Orbit Legends: First Impressions

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After a week of sickness, tech setbacks, and everything in-between: finally here we are with the first impressions review for Orbit Legends. Within the game you, the player, have been summoned to help aid the Star Isles. These Star Isles have been ravaged by monsters, with many others disappearing completely (ala Kingdom Hearts style) due to various reasons. Your fairy guide, Lucica, teaches you the ins and outs of being a Summoner as you progress on your journey.

In essence Orbit Legends is another one of your gacha fest games, however it actually does quite a few things that I like. It tackles a lot of issues these types of games tend to have, yet oddly drops the ball a bit when it comes to the story and other elements. It felt outright bizarre to find a game that was clearly optimized to run well, provided a lot of freedoms other games of this type tend to withhold, has a unique form of PvP, in-game currency is incredibly easy to earn, etc.

…And yet I was bored. Perhaps I need more time to get into the game, but that’s the overall feeling that has sat with me ever since I picked the title up. However, just because I was personally bored with the game doesn’t mean it may not be worth playing for you. You might read this and find your new go-to game. So with that said: let’s dig into the details!

The Gameplay: “real time” combat, summoning your creatures, and PvP map building

Lucica explains the interface and basic mechanics during the tutorial.
Lucica explains the interface and basic mechanics during the tutorial.

Combat Mechanics: great ideas here, but frustrating in practice.

This is going to sound like a strange combination, but bear with me here: if you’re familiar with Colopl Rune Story and Hearthstone, then you’ll immediately click with the bulk of Orbit Legends‘ mechanics. In fact, this game is nearly identical to Colopl Rune Story in terms of combat that it’s almost like playing the exact same game. The key difference though lies within this title’s summoning features and how Moregeek Technology approaches the player’s ability to control their characters in combat.

When you first enter a combat stage in Orbit Legends, you start with your own character. Like in Colopl Rune Story, tapping and holding your finger down on the screen will move your character in any direction. Now where Orbit Legends differs is that there’s an auto run function of sorts through the “Search” button (see lower right of screenshot above). Tap that and your hero will run forward towards the stage’s finish line. The other key difference is that you don’t actually command your hero to attack enemies. All you have to do is position your hero within striking range of an enemy and the AI takes care of the rest.

In all honesty I believe this was the main reason why I grew bored so quickly. Auto battling is not fun. Auto battle exists in video games to speed up the grind for materials and other in-game progress. In my opinion it shouldn’t be a game’s core mechanic. It should be optional. If auto battling must be part of your core gameplay, then you need to add something to your game’s battles to keep the player engaged (one of the things Chaos Chronicle did correctly despite being mostly automated). Moving around is not enough. At least not for me.

Don’t get me wrong: there’s still plenty of strategy in positioning your character on the map. If you double tap your character will dodge-roll out of the way of an impending attack in whatever direction your finger was. Special attacks from enemies are telegraphed. Enemies have their own formations that you have to decide, on the fly, how to take down. There’s also a plethora of traps (like canons that shoot at you) from the very first stages of the game, which adds another layer of challenge that you must be aware of. And it’s actually really nice they have that even within the first island’s set of quests to get the player acclimated.

However, because attacking relies on the AI, all of this smooth and free mobility suddenly feels buggy. There were many times where I was standing right next to an enemy and my hero wouldn’t do anything. She just stood there. Now when she did attack I will admit that it looked cool: the animations are slick and well done. But because of this one odd mechanic choice to make combat automatic Orbit Legends tends to feel more like a running simulator than it does an action RPG. So there’s a bit of an identity crisis here.

An example of one of the characters you can pull.
An example of one of the characters you can pull.

That feeling is only compounded further once you add summoning to the mix. Remember how I mentioned Hearthstone? Well the reason I make that comparison is because of Orbit Legends‘ crystal system. When you start the game you begin each stage with a total of 7 crystals. Each character you can summon to fight by your side has a summon cost. If that character has a summon cost of 2, then two of your crystals will be used. Each level in the game is divided into stages, some have only one, others with boss fights can have two or more. You cannot regain your crystals during the same stage which you used them, however, you will get them all back when you proceed to the next stage. You can earn more as your account’s hero rank increases in level.

It’s also important to note that characters are not permanently summoned when you bring them out. Once they’re on the map alongside your hero a counter appears over their portrait on the bottom of the screen. That’s how long you have before the character goes “poof” and returns to your deck. You can also use that character’s “summon skill,” which is an ability that you can activate by holding down on the character’s portrait and sliding upward. These can range from big, bad ass attacks to various buffs and heals. Summon Skills don’t cost any crystals to use, however they will activate a cool down. You cannot summon that character or use their skill again until that cool down has passed.

All of this combined creates a nice level of resource management that only adds to your strategy. Not only do you have to assemble a team that works well together, but you have to consider summon costs and basic party roles (tank, healer, ranged, etc.).

You definitely get the most out of your characters when you summon them to fight alongside you. Every character in the game comes with its own set of skills and traits that are active when they’re on the field. They also have their own combat AI: some will hang back and shoot from afar while others will be on the front lines. That being said, the same issues regarding your own hero’s auto battle troubles also apply to the rest of your team. You can’t control your summoned characters at all.

This makes combat a giant cluster fuck. You can tap targets to focus fire power on, but it can get pretty tough to figure out where your characters are aiming. In the early stages of the game it’s very easy for your own hero to feel a bit worthless as your other characters decimate the stage without any rhyme or reason to their patterns. Even worse they don’t seem to understand the concept of dodging. So while you might get away from that giant body slam some behemoth telegraphed, the rest of your front liners get nailed.  Also they won’t follow you if you try to run away from the monster; they just keep attacking until either they die or the enemy dies. This seems completely counter intuitive to me. If you’re going to give me party mates, let me have some semblance of control over them!

Now I’m sure as you get further in the game you’ll take a more active role as the difficulty ramps up, but by the time you get there you won’t really have any idea how to best control your own hero. And a game’s difficulty isn’t going to magically change the mechanic skeleton the game is built upon. Especially not at this stage of the game’s lifespan. This is how combat works in Orbit Legends, for better or for worse. Everything added to the game from this point forward will have to be added to accommodate these mechanic choices because it’s too late to change the core aspects of them.

I will never understand why mobile developers keep thinking  I want a computer to play my game for me. As I’ve already said: yes, there is plenty of strategy to setting up your team for success in combat, but I want to actually be engaged when my team’s deployed. I don’t want to watch it! If Orbit Legends let me have more control similar to how Colopl Rune Story handles its combat, then this would be a completely different story. In fact this would probably be one of my favorite games currently on the market. It’s just another example of how a seemingly minute choice in one mechanic can completely change the feel and overall dynamics of an entire game.

Tower Defense PvP: build your own dungeons!

An example of the orbits map builder from the tutorial.
An example of the orbits map builder from the tutorial.

I really like this game’s approach to PvP, because it both ties into the game’s premise while also allowing the player to get creative. Within Orbit Legends each player is a summoner with command over their own Star Isle. Each Star Isle has an orbit system that a player sets up within the tutorial. So right off the bat there’s no arbitrary rank or story-based restriction gating PvP. You can jump right on in once the tutorial is over, if you want to.

Upon entering the orbit screen you’re presented with multiple smaller “planets” with your main Star Isle in the back. If you tap on any of these and choose to edit it, you’re brought into a map editor like the screenshot above. You only start out with a few map tiles that you can use, but as you progress through the story campaign and level up you earn more. Each tile has it’s own size and fits onto the screen like a puzzle piece. So long as you meet cost requirements and the start of your map is safely connected to the end of your map, you can create any dungeon stage you want. Some pieces will also come equipped with its own unique set of traps. One of your starter pieces actually has a set of plants that pop out of the ground and shoot at your intruder, for example.

The other key component to gearing up your personal orbit dungeon is monster placement. The good thing is that any character you own can be used as a tower defense monster. This includes both premium characters from the gacha summon and monsters you can earn from doing quests. Each character also comes with their own set of helper minions. Many of the traits and skills that work during story stages will also work in your dungeon, so team composition is just as key here as it is in the rest of the game. Especially considering there are limitations to how many characters/monsters can fit on each tile and each orbit stage on its own.

Once you save your orbit dungeon any player within the server can challenge you (if they find you). You can also search through orbits to challenge other players’ dungeons. Gameplay after entering a player-made dungeon is exactly like other areas in the game. In all honesty if you’re going to be playing Orbit Legends there’s no reason to not do this. Even if you lose your characters will gain exp, and victory has the chance to win Star Sand (the in-game currency. Think of it like gold) and gear for your own hero. You also gain prizes and exp for your defense characters if people challenge your dungeon but lose against you. These prizes will be awarded to your mail.

The system gets even better if you have an active friends list. You can spar against any of your friends’ dungeons at any time, once a day, without having to try and search for them. So you can farm Star Sand and goodies from your friends. The Orbit mode feels like a game within a game, and it’s done really well! Yes you do still have your typical F2P issues where whales or lucky players will litter their maps with max 5-star characters and call it a day. You can’t escape that in F2P land. However it’s really fun just coming up with new designs for your own orbit and discovering new map pieces in other areas of the game. There’s other games out there that make this one mode their entire game, and Moregeek gave it to us as a single mode within a game. I have to give them kudos for that. It just sucks that the game’s combat mechanics lessen it. Ugh, I want to love this game so bad!

Other great details that make Orbit Legends stand out.

Hero customization exists.

Your party screen. Here is where you gear up your hero and pick which characters will join you in combat.
Your party screen. Here is where you gear up your hero and pick which characters will join you in combat.

I was shocked over how much customization we have control over in Orbit Legends. When you first launch the game you get to decide whether to have a male or female avatar. Now unfortunately you can’t pick out their hair or face. However once you leave the tutorial you can customize your hero with gear. Each piece of gear actually has a cosmetic effect on your avatar. If you put on a helmet, she wears the helmet, for example. And while you can’t see it because the above screenshot is from the tutorial, a new button will appear by your weapon slot. This is your appearance menu. In this menu you can use any piece of gear in your possession and glamour it over the gear you’re wearing in the same slot. Wearing an ugly armor piece for stats and want to wear a cute leather dress instead? You can do that! Just glamour said dress in your inventory over the armor. You can do this as often as you want without penalty so long as there’s gear in your inventory!

The only downside is that it doesn’t seem that you can opt for gear to not be visible on your character. So, for example, if you have an ugly helmet but don’t have a different helmet or hat to glamour over it, you can’t make the ugly helmet invisible. You’re stuck with said helmet unless you unequip it altogether.

It feels strange to get hyped over something like this, but having the ability to customize your character outside of MMORPG app ports is so rare still in mobile that this caught my attention. It’s a shame you don’t really get to see what other player’s heroes look like, because I would love to see what combinations everyone else has come up with! If we could have had at least a few options for hair and face, then this would be perfect.

A smooth UI

This seems like an odd characteristic to praise, but UI issues are stupidly common in mobile games still. Over the last two years I have come across many great games with either terrible UI design, laggy UI, or a combination of both. Even on fully updated, up-to-date technology. I will admit that the home screen in Orbit Legends does feel cluttered if you’re playing on a phone. However, the UI feels smooth as butter. There’s no lag or stutter when I tap buttons. I don’t have to tap twice. In fact it’s almost too responsive: if you’re not careful you might open a menu on accident due to a light touch.

Even on Nox emulator on a five year old laptop I had the same smooth responses as I did on my iPhone. It’s a shame that’s impressive but it doesn’t change that it’s impressive. The game just runs well. You can tell Moregeek at least tried to optimize their game before sending it out. I want more games to run as well as this does.

You start the game with a premium 5-star character.

Yes, you read that right. In gacha land where it’s all too common for publishers to do their damnedest from letting their consumers get even one of the highest rarity characters they offer (Monster Super League), Moregeek gives them all the middle finger and allows players to start the game with potentially any of the native 5-star characters available in the data base. This is done by a free, one-time 5-star gacha pull within the tutorial itself. And it’s not some ganked-up freemium version of a premium character, it’s the premium character (whichever one you pull).

While I assume event-limited characters are not included, that is still a really big deal. Hardcore app game players are notorious for spending several hours or several days re-rolling just to land an account with a top rarity character. That’s because it’s usually the only way to guarantee you’ll ever get one. So to run into a game that just hands one to you for free induces a little culture shock. Now if people are so inclined they can re-roll for a specific character they want, or, happily continue on knowing they have a premium character in their arsenal.

That being said it does make the competition that much more fierce. Especially against whales that can gather even more 5-star premiums. But for those that enjoy single-player campaigns or participating in dungeon events, this is a huge bonus.

In-game currency is incredibly easy to earn.

Little pop ups for attack or defense request will appear all the time. Tapping them lands you free Star Sand.
Little pop ups for attack or defense request will appear all the time. Tapping them lands you free Star Sand.

By easy, I mean it’s literally handed to you.

By default in the game’s settings your account is opted to allow other players to request an attack or defense assistance from you. These requests pop in from the top of the screen. If you tap on them, you send that player support and you gain free Star Sand in return. These notifications don’t last long, though. You have to tap on them really quickly. However I wouldn’t feel bad for missing one: they practically pop every few seconds.

Star Sand is used to pay for feeding exp to monsters/characters, evolving them, searching orbits to challenge, among many other things. However you get Star Sand so easily between these notifications and orbit challenges that I’ve yet to fear running short. I can only imagine the Star Sand amounts higher leveled players are seeing. I will admit the notifications are annoying. Very annoying. But it’s not worth it to shut them off: the payoff is just too good. I would suggest turning off notifications on your device however, just in case.

The good thing is that these notifications never appear during battle, so that’s a plus. I would prefer it if they didn’t appear during story scenes as well. That can get a little annoying.

Emulator Friendly and the developer supports the use of APK files.

As I’ve said already: the game runs perfectly well on emulators such as Nox. What’s interesting though is that Moregeek Technologies actually supports the use of APK files by offering an APK installer right on their official website. So if for any reason you wish to play Orbit Legends, but can’t get it through either of the major app stores, you can get the APK file straight from the original source. That’s not just rare: that’s downright nearly impossible. As of late there’s been a big anti-emulator and anti-apk following within mobile app publishers (especially for these gacha games) in order to try and curb cheating via hacking.

However these publishers completely ignore other, more widely held reasons for using emulators. For one thing it tones down battery use on devices. As mobile games continue to become more and more complicated and graphically polished, they’re going to need more battery power. And I’m sorry, but phones are phones first. We need our phones for day to day use, and you can’t say that you could use a tablet instead because many of these publishers do not optimize their games for tablet use. More often than not these titles are designed for the phone only. Another reason is to ease up on wireless connection troubles. iPhones in particular are notorious for randomly losing connection with your wifi, especially now that they boast the inane “boost your connectivity with your phone’s data” bullshit they tried to force in a couple of updates ago. But with an emulator you use your computer’s connection, meaning that you’re far less likely to drop out (and be penalized) during events or PvP matches.

That last bit is particularly crucial. The USA has some of the worst internet of the first world countries. And until we can get up to speed with that connectivity in gaming of any form is going to be an issue.

Finally there’s both app store exclusives and region exclusives. It’s very common for apps to limit their availability via platform or country/region in “soft launches” (think of it like a beta test), or permanently, in order to better control server capacity. However a once a game is localized in English, a lot of people want to try it. So being able to test a game with no intentions of making purchases before it does come out in your country/region is a great way to decide if you want to spend time (and possibly money) on a game when it is launched in your area.

Now of course, publishers don’t want smart consumers as that’s bad for them. It also doesn’t help that it’s a pain to get around iTunes and Google Play’s region-restrictions. It can be done, some methods rather easily, but at the end of the day if you’re forced to go the APK route there’s always multiple risks involved no matter where you get the APK from. So to see a publisher that openly endorses for anyone to play the game by giving their own APK is huge. Moregeek is clearly confident that Orbit Legends will speak for itself, and I wish more publishers took this approach.

How much does it really cost to play Orbit Legends?

A screenshot of the cash shop.
A screenshot of the cash shop.

Like all other F2P games, Orbit Legends offers a cash shop, and Moregeek definitely wants you to make use of it. But the defining trait of a decent cash shop depends on several factors that you can’t necessarily exclude from each other. Our premium currency’s name in this game is Star Stone. So let’s cover some basics:

What Star Stones are needed for

  • Summoning requires 5 Star Stones for a single summon. A 10+1 requires 50 Star Stones.
  • Star Stones can be used to refill your stamina
  • As you can see there are two monthly subscription packages available
  • Star Stones can be used to purchase Star Sand. Ratio is 1 Star Stone = 10,000 Star Sand
  • Monster capacity for how many characters you can hold at one time can be expanded only with Star Stones. 1 Star Stone = 10 slots.
  • You can also buy gear, map tiles, traps for your maps, and evolution materials with Star Stones.

How much they cost:

  • 1 Star Stone = $0.99 USD
  • 50 Star Stones = $37.99 USD

Okay, this is where we start seeing more of Orbit Legends downsides. Why the hell is a 10+1 so bloody expensive? That’s above industry standard. On top of this the monthly subscription packages are bullshit because they are definitely priced to get you to pay fucking $45 a month for an app game. For $8.99 you get 10 Star Stones immediately, plus 1 Star Stone per day as an extra log in bonus. Meaning you pay $8.99 for 40 Star Stones if you’re willing to save up. While in terms of Orbit Legends own economy it’s clearly better than buying 40 Star Stones outright, in terms of F2P sub packages that are now cropping up like flies across the platform, it’s terrible. Even the stingiest of games tend to offer more for their monthly subs than this. The $45 package however is fantastic. Again, in terms of Orbit Legends and Orbit Legends alone, this is what you should go with if you plan to support the game monetarily. But $45 for 200 Star Stones (total) is amazing. For $45 you get 44 gacha pulls, which is impossible in this industry where $30 usually nets you only 10 or 11 pulls.

While the price point for the $45 is amazing, Moregeek has a lot of fucking balls to even suggest a game is worth a $45 monthly subscription fee. Yes, it’s optional, but that’s not the point. Moregeek is suggesting that not only is Orbit Legends worth $45 upfront, but it’s worth $45 every month, because you know they’re going to do what they can to make a subscriber out of you. Imagine if World of Warcraft suddenly demanded their playerbase to fork over $45 every month instead of $12-$15. People would leave in droves. And that’s a AAA game despite its age. What in the world made anyone think a F2P app game should have that kind of price tag?

Just no. As good as this game is, it is not worth $45. Does this have the same amount of content as a WoW expansion pack? No. Does this have the same amount of content as a 3DS game? For the most part, no. Once again these mobile devs need to learn that if they want to charge AAA price points for their games, they need to start delivering AAA experiences. And they’re just not doing that. Price your shit properly!

An example of a theme summon.
An example of a theme summon.

That being said, there are multiple ways to use free Star Stones wisely. For one thing, saving up 50 Star Stones for a 10+1 is the smarter way to go as you’re guaranteed at least one 4-star creature. There’s also 5-star monster summon tickets you can earn by completing objectives in the game. As the name suggests they guarantee you any random 5-star. There’s also special “priority” summons in which the chances of you pulling creatures of one of the five elements offered in the game is greater. This rotates on a daily basis. There’s also special event summons with a smaller pool like the current Fairy Tale summon right now where you can get characters like Puss in Boots and Snow White.

The downside to this is that you only get one Star Stone per story level completion, and story levels are finite. Now there are events to earn more, there are sometimes daily log-ins that gift the stuff, etc. However the ways of earning Star Stones are so much smaller than the amount of things you can do with Star Stones in contrast that you start to see a pretty good F2P app begin to be weighted down buy a greedy premium currency policy. Again, they want you to buy those monthly subscriptions. And, unfortunately, Moregeek seems keen on gimping availability of earning premium currency to see that we do.

That being said there is a silver lining. It appears that the rates of 4-star and 5-star characters are actually pretty high, so the limits of farming premium currency may have been an attempt at a balancing act. It’s a poor decision, but the game can feel pretty easy/auto-pilot even with a single 5-star character so I can see what they might have been thinking. You can also evolve your creatures into higher rarities, with many of the lower rarity creatures actually being pretty good. But there is a huge power jump between 4-star and 5-star characters, and in a game with such a strong PvP concept this can potentially be detrimental. F2P users should plan ahead and only use free Star Stones at their own risk or in specialized priority summons like the one pictured here to try and minimize the harm of RNG.

The ability to buy map pieces and traps for your dungeons sucks though. I feel like that should have been kept as a content earned thing, especially since those are still RNG reliant as well. It’s bad enough that people can fully stack themselves with characters, you didn’t need to taint your awesome PvP mode with P2W tactics like that.

Final Verdict: If you’re willing to look past the borked combat, great game to try. Otherwise you might want to look elsewhere.

Pros:

  • Pretty in-depth Hero Customization (gear glamour system)
  • Runs great on most devices
  • Buttery smooth UI
  • Rare character summon rate appears to be more generous compared to others
  • Art direction is very cute. Both 2D art and 3D art match each other pretty well.
  • Emulator friendly
  • re-roll friendly
  • official APK support
  • in-game currency is laughably easy to farm
  • Rotating priority summon themes to help fight RNG
  • Super fun and unique PvP mode concept
  • Playerbase seems to be active at the moment

Cons

  • The combat system. While the action combat is a great idea, the whole attacking depending on the AI is not.
  • No control over summoned characters
  • AP/Stamina system. Seriously, this tactic is so outdated. Please stop using it in these games!
  • Expensive cash shop
  • Finite resources for earning premium currency
  • Very clear P2W packages within the cash shop
  • Having the audacity to offer a $45 monthly sub.

I want to love this game so badly! I really, really do. However the heart of all gaming is gameplay, and Orbit Legends‘ take on auto attacking makes me grit my teeth. The game feels more stressful to play than it does fun because of that one mechanic choice. Combine this with their hideous cash shop and I find myself both bored and turned off. So I, personally, will not stick with with it.

HOWEVER

Because the pros far outweigh the cons, I can’t just write this off as a game not worth trying. It’s a crying shame that Moregeek dropped the ball on combat and their cash shop because everything else is absolutely amazing. Which is why if you’re reading this and you can get past the combat (or if you end up actually liking it), then I highly recommend you download the game and see for yourself if it’s your cup of tea. Because of this I also won’t mind returning to this title in a month to see where Moregeek goes with it.