Doctor Who: Legacy - It's Bigger on the Inside
Last month, Tiny Rebel Games released Doctor Who: Legacy for both iOS and Android mobile devices. It was also recently announced that a version is coming to Kindle next month, along with Google Services integration including cloud saving.
I felt quite comfortable approaching this review--after all I have been a gamer for some 25 years now. So the idea of a Doctor Who video games sounds awesome... on paper. They actually have a very bad track record. Thankfully, I think the curse is finally over, and just maybe that "proper" Doctor Who game we've wanted since 1981 has finally arrived!
Legacy is a free to play game, or could also be considered "freemium". You can choose to pay around 5 dollars US, or 3 pounds in the UK, to gain exclusive access to a "Fan Area". This mostly consists of more missions, exclusive content, and harder tuned levels for experts. They have released a few skins and even characters in this area, and plan to keep expanding it in the future. You honestly don't need to spend any money at all, and you'd still have a quality game. You can buy Time Crystals in the store, which are the in-game curacy. Thankfully, they also drop at random in-game too.
So what is Legacy anyway? At first glance it seems like a rip-off of Bejeweled and Pokémon, with a Doctor Who skin slapped on. Once you actually play it, though, you'll realize it's a great game for all types of gamers and non-gamers, just like the show itself.
The basic premise is pretty simple.
You choose a Doctor and then select up to 5 companions to join him. Notice the different colors each one of the characters has on their portrait? That relates to what color gems on the board that will cause them to attack, and each character has a unique special ability that they charge up over time. Much of the fun is mixing and matching characters and trying out new combos. The other important thing about combos in Legacy are the gems themselves, as you can move them all the way across the board if you wish. You even have 5 seconds to attempt to pull off some EPIC combos for mega damage; the basic idea is that if you match at least 3 gems of similar color they will trigger the effect.
After each level has been cleared, your companions will gain EXP, and you can increase their attributes when they level up. Not only do they all have their own unique special ability, but they also fall into the traditional RPG roles of Tank, DPS, and Healer. You can adjust the stats enough by max rank to even make some cool hybrids.
Every 10 levels, a companion will "Max Out" and will need to evolve to gain access to 10 new levels. This evolution is done via various Time Pieces that you get as random drops during your playtime. You also have the option to skip using Time Pieces and just evolve them by using the Time Crystal item instead. The Crystals are somewhat rare drops though. The six types of Time Pieces are show below.
So what about the Doctor? He can level up to, but it always costs Time Pieces or Crystals, so unless you have a ton of cash to drop, then they will level up pretty close to the same rate as your companions.
The Doctor levels differently though, and he does not have attributes to adjust. The Doctors all have 4 ranks, and the higher the rank, the more powerful their special ability is. The Doctors in general get most of their stats from their group of companions, making team composition a key element of the games strategy.
Like all things though, nothing is perfect.
First of all, the story is mostly non-existent, and didn't make much sense. The way the game plays out in terms of level progression and overall design, it would have been the perfect story to set within the Doctor's Time Stream on Trenzalore. The levels are even played backwards, as Series 7 must be played first, and Series 6 remains locked until Series 7 is completed. I was very surprised at the overall length of each of these two chapters of the story thus far. Doctor Who: Legacy will keep you entertained for hours.
Time to return to my little nitpicking. I'm glad this is a mobile game, but for the sheer amount of hours of playtime, and replay value... I hope this comes to tablets, PCs, or even next-gen consoles. It's fun to pick up and play a level here and there, but when you play for hours on end, there are some issues.
Even though I have small hands (not pictured), I will still occasionally accidentally bump a gem into the wrong spot, which has even gotten me killed once as opposed to finishing the level! A phone isn't the most comfortable thing to hold for hours, and it is a real shame there is no "horizontal flip view" for Legacy, as I think that might have helped this issue.
The last thing that I have to say that hurts the game, even if only in a minor fan boy type way, is that they screwed up 11's hair big time (it's effin blonde), and something about 10's hair looks off too. I love the rest of the art style though. Thankfully 11 has plenty of costumes that cover up the silly 'hair issue'.
So, is that it?
A great game worth picking up for any Whovian; it is free after all. This is true, but the really exciting thing is that Tiny Rebel Games are very passionate and hardcore Doctor Who fans. They have already proven this in the past month with their Advent Calendar promotion, giving out a code for an exclusive companion, skin, and even more Doctors!
They have also gone on record saying that they won't stop until they get all the way back to "An Unearthly Child"-the very first episode of Doctor Who. Not all of the levels are based on TV stories though; there are some unique adventures, too. Here is a little preview of some of the coolest new characters they have added in the last few weeks via the Advent Calender promotion.
I freaking love this game, and will continue playing it for a long time to come. There are near endless hours of replay value with all the Doctors and companions, as well as collecting all of the rare drops in levels for even more new stuff! With new content constantly being added, who knows what we might see soon.
The Day of the Doctor? I'd gladly pay money for the War Doctor! I'm sure the new 12th Doctor will eventually come into play too. What about 9? Imagine Rose with a "Bad Wolf" ultra. Oh, and please give us Captain Jack and Idris! Also, for you really hardcore gamers out there, I know much of the game was based on Puzzle & Dragons. However, Legacy has the distinct design advantage in that you don't have limited play time for free.
I did also say that Legacy can appeal to all sorts of gamers. If you want to speed through everything like I did so I could write this review, it is very challenging. Casual gamers can take it slow and just enjoy the game, and work on things at a slower pace, which I think might even be the best way to play. Shell out some coin for the "Fan Area," and then spend no more money on the game, and it will naturally slow down your progression a bit.
This game istruly a massive achievement for Doctor Who games, as well as for how to do the "free-to-play" model correctly. Like Blizzard did with Hearthstone, which is actually a good comparison for Doctor Who: Legacy. Amazing F2P games that "got it right"and are super addictive. I think that Tiny Rebel Games has learned the trick to the biggest secret of success in good game design -- "Easy to learn but hard to master."
Seems fitting to end this with a quote from the recently departed 11th Doctor:
"All of time and space, everything that ever happened or ever will... where do you want to start?"
It applies quite well to Doctor Who: Legacy, a game that is bigger on the inside.