So, here came the announcement of the first Warcraft mobile game – Warcraft Arclight Rumble. Obviously, it was met with a lot of hate and dislikes, roughly split in three major beefs (from my PoV, poorly justified):
- It’s a ripoff from Clash Royale/Whatever Supercell Games (please point which of other Blizzard titles was not a “ripoff” from the already existing genre/gameplay – except maybe The Lost Vikings)
- It has a cartoonish style (duh, it’s Blizzard – nothing new here since 90s)
- They better spent resources on other games.
TL;DR: in general, I liked what I saw, and for the first time in recent years with Blizzard I felt hype and excitement, but with a grain of salt, of course. Let’s elaborate.
First of all, the visuals/atmosphere. It’s no secret that different game genres all tap into our childhood IRL game experiences, and in general serve as sort of a substitute for them. Strategy games in particular are referring to IRL toy soldier battles, and Blizzard here goes up to eleven, deliberately designing their characters as toy soldiers. This relates deeply to my own preferences, so I can’t say no to that – in fact, it’s one of the biggest attractions in their new title in my case. Chibi-fied versions of well-known characters and units, designed in a childish, happy and trademark (yes, trademark) Blizzard manner, is a definite “yes”.
Second, the genre. I haven’t played Clash Royale or whatever, but I had my share of tower defense games, and if done well, it’s a treat to me. You don’t micromanage as in real RTS (and it’s hard to do on a mobile phone, frankly), so rare strategical taps after making a decision fits a mobile game very well. The gameplay, abrupt as it was shown in presentation, seems lively, the goals are very clear, and you don’t operate dozens of systems. So far, they’re keeping it simple, spectacular, yet require a certain skill, knowledge and mastery. What I’m trying to say is that tower defense (or rather, tower offense) is a fitting genre for mobile gaming, with a focus on strategy, not tapping speed/precision, and it has all the potential for variety, complexity and expanding considering zones, maps, units, campaigns, factions and what not.
Third, the lore – or rather the absense of it. It deliberately lacks the lore of stories-told or stories-current, and while obviously fan-serving the Warcraft community, it does not require the new players which are not familiar with the franchise to delve deep – they can simply download and play. Obviously, a must in a mobile game of this type, and that was managed well.
Fourth, it allows multiple game modes – campaigns and (most probably) random/selected AI matches for single players like myself, PvP and competitive stuff for organized groups and/or friends, so serving every possible player base – again, it’s a must.
Fifth, an RPG-element – some would call it grind, I call it the means of replayability. Leveling your characters is a palpable goal, and it gives incentive for even the usual skirmishes, a dopamine shot every time you level up.
Now, what about the grain of salt?
The overall concern is a yet unclear monetization model. I think it’s safe to presume that it’s not gonna be a pay-to-win game, and its basic version is free. Yet a lot of stuff will definitely be hidden under microtransactions – and definitely it’s gonna be heroes and/or model skins. Obviously, some basic heroes will be available for everyone, and yet you can’t sell a-very-cool-elf like you could sell Sylvanas, for example. That is, the lore significance would always beat even the coolest drawn no-name character with the coolest abilities, and so Blizzard will be bound to hide a lot of lore characters behind a wallet wall.
The second thing – it’s personal, but important – the probably obligatory internet access required to play the game even during single player sessions or campaigns. I revert to mobile gaming mostly on the road – the long car/train trips or subway – where connection is normally bad, blinking or even absent. This is one of the reasons that I dismiss the majority of mobile games in my life – in fact, I’m playing just one of them, the match-three puzzle Cradle of Empires which does not require internet connection to be stable or at all – only checking for updates at launch, and is essentially an offline game. Here, I think internet would be obligatory not just to play matches with other players, but also save your progress to the cloud and what not. That’s a general plague of most mobile games, and I think they won’t even think to heal it and render at least some gameplay modes available offline.
Third, the complexity. Again, it’s my personal beef – after trying Hearthstone, I realized very quickly that you can’t just have fun with a random match, no. You need to learn and experience dozens of cards and gameplay styles, and in short, dedicate yourself. It’s a fork of opportunity: either you keep your game simple (which allows casual enjoying, but makes it boring for dedicated players always demanding for more), or you keep expanding it, adding heroes, units, spells until a new random player simply cannot login and have fun, because there’s so much to learn. As a mobile game, it’s always the second way, and I don’t think serving casuals or pursuing both paths is an option.
I would glad to be wrong! If a casual single player could level, acquire new heroes and walk through campaign at his own pace and also receive content updates and progress, this would be awesome. But I think Blizzard, as always, would focus on PvP and dungeon/raid group content, so I’m already expecting the worst.
Well, long story short – I would definitely give it a go, as would many other people, including the disliking/grumbling players. Expectations dying out (a pokemon game? A mobile Classic? A mobile RTS?), WAR is going to drift into a given and what we have to live with camp, and it looks entertaining enough to gain its own audience, within or without a Warcraft player base. Let’s put it plainly: it does look like a festive entertainment, and if done right, it has every chance to become another title to be played with pleasure. Only time will tell.