We got our hands on Blizzard’s new mobile game and were unimpressed. There’s no reason to become weary of hearing about Warcraft Arclight Rumble, while it’s understandable that it irritates some diehard fans of the franchise that this is what we’re offered instead of, say, Warcraft 4. No, Diablo Immortal has taught us not to let the sleeping dog lie, for while that game’s contentious reveal sparked months of speculation, our hands-on experiences over the last year have simply revealed a reasonably robust mobile spin-off (coming to PC, by the way).
So, how is Arclight Rumble? After spending around two hours with it and witnessing a pretty lengthy but equally accomplished introduction, it’s… forgettable, and if you were anticipating a slow-motion train catastrophe, it’s (thankfully) not that, but neither is it an Immortal-Esque victory.
In a nutshell, Arclight Rumble is a “Tower Offense” game, which means there’s a rectangular track where you constantly acquire resources that may be used to deploy troops of various types, who then follow a predetermined path to the opponent’s stronghold. You can only win by consistently placing a solid mix of sorts, gradually encroaching on the enemy’s half of the field by shattering towers and deploying Kobolds to get additional resources. On top of that, there’s a meta-game with Quests, your personal selection of troops that can be leveled up, and progressive preparation. You also have your own commander who defines how your troops will focus on the battlefield, much to how a hero impacts how you play Hearthstone.
It’s pretty simple, and the first 10 lanes of the Arclight Rumble’s single-player mode can almost feel automatic, but there’s a slight strategic dimension that pokes its head out here and there during the first few hours that hints at a depth further down the line, and which will likely dominate the multiplayer duels.
Bad? No, it isn’t, but don’t look for anything new either. We’re employing the traditional pyramid tactic, in which melee defeats ranged, which defeats flying. It’s an age-old method of maintaining equilibrium, and it works to some extent. Furthermore, certain abilities, such as Chain Lightning, can quickly harm huge groups of opponents. Again, it works perfectly. It’s frequently entertaining, always charming, and never dull.
But there isn’t much spice here either. As an example, consider the graphics of Arclight Rumble. While the interface and character models are classic Warcraft, and the miniature Warhammer character idea theoretically gives the game a distinct visual identity, it all ends up being a big cartoon-like mess in practice, with you not really understanding that Stormwind soldiers, Red Dragonflight kites, or Berserker javelin throwers are dotted on the battlefield. Do you recall how Hitman Go had a static aesthetic design that made it look like a digital board game? It’s as if Blizzard intended to convey that, but instead gave us pretty much everything else on the market. Again, it is not ugly, but is it unique? No, you can’t say that. And perhaps it is what many had hoped for?
But isn’t that what Blizzard wants? After all, Hearthstone was not a novel take on digital card games, and Diablo Immortal was not very innovative. Perhaps it is acceptable that Arclight Rumble is extremely similar to the other if the established form also provides entertainment value. Instead, you could claim that Arclight Rumble will be divided into eight zones, each of which appears to have a large number of levels, and that you may easily avoid microtransactions and enjoy a reasonably worry-free gaming experience. There isn’t much creativity here, but once you get beyond that, Arclight Rumble appears… serene.
It should be noted that the microtransactions in the Arclight Rumble are not “merely” decorative. Instead, you may buy the game’s central currency, Gold, with real money, allowing you to improve troops and buy additional sorts, and it appears to be the very definition of “pay-to-win” at the moment. It’s tough to determine how the implementation affects the balance, as the game is ultimately free, but it’s worth discussing and being aware of.