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Solo Leveling: Arise review - rising through the ranks

In our Solo Leveling: Arise review, we join Sung Jinwoo on his Hunter reawakening through Netmarble’s latest dungeon-crawling live-service action game.

Solo Leveling Arise review: Sung Jinwoo in his assassin outfit outlined in white and pasted on a blurred screenshot of a powerful spider boss monster

Our Verdict

Solo Leveling: Arise takes an established IP and gives it the videogame treatment it deserves, immersing you in the tension and conflict of Sung Jinwoo’s reawakening as a Hunter. It looks great, it’s satisfying to play, and it’s not gatekept by heavy-handed microtransactions or battle passes.

If you’re at all familiar with webtoons or anime, you’ll have stumbled upon the serious face of Sung Jinwoo and heard of Solo Leveling by now. Thanks to the powerhouse team at Netmarble that’s responsible for other popular anime adaptation games like Tower of God: New World and The Seven Deadly Sins, Jinwoo gets to star in his own live service title with Solo Leveling: Arise.

Before starting my journey with this game, I’d heard of Solo Leveling but never watched or read it, and honestly you don’t need to. Solo Leveling: Arise drops you right in the action, giving you a brief overview of the world you inhabit and letting the compelling characters and story do the rest.

For a little bit of context, Solo Leveling: Arise takes place in a version of our world where portals between worlds called Gates expose our society to dangerous monsters from the other side that threaten to make their way into our world. Humans with special abilities become Hunters and use their powers to protect civilians from this threat. You play as Jinwoo, an infamously weak E-rank Hunter who gains the unique ability to level up his powers and get stronger.

One thing you should know before going into this game is that it is violent and, at times, pretty scary, especially thanks to the unique but effective choice to blend traditionally animated dialog screens with comic book-style panels. Pretty early on in the game, you’re confronted with the terrifying smile of the God statue, which set the tone of the game for me perfectly. Luckily, as the story and the gameplay revolve around leveling up your strength by beating up the bad guys, you can face your fears head-on and take them down.

Solo leveling Arise review: A terrifying screenshot of the God statues approaching Jinwoo with comic book text reading 'boom' on it

The gameplay is primarily a combination of animated story sections and dungeon levels which are strung together to form a complete chapter of the narrative. In terms of other games I’ve played, I’d say the closest comparison is the Zenless Zone Zero beta, but instead of swapping between various party members, your team of hunters acts more like support summons to assist Jinwoo in combat. The combat itself is really satisfying, especially thanks to the visual and audio feedback when you narrowly dodge a boss’s attack or successfully break their guard.

On mobile, I recommend using a controller to play as thanks to the varied attacks and quick time events, it can be challenging to tap the correct attack on your device’s screen without taking your eyes off the action. That being said, there are plenty of options to make combat more intuitive, including one-button options for both your attacks and your support summons, plus the option to fully automate various parts of your battles.

The tutorial is super comprehensive too, making you fully aware of how each attack works, but I would have liked it to be a lot shorter overall. Solo Leveling: Arise holds your hands just a little too hard for a little too long in my opinion, but once you’re out of that initial railroady section, you’re free to play to your heart’s content.

Solo Leveling Arise review: Jinwoo chatting to a staff member at the Hunter Association

In terms of performance, the game looks and feels great to play across a variety of devices. More budget-friendly options like my Tecno Pova 5G might struggle a little at first with the graphics, but once again the options menu is your friend. Make sure you play about with the graphics and performance settings to suit your device’s needs and then you’ll do just fine. I’ve even encountered a couple of warnings from the game itself to not play for too long, so you don’t need a phone with insane battery life to enjoy Solo Leveling: Arise the way Netmarble intended. I’ve experienced a couple of glitches that caused me to reboot the game, but it’s hard to tell if this is a pre-release issue or not, so keep that in mind.

Of course, this is a gacha game, so I’ve got to mention the currency and monetization systems. As I’ve been playing on a pre-release build, I haven’t seen everything that Solo Leveling: Arise has to offer in terms of microtransactions and battle passes, but I’ve done my fair share of gacha pulls thanks to the game’s super generous mission, codex, and achievement systems. Especially if you plan to play at launch, you won’t be hurting for currency during the early game as Netmarble is practically throwing gacha tickets, gold, and other currency at you left, right, and center if you know where to look. Don’t ignore the notifications in your menu – there are freebies hidden in there!

Solo Leveling Arise review: SLA's battle pass

Overall, Solo Leveling: Arise does a fantastic job of introducing newcomers to the webtoon and anime’s world and story while being unique enough that existing fans can still get a kick out of its plethora of content. The combat is sleek and satisfying, with challenging extra goals that don’t feel punishing to fail, and the gacha system seems well-balanced and accessible to a F2P audience. Other than the plot itself, it’s not really doing anything new in the live-service mobile game space, but for fans of action, it’s definitely worth a go.

Prepare yourself for your own journey through the Gates with our Solo Leveling: Arise tier list and Solo Leveling: Arise codes guides. If you want to give one of Netmarble’s other titles a go, check out our Tower of God: New World tier list next.