the Coast could unleash this game on their loyal, paying fans is beyond me. Perhaps they’re not targeting us, instead aiming for the mass market. Whichever way, Arena of War is a soulless, micro-transaction-swamped exercise in repetition. Dungeons and Dragons, it most certainly is not.
The game begins as expected: select your character from the sizable selection of classes. Once you’ve done this, you jump into the world of The Sundering and begin your quest. This is where Dungeons and Dragons ceases to exist and generic hack/slash takes over. After a brief but informative tutorial, your hero is thrust into battle in one of many dungeons, and combat ensues. Each quest involves fighting multiple waves of monsters in a tiny dungeon, followed by a boss level at the end of the quest.
Movement is reminiscent of Angry Birds: angle your character towards a monster, drag back and release to fling him/her across the dungeon to fight said monster. Dungeons have interactive scenery, such as bouncing walls, bombs and fiery pits. If you aim just right, you can use the environment to boost your moves, allowing you to gain multi-kills.
XP is gained as you progress, which unlocks extra abilities and weapons. As you earn scrolls and other items, these can be fused together to provide special powers, thus improving your chances of survival against increasingly difficult monsters. One nice feature is the ability to bolster your party by teaming up with other online players. This is particularly helpful when you’re struggling to defeat a powerful boss.
Whilst the game is visually appealing during combat, the user interface outside of combat feels cluttered and unintuitive. Despite the promising opening cinematic and interesting theme, the background story barely exists. Considering the depth of story-telling and adventure to be found in the world of Dungeons and Dragons, this lack of substance is unacceptable.
As Arena of War is free-to-play, the developers make their money through in-app purchases. Each quest costs energy, a commodity which is in short supply. Your character has a measly 100 energy points, yet each quest costs around 20 points and only lasts for a few minutes. Even with the automatic refill of energy points (1 point per 3 minutes), you will soon run out of energy and not be able to play again for several hours unless you pay-to-play. The fact that you can buy a “10525 Gold Piece” package for £99.99, is indicative of the level of greed here. Considering the lack of originality, the flick-to-move mechanic and the rinse-repeat grind of this game, the iAP pricing is an insult to seasonsed D&D and casual gamers alike.
D&D universe is so deep, so unequivocally loved by millions; there was no need for WotC to sell out like this. We, the loyal fans are legion, and many of us would have paid up front for a decent D&D game on iPad. Hell, Games Workshop got the balance right with Warhammer Quest. It ain’t rocket science.
3/10 Monotonous and devoid of the depth and warmth of Dungeons & Dragons. The only decent features are the ability to bring friends into the fray and the depth of fusing available, although the latter gets boring pretty quickly. Expect to pay through the nose or wait for hours to make any progress past the early stages. Arena of War is free to download, so you have nothing to lose but your time by trying it out.