Review: Oz: Broken Kingdom26 Sep 2016 0
Review: Oz: Broken Kingdom
Released 14 Sep 2016
Role-playing game (RPG) can mean different things to different people. For some, it’s about the “roll” of dice, as in rolling up and improving a character’s abilities and powers as the game progresses. (Younger readers please note that some of us geezers used physical dice to generate characters in the old days, we didn’t have your fancy pocket machines.) Others look to get into character and play a “role” in the story. Many enjoy both. In this review I'll take a look at Oz: Broken Kingdom, a high-profile freemium RPG out on both iOS and Android, and let you know how both the roll and role stack up. I’ll also explore whether Oz’s monetization strategy gets in the way of a good gaming experience.
The Wizard and Dorothy are gone and the Land of Oz once again finds itself in need of saving. Ophelia, the new Dorothy, is sucked in and quickly becomes fast friends with the Lion, Scarecrow, and Tin Man. These four heroes must face spiders, witches, and of course flying monkeys on the way to saving the day. The Wicked Witch of the West is back and there is a darker evil pulling her strings. There's more plot to it than that, of course, but I didn't find it particularly compelling. I started checking out around the second time "…" appeared as a line of dialogue. Team Role may want to similarly check out of my review at this point.
Though the story element of this RPG left something to be desired, the real draw of Oz: Broken Kingdom is fighting baddies and levelling your four heroes. Combat is turn-based and driven by cards that represent different abilities. Each hero has a unique set of cards and you choose six to equip and use in battle. A seventh basic attack is always available.
There are a number of regions in Oz with names like Munchkin Town and Dark Forest. To rid a region of evil must fight your way through a series of battles, culminating in a boss fight. You bring a single hero to battle who fights enemies in one or more waves (the game tells you how many to expect). Combat is a bit repetitive but there are sufficient tactical considerations at play to keep things interesting. Powers are either single or multiple target and many come with extra effects that provide buffs, debuffs, extra damage, or healing. Enemies might be resistant or vulnerable to specific elemental attacks and the game has four classes, each with a material advantage over one other class. All of this encourages some strategy in deciding which hero to bring and what powers ought to be chosen.
Cards can be upgraded over time to make them more powerful and come in four rarities—common, uncommon, rare, and epic—each more difficult to obtain than the last. New cards and card upgrades (additional copies of those you already have) can be obtained as loot from a battle, from the Wonders well (you throw coins in and get loot out), or from the shops.
Combat is fast and fun and the graphics are solid. Winning a battle will get you from one to three stars, depending how well you did. More stars means better loot. Victory also earns you experience toward a higher team level which makes your heroes more powerful and opens up additional options like crafting and equipping gems and "evolving" your heroes to become more powerful, and get new costumes. Bottom line: there is plenty here to keep Team Roll interested.
The Freemium Question
The big question, as with any free-to-play title, is whether freemium tricks get in the way of the game's playability and general experience. There are three resources in the game: energy, essence, and emeralds. Energy is required to enter a battle. Essence is used to upgrade power cards and purchase cards and other items from the shops. Emeralds purchases Wonders coins, recharges energy, and can purchase essence.
Energy is limited and required for battles. Between the natural refresh rate (one energy every five minutes) and full replenishment upon levelling energy isn't much of a problem at early levels. I cruised to level nine without even thinking about it. The limiting factor to continuous combat turned out to be the scaling difficulty of battles and the relative power level, called might, of my heroes.
The largest determinant of hero might is the quality and level of the powers you choose for them. I reached a point where, thanks to more epic cards and more upgraded powers, Ophelia was much more powerful than my other heroes. Might level dictates who you can bring to battle, there is a minimum "recommendation", which is really a restriction. This can make it difficult to send your optimal hero (in terms of the 10% damage bonus) into a given battle. This doesn't matter in easier battles, but I hit a wall in a boss fight where Ophelia, an agility-class character, was my only hero mighty enough to go up against a heavily armored giant spider. Scarecrow would be the appropriate hero for such a fight but was far from being ready to suit up for such a contest.
The easy fix to this, and Nexon's preference, would be for you to spend some real money for emeralds and head to the Wonders well and hope for some good rare and epic powers. Emeralds allow you to buy coins that you can chuck into the Well in return for essence and power cards.
As an alternative, you can grind it out. Essence buys cards in the shop. The available options refresh daily, but every two hours you can watch a video to refresh sooner. If you're willing to check in a few times a day you can add and upgrade a lot of cards.
It takes a lot of essence to upgrade rare and epic cards and you'll need to constantly replenish it. You earn essence in battles, but that doesn't do much good when you've hit a wall in terms of might. One way to earn more essence is to raid old missions. If you've earned three stars in a battle you can raid it. Raiding costs energy and gives you the loot from the battle without actually fighting. This is also a good way to pick up not only more essence and experience, but also bronze coins (for use on Wonders), and power cards.
A second way to grind out essence is through daily quests. Each day you'll get a quest to win three battles with each of your heroes. Completing each of these quests will earn you 10,000 essence. You can fight easy battles from earlier regions to quickly complete these quests. Forty-thousand essence helps quite a bit.
Through normal play and about fifteen minutes of grinding with these methods per day I managed to accumulate over 80% of the cards in the game, many of which have been upgraded sufficiently. While my four heroes are not exactly at equally mighty, three of them at least qualify for most fights (alas poor Scarecrow is still lagging behind). Whether this continues to be the case even at higher levels of the game remains to be seen, but the freemium aspects seem reasonable up to at least level 15.
Who Should Play
The game is definitely for min/maxers and “roll” players. If you enjoy character optimization, accumulating and upgrading powers, and fine tuning your choices for specific battles Oz will appeal to you. Battles are quick, fun, and rewarding. You should, however, be willing to either do some daily grinding or spend some real money to keep your heroes on par and all of your options open. If you are looking for a story-driven RPG for the “role”-playing elements, I'd recommend looking elsewhere.