The mobile game market is one giant, money-making juggernaut. Not only that, but due to how pretty much everyone (not really everyone, but you get what I mean) has a smartphone of some kind that uses iOS and Android operating systems, there are millions upon millions of mobile gamers out there in the world — especially here in the west. Like it or not, mobile gaming continues to grow, and given the growth of the market, it’s no surprise that Nexon Red is launching their mobile MMORPG AxE: Alliance vs Empire worldwide on Google Play and the App Store sometime soon.
When done well, MMORPGs, even mobile MMORPGs, can be played by gamers for years and years since MMORPGs tend to have endless replayability and primarily focus on squad-based battles. However, mobile MMORPGs, specifically, tend to have pay-to-win features that damper the player’s experience overall. With that said, I was curious if Nexon Red’s AxE would fall under the “addictive MMORPG” category or the “pay-to-win MMORPG” category. At a hands-on event at Nexon M’s studio outside of San Francisco, I had the opportunity to fight battle after battle for two hours in the MMORPG, and I found my answer: it doesn’t really fall into either category since it’s own kind of beast that some hardcore mobile gamers might enjoy.
AxE: Alliance vs Empire features a fantasy story that many of us have been through before as the story revolves around an epic war between two factions, the Darkhaan Empire and the Galanos Alliance. The twist with this story though is that instead of there being a war between good versus evil, it’s more of a battle between two groups people that have differing opinions on what is right and what is wrong. The Darkhaan Empire is more of a holy, praise-be-the-gods kind of group as they believe that divine resurrection will restore order to the world, whereas the Galanos Alliance is a group of rebels that want to create their own world, free from gods. Similar to other MMORPGs, the story in AxE serves a supplement rather than a key feature, but I did like how depending on which faction I was on, I received different dialogue from the game’s NPCs.
Speaking of different, players must choose which faction they want to go into, and depending on the faction, players will have access to three different characters. In the build I played at the hands-on event, there were three characters per faction that fell under a specific class: a tanky warrior, a long-range support character, and a quick and agile ranger. The Galanos Alliance has a titan (barbarian), archer, and a blademaster class, while the Darkhaan Empire has a warrior, mage, and a valkyrie class. Sadly, classes are gender locked, and the developer confirmed during the event that there are currently no plans to change this. So if you want to be a strong, tanky warrior, you’re stuck with being a male character, which I found to be pretty disappointing. On the bright side of things, players are able to create and customize their character and equip them with a wide array of weapons, armor, abilities, costumes, and more. From all the customization options I looked through, I was impressed with how many there were.
What I was bummed about, however, was that one of the key main differences between the east and west versions of AxE is the character models. AxE in the east features a classic anime design for characters, whereas AxE in the west is going to have tough, serious-looking character designs (as shown in the image below). Localization isn’t easy, and all of us here at Noisy Pixel know that for sure since we cover so many games from overseas, but still, completely changing the character designs for a game just feels off, to say the least.
Moving on, though, AxE has both single player and multiplayer options for players to enjoy. The single-player adventure has players explore, fight, and get loot from a wide range of open-world locations, where they meet different characters and enemies, and complete quests and objectives along the way. Given that AxE is an MMORPG, I didn’t enjoy the single player campaign as much as I enjoyed the game’s multiplayer modes — killing the same enemies over and over again and looking at the same bland scenery isn’t so much fun solo. Ultimately, AxE ‘s player-vs-enemy battles, like time-based raids in the game, are better suited for mobile gamers looking to squad up — but keep in mind that the game will not support in-game voice chat.
While the single player is lacking overall, there is variety within AxE’s multiplayer. The game has real-time competitive modes like 75 vs 75 faction battles, four vs four player-vs-player (PVP) arena battles, and a neat one vs one mode called “Field of Honor”. During the hands-on event, I only had the chance to play with all the folks that were at the event (there was a little over 10), so that led me to not being able to get the true AxE multiplayer experience. However, it was still nice to get an idea of what it’ll be like, and working together with my team to slay the opposing team made for some epic and fun moments.
Unfortunately, though, during my short time with AxE, I quickly realized that combat in AxE is a repetitive grind overall, regardless of me playing it in “Auto mode” or “Manual mode”. Having the game in Auto mode literally makes it so don’t have to tap a single button. Players can set it up so that they can automatically walk (it’s more of a glide) towards their quest destination, and they can even fight battles automatically too. I thought it was strange to have this kind of feature, but after switching to Manual mode, traversing a long way to various destinations and tapping on the same skill buttons repeatedly, I don’t blame the developer for including an Auto mode in the game. I’m sure that many gamers that love to grind in MMORPGs will like the feature, but it just isn’t for me. Thankfully, the one vs one mode I mentioned earlier requires players to play in Manual mode, which I think is excellent.
Now, one last thing to mention, many of you are probably wondering, “does AxE have microtransactions?” The answer to that is “yes”, and they’re what many mobile gamers have seen before. From what I saw, microtransactions consists of chests, items, and cosmetics. According to the developer, though, AxE is not a pay-to-win type of game.
With AxE: Alliance vs Empire, Nexon Red claim it’s a console quality mobile MMORPG experience. While its graphics are impressive (the game looks like an early PS3 title), AxE in its current state is more of an upgraded version of a standard mobile MMORPG. Its multiplayer modes will undoubtedly offer loyal fans of mobile MMORPGs hours of fun, but with its repetitive gameplay, bland world, and odd design choices, other mobile gamers might not be as excited to go questing and raiding when the game releases in the west.
AxE: Alliance vs Empire is currently set to launch on Google Play and the App Store worldwide soon.
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