Title: Skylanders: Ring of Heroes
Release Date: February 27, 2019
Reviewed On: iOS
Games have to walk a fine line between simplicity and complexity. You can have a simple game with some unbelievable depth, like Brown Dust for example. Or if you want to go more into the console world, A Hat in Time combines the kidlike simplicity that always entertains along with a plethora of things to do to keep gameplay fresh. However, I only ever seem to get the simplicity side of the RPG gacha Skylanders Ring of Heroes from Com2uS. Obviously, this kind of game isn’t marketed to me, but that doesn’t excuse some of the issues I’ve encountered with my time in Skylanders.
Skylanders’ story revolves around an evil wizard named Kaos who’s out to cause havoc by taking over portals across the world with the Dark Book of Magic. In doing so, he created a rift between dimensions that brought across characters from different Skylanders titles as well as the “Portal Masters”. As the Portal Master, you command the various Skylanders characters you recruit in traditional RPG battles against enemies and stop Kaos. But just like other gacha games, there are a bunch of levels and small rewards you can get as you play. It’s a typical setup and story for the Skylanders franchise, which is great for fans, but I couldn’t help but wish there was a bit more story development.
Spyro (admittedly the only character I know from Skylanders) almost seems like a C-tier side character with minimal lines throughout the story. Other unfamiliar characters get a ton of screen time and have somewhat bland personalities at best. The game is severely lacking in any form of backstory for the Skylanders you recruit throughout the game. They’re practically mindless soldiers that are there to do your bidding. I had no emotional investment in any of the characters, let alone caring enough to 3-star each level.
Fights play out in traditional RPG format with a slight twist. The three Skylanders you choose for each fight have two abilities that cost mana to use which gradually refill during the fight. Think of the old ATB system in the older Final Fantasy games. Each Skylander is tied to an element, similar to the rock, paper, scissors format of Pokémon, with one element dealing more damage or being more resistant to other elemental attacks. You can further power up your Skylanders with runes that boost stats as well as generally leveling up each character as you progress. Honestly, I’m not sure any of it really matters since I would mindlessly tap all abilities and ended up winning each fight without any thought. I even put weak element Skylanders against strong element enemies and still ended up getting 3-star victories quite often. Again, I understand this game is mostly for kids, but I think there should be a bit more of a challenge.
Enemy AI is even questionable at times. For example, a fire-based enemy would continually attack my rock based Skylander doing reduced damage instead of going for my grass-based Skylander. Even the younger generation of gamers can appreciate a good challenge, but it’s definitely not here. Outside of battles, there’s a building system where you can build structures that provide materials and other things to help you on your quest. I never really used them considering the game throws those rewards at you left and right.
Summoning new Skylanders can be a hit or miss. Of the rather few opportunities I had to summon new characters, they would generally be duplicates. I did have a few higher level units given to me just by completing certain levels, but they did feel a bit underpowered compared to some of the other Skylanders I had already been leveling up. Couple that with the constant reminder both in-game and in my phone’s notifications to spend actual money in the game, Skylanders shows itself as another example of shoddy microtransaction practices in the industry. I know microtransactions are a norm for any genre, but there’s a fine line between pushing it heavily and casually letting players know it’s there if you want it.
I don’t have a problem with loot boxes, chests, or anything like that. However, I do have a problem with them if some of the items you can obtain are almost necessary to progress in a story or if it’s obvious when someone has paid hundreds of dollars for an overpowered weapon being used in PVP modes.
At least the one saving grace this game has for me is the visuals. Each character is uniquely designed and really helped me feel a part of the Skylanders‘ universe, despite how bland the rest of the game is. Battle animations look well made as well. Each attack is unique to each character, making for a quite the visual spectacle during fights.
Unfortunately, there are plenty of other games marketed to kids with the gacha format that can offer more than just flashy visuals. Skylanders Ring of Heroes just doesn’t warrant the amount of time and effort it asks for with the kind of gameplay it offers. But with Spyro at the helm, we’re not surprised of the surge of attention the game has received from nostalgia and fans of the Skylanders series. If you really want the Spyro experience, we suggest you pick up the Spyro Reignited Trilogy instead.
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