The original Battleheart was a game very much on the cutting edge of what touch-screens could do with combat systems but it felt like a technical demonstration of something greater yet to come. Marvel would rip off that system for its Guardians of the Galaxy app, but in the meantime Mika Mobile, Inc. would be working on that better title
Battleheart Legacy is a huge step up from its predecessor in terms of scope, scale and prowess. It’s visually stunning and builds successfully on everything that made the original great. It’s also not an easy game from the outset, making you work for your progression and craft a character build that suits your play-style else die horribly. Don’t be put off by that though, because with challenge comes a sense of great reward when things do right.
Graphically the game uses fully 3D rendered characters and locations, with a cute almost Lego minifigure-like style that quickly shows you details whilst allowing the blocky character models to seem alive and full of character. They move fluidly and the camera pans around the environments to always keep you on screen. Locations themselves are diverse and well crafted, with a faux-medieval setting attached to the game that brings to mind Baldur’s Gate. As you purchase, loot and equip items your character will visually evolve to reflect the current gear he/she has equipped and dynamic lighting is used to add extra flair to some spells and skills. It’s a very tidy package that also uses a charming 2D map to travel between locations that grows as you learn or stumble into new areas by accident.
The sound in Battleheart Legacy is superb and clearly the standout of the title. Sound effects are crisp, clear and perfectly chosen for each attack but the music effortlessly steals the show. Music is recorded with real instruments and even in some cases real voices providing vocals. This is unheard of on a mobile device, raising the bar significantly into console-level quality. If a soundtrack existed for this title I would certainly purchase it. Dungeons are moody and chaotic with danger implied everywhere, the world map is gentle but sad and towns have a gentle strings vibe that relaxes and reassures you that you’re safe.
It’s hard to nail down the narrative for this game because whilst the producers over at Mike Mobile have crafted a world they very much encourage you as the player to go out into it and shape your own experience. Almost every mission can be settled in a number of ways, from completing it as requested to bartering with the boss and taking on an alternate quest to flat out killing the original quest giver and taking what you wanted from them, it’s all open to you. Do you see that witch in the forest as a threat or as some poor woman living in isolation because of her power who should be helped? Do you quest for power or fame? Are you good or evil? Ultimately the end goal of the game is to get out there and become the hero/villain/mix of both that you want to be.
The games systems support this philosophy, letting you take on any number of passive and active combat skills as you see fit to qualify for by putting in the effort required to learn them. Tutors will set the archetypes of different classes down with plenty of difference between them that goes beyond the classic warrior, rogue, mage, healer combo and allows you to craft your own play style. Personally I went down the knight route pretty heavily for defence and weapon/armour choices and then backed that up with a crossover of mage and healer spells and rogue passive abilities to keep me alive on those longer missions. In all the game has 12 base classes and over 150 moves to mix and match between. Movement works on a simple tap to proceed system that allows you to get around quickly and efficiently, tapping an enemy initiates standard attacking whilst a selection of equipped special attacks exist as icons along the base of the screen that each have independent cooldown times. The system is incredibly efficient at making your choices count and the game never feels unfair when you die, placing the blame squarely on your shoulders. Progress is saved whenever you go to the world map automatically and random encounters on said map are frequent so grinding for gold or levels is always possible. You can revisit any location you’ve found or strike out to find new ones easily, but choices once made are permanent. This makes chatter with NPCs important, and their content is well written enough that you never want to skip through it. Occasionally you will partner with a computer controlled character for a mission or two. This is interesting because the AI for such characters feels well scripted and in keeping with the type of class/person they are. Thieves won’t go out of their way to help you whilst mages hang back and spell cast using you as a human shield. The whole package comes together brilliantly in this manner to provide the equivalent of a triple-A title for the mobile market.
The only downside is that you can fall out of love with such a broad game and have it linger untouched for a while on your phone before you rediscover it again. Personally I’ve dipped in and out since launch and found something different to do each time but with no set narrative to tie it all together it does feel a little shallow and meaningless at times. However at the same time it’s perfect in this manner for a quick play session when you’re bored and being a universal app with iCloud support means that it can be played across all your devices. It’s easiest to compare the title to Baldur’s Gate or Dragon Age: Inquisition with the main plot threads removed. It’s a serious, well-constructed product with plenty to do and discover that will pull you back in time and time again to play ‘just one more’ mission.