Activision-owned mobile game giant King has released its first game aimed squarely at traditional gamers. “Legend of Solgard” is set within the fantasy realm of Nordic folklore and follows the journey of Embla through the game’s nine massive worlds as she fights to prevent Ragnarok. Available now for free on Apple and Android devices, the game offers a mixture of gameplay ranging from role-playing gaming to turn-based strategy to dungeon exploration and boss battles.
One thing to get out of the way immediately is this game is nothing like “Candy Crush” or any of King’s other casual games — although it is colorful and beautifully animated. Nothing against those games, since they obviously have a massive global audience, but this game is officially defined as “midcore.” That means it has a lot of traditional (i.e. PC and console) gaming elements that more hardcore fans love, but it’s also been whittled down to invite gamers of all skill levels (including casual gamers) into the fun. Case in point, the developer of “Legend of Solgard,” Snowprint Studios, includes veteran game makers behind the popular “Battlefield,” “Star Wars: Battlefront 2” and “Angry Birds” games.
One thing I loved about this game right from the start is the ability to actually play it (through the campaign mode) offline. I spend a lot of time flying around the world, so being able to play a game at 35,000 feet is important. And the majority of mobile games require you to be online to play (usually so they can jam annoying ads down your throat.) Seriously’s “Best Fiends” is another mobile game (aimed at the casual fan base) that I can also play on planes.
“Legend of Solgard’s” campaign mode is the heart of the action, offering nine massive worlds to explore — each with different themes and assorted bad guys from Nordic mythology to battle. The goal is to defeat the moon god Mani and prevent Ragnarok (the end of the world, and also the subtitle of the last Marvel “Thor” movie). You take control of Embla’s army at the bottom half of the screen and the goal is to destroy Mani’s ice minions and the ice shield at the top of the screen. The gameplay is very easy to pick up, as you match different creatures together (three to five) vertically to create larger combatants or match them horizontally to create walls to defend against the invading creatures.
Everything is turn-based, but the action moves very quickly because you get to make three moves at a time. Then there’s the strategy level as you can see the other side of the battlefield and which enemies are approaching, so you can align your fighters accordingly. When your warriors are killed in combat, they can be revived to fortify your army.
Your fighters are also earning RPG-style level-ups as you progress, so they’re getting stronger. And the further you go, the more fighters you can add to your army, unlocking additional battle options. You begin the game with four creatures and can unlock 30. Each creature has special abilities in battle, and those will matter in taking out opposing forces in the most efficient way (you’re given a limited amount of turns per battle map).
Outside of the campaign mode, there are Treasure Caves to explore, where the focus is collecting sun gems; Bounties to claim by battling and defeating villains to collect gold; multiplayer Dungeons to explore alongside online colleagues (these unlock a bit further into the game after you’ve become better acquainted with all of the mechanics), competitive online Hero Arena challenges to battle other players for diamonds and Boss Arenas, which occur several times in each realm and progress with more challenging Norse figures.
There’s also in-game diamonds, gold, sun gems and assorted loot to acquire, which can be used to purchase new items and warriors. Snowprint has designed the entire game to be played for free, but after a couple of hours of continuous gameplay you’ll be forced to take a breather as your free in-game currency replenishes. The game has been designed for more bite-sized gameplay anyway; so it’s only on a long flight you’ll run out — unless you’re a lot further into the game, or spend real money to buy in-game loot.
This “Legend” is definitely worth exploring, especially since it’s free to play, which seems like a “must” today in the overcrowded mobile marketplace.
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Credit: Jason Getz / Jason.Getz@ajc.com