The Sorceror’s Apprentice
A new mobile game is always going to have an uphill battle. I mean there are really only a few genres that really seem to have a chance of catching on. You better be free in most cases, but also not be obnoxious about optional purchases. And you need a hook, whether it’s cool character designs or an already familiar and beloved IP that has lots of fun memorable characters to draw from or something else. Cats maybe? People like silly cats.
Disney Sorceror’s Arena from Glu Mobile, arguably best known for the mega-hit mobile game Kim Kardashian: Hollywood, is mostly banking on you liking the Disney IP and that might be enough. The game launched last week and I’ve spent a good chunk of time playing it since then so I thought I’d give my impressions thus far. This will not be a formal review as it’s hard to fully evaluate a brand new mobile game that theoretically will receive constant updates. Assuming I’m still playing it a few months from now I may give updated impressions, especially if there is a big seasonal update or something.
As I’ve mentioned in a previous post, I am still somewhat new to the world of mobile gaming. I’ve dabbled here and there but didn’t really get into it until I decided to take on this project because there are frankly a lot of mobile games based on various Disney properties. I downloaded a bunch but the only one that I’ve really stuck with for months is Disney Heroes Battle Mode which has a pretty bad title honestly, but it’s a fun Gatcha-RPG where you collect and battle various Disney heroes and while it has lots of ways to pay for things, really isn’t too obnoxious about it and I’ve been able to make pretty steady progress and regularly unlock characters without paying a dime. It’s been out since May of 2018 so it’s had time to work things out and rebalance and add lots of content. It wouldn’t be completely fair to judge Disney Sorceror’s Arena against that but I will be making some comparisons since in a lot of aspects they are similar games.
In most ways, Disney Sorceror’s Apprentice is like most other games of this style such as Marvel: Contest of Champions and Star Wars: Galaxy of Heroes and so on. You battle through stages, gain levels, participate in various modes and events and tournaments ultimately with the goal of unlocking various Disney characters (just Disney and Pixar here though, no Star Wars or Marvel characters here) and making a really powerful team. You can do this for free but there is a much easier path of course through spending money.
I will say I vastly prefer the turn-based nature of Disney Soceror’s Arena to the sort of auto-battle mode of Disney Heroes: Battle Mode in the latter your party just does whatever it’s going to do until you build up enough for a special attack and then click it and that’s pretty much it. The former is much more strategic and gives you way more control over your party’s actions.
There is a lot of crossover in terms of characters between both games but Disney Sorceror’s Arena takes better advantage of the IP in a lot of aspects. The backgrounds all look themed after a Disney movie location, all the enemies are characters from Disney movies and shows, and there’s a lot of characters that I have not seen available in Disney Heroes: Battle Mode. I can’t unlock the best Rescue Ranger, Monterey Jack, in Disney Heroes: Battle Mode or Demona from Gargoyles. Just seeing these characters, especially together is something that’s very cool and will pretty much always hold some appeal to me. In that way, Disney Sorceror’s Arena could easily have me hooked for months.
There are some aspects of Disney Sorceror’s Arena that may turn other potential players off, however. There’s no getting around that progress is pretty slow. Again, the game has been out for a week and while I have been playing a lot of it, it hasn’t been hours and hours and it seems like I’ve hit a real wall early on in terms of progress in both leveling heroes and collecting new ones. I will eventually be able to grind my way to where I need to be, but compared to not just Disney Heroes: Battle Mode but other collectible hero freemium RPGs I’ve played, the progress seems pretty slow without paying for something. I’m not opposed to putting money into a freemium game for sure, but I’ll get into why this is a problem with Disney Sorceror’s Arena later on.
Secondly, the campaign mode nor any other modes have any story to it. Granted, the stories in these games tend to be kind of flimsy, but there’s not even an attempt here. Maybe that will be added later, but It’s really noticeable that every other game of this type I have played has at least attempted a story in the main campaign mode (and sometimes others as well) with written dialogue and interaction between the characters and Disney Sorceror’s Arena doesn’t even try.
Unfortunately, Disney Sorceror’s Arena’s biggest knock against it is that it does what a lot of the worst freemium games do, which is constantly shoving promotions for paid content in your face. A lot of it is ridiculously expensive bundles ranging anywhere from $20-$50 dollars. It’s not just when you sign in or every few minutes, it’s literally every single time you return to the hub screen. They also do things like give you notice there’s something new in the shop, ideally something you might be able to get with the in-game currency you earn but no, it’s always a bundle you pay for and often it’s not even a new one, it’s something you’ve been advertised like five minutes ago. It’s just incredibly obnoxious combined with the really slow progress you encounter. Even watching ads for free currency seems worthless because the rewards are not worth the 30 seconds you have to spend watching the ad.
On top of this, while it worked fine the first few days, the last several I’ve had a lot of issues with the game just running. It often claims I’m signed out of Google when I am not, has trouble connecting to servers, or just straight-up crashes. Some of this may be due to an unexpected amount of users thanks to more people probably staying home and doing things like playing mobile games due to quarantine stuff but it’s still a big issue and if not resolved soon I don’t know why I’d keep playing (or trying to at any rate).
I got very critical there for a minute but I do want to stress that as of now, I am mostly having fun with Disney Sorceror’s Arena. I really like the battle system, the look, the range of characters both well-known and obscure, etc. The problems with logins and crashing will likely sort themselves out soon. Odds are progression will be rebalanced over time and I really hope Glu Mobile rethinks how they advertise the paid stuff and then they’ll have a really good freemium mobile game. As Disney Sorceror’s Arena is now, it’s probably worth checking out if you like turn-based RPGs and are a Disney fan.
Now, if some game company would make a proper RPG for consoles, be it action or turn-based with all the Disney characters and them interacting I would gladly pay $60 for that and likely buy whatever DLC came out for it. In the meantime, I’ll settle for these freemium mobile games I suppose. That’s all for now, see ya real soon.