Dungeons & Dragons: Arena of War is the latest freemium game by Mobage and DeNA, creators of G.I. Joe Battleground and Transformers. Unlike those two games, which give you no real control of your team’s actions and which specialize in PvP play, Arena of War is a direct combat game where interaction with other players is solely cooperative. Is the game any good? I’ve been playing it since its release on October 17th, and here are ten quick thoughts about the quality of the game.
1. If you are expecting a Role Playing Game of any kind, or anything that even remotely resembles Dungeons & Dragons, prepare to be disappointed. Arena of Waris more a Bakugan or Beyblade style game, where you launch your protagonists at opponents, hoping to hit them and thus do damage or even kill them. So if you were expecting virtual die rolling or spell casting, this is NOT the game for you. That said, the game is somewhat fun for the first ten minutes or so as a weird pog or marbles take on the license, but I would have preferred something like the Facebook Heroes of Neverwinter game to this.
2. Playing the game is simple. You take a character, add on two of your friends or ask for random help, and then go through a multi-stage battle. You pick the direction and power level you want to launch your character(s) at, then repeat until one side is dead. There’s not much strategy to the game. But you’ll quickly learn how to bounce enemies off each other to do extra damage, or towards bombs or your allies for the same effect. Very simple, very shallow, but somehow fun.
3. The game does require a constant online presence, which is very annoying, especially since it takes a long time for the server to connect – if it does at all. Mobage/DeNA have some bugs to work out in this department. I really dislike games that require a constant online presence, because what if your power goes out or you’re outside a coverage area, but you just want to play a game for fifteen minutes? Sorry, Arena of War is then unplayable.
4. Another problem is that trying to actually play the game is horribly bugged. Adding mutual Facebook and Twitter friends is locked, and trying to add people to your party seems broken as well. I can’t get other parties to add me or people to join mine. Doing the random add gets me the same three combinations over and over, and the characters are generally levels 1-5, making them useless for my needs and generally ensures that I will fail a quest because it pairs me up with not people of my power level, but those way below, who thus will be killed in a single hit. This is not a well designed game to be sure.
5. You start off with a choice of nine possible Tier One characters. If you can get two of these characters to Level 8, you can unlock a Tier two character. For example, I have been using the Half-Elf Druid and the Human Cleric off and on. This combination nets me a Level 2 Half-Orc Shaman when both characters hit Level 8. There are six possible Tier II characters. You just have to read and see which combination of Tier 1 characters unlocks them. You can also get a Human Ninja for free by logging in for seven days.
6. Of course, it doesn’t actually matter who you take, because there is fundamentally no difference between the characters. Every character can equip every power, so you can have a warrior with Magic Missile or a Paladin with Cause Fear. It’s pretty nonsensical, and the only way the characters have the tiniest bit of difference is in regards to what TYPE of power they boost. A Rogue gets a boost from Stealth powers, Mages from Arcane, Druids from Primal, Warriors from Melee and so on. The problem is the boost is so minimal (1% per level) that you won’t start to notice any increase to these powers until you hit level ten or so, and by that time you’ll be abandoning your character for one of a higher tier. So this is just yet another example where the game is badly designed as well as implemented. My Cleric should not be able to have Cause Fear and Great Bear Guardian as his two equipped powers, as they are Melee and Primal respectively. You can only have two active powers at first (more are unlocked as you get tiers), but you can have up to ten passive powers that give you extra damage and Hit Points. Of course, the game is so badly designed, you won’t notice this option at first.
7. To get more powerful, you need to level up or fuse powers together. Leveling up takes insanely long, as quests are only worth a miniscule amount of XP, yet you need a LOT to level up. So expect to grind for long periods of a time. This wouldn’t be so bad if you didn’t have a tiny stamina bar, and you can only go on so many quests before you have to refill it. How do you refill? Wait a long period of time or spend money of course! This is typical for most free to play games, but I’ve never seen it so badly implemented than in Arena of War.. The length it takes to grind to a new level, coupled with the cost of stamina refill potions makes this the most nickel and diming free to play game I’ve had the misfortune of sitting through.
8. Fusing powers is the other way to get more powerful. Fuse two of the same power together to raise the overall power level, while feeding a power dissimilar powers or scrolls raises its XP level. The former makes an active power do more when activated, and the latter gives the ability more damage and hit points when equipped. This too is a slow and terrible process. You can gain rare or ultra rare powers, but you have to pay money for them to guarantee yourself some. You get lots of random drops, but out of the hundreds I’ve gotten, only one has been a Rare. My ultra rare came from being a day one downloader, and my Rare+ came from doing the 99 cent one time only rare or better purchase. So you will have to spend a LOT of money to get more of these, and even then it’s luck of the draw if you get anything fuseable. This is the lowest rare turnout I’ve seen in a Mobage game. In G.I. Joe, every tenth draw was a rare. Again, this is just an example of how the game is broken or buggy in every way possible. There is absolutely nothing positive that can be said for this mess.
9. If you really want to play after all this, here’s my invite code. It will net you some stamina potions and a rare power. B6gTYy. It’s case sensitive, so enter it carefully. Here’s also a code for Cause Fear: kzpO5rQ.
10. So let’s see. The game is buggy as hell, crashes and stalls regularly, requires a constant internet connection to work, has extremely slow connections to the server, won’t actually let you add friends, send or accept party requests, is the most blatant nickel and diming freemium game I’ve had to sit through and has absolutely nothing to do with Dungeons & Dragons save paying to have the license in the name. Mobage should be ashamed of itself for making this piece of crap, and Hasbro doubly so for continually giving Mobage its licenses to make truly terrible games with. What happened to the glory years of Baldur’s Gate, the SSI RPGs, Neverwinter Nights and the like? I’m sorry, but Dungeons & Dragons: Arena of War is Heroes of the Lance terrible. Get your act together Hasbro and give the license to a company that will do it justice. In the meantime, download something like Warhammer Quest, because this third rate Angry Birds wanna-be is one of the worst games this year.