When I heard about Angry Birds: Legends, the first word that came to mind was “What?” followed by “Seriously?” Angry Birds was the mobile franchise of the 2010s, with more than a dozen games released over the last eleven years. It even got a Hollywood movie. Still, Angry Birds has maintained a consistent brand identity, and a turn-based fantasy RPG is not what you’d call a natural progression from flinging birds at pigs. I’ll give it this, the premise certainly managed to pique my interest. Unfortunately, the game wasn’t able to keep it.
I should clarify that Angry Birds: Legends is still in beta. It’s not even feature complete and there are definitely bugs to work out. However, if it’s finished enough for the developer, Rovio, to sell microtransactions, then it’s finished enough to review. If the game isn’t ready for prime time, they shouldn’t have pushed it out onto the stage.
Ironically, for a game called Angry Birds: Legends, there is no story to speak of. I mean, it’s Angry Birds. I wasn’t expecting Macbeth or anything. Pigs stole the bird’s eggs, and the birds are mad. Boom, conflict established. But Legends doesn’t even have that. It’s not even birds vs. pigs anymore, and I have no idea why these characters are fighting each other. Don’t even get me started on the introduction of human characters, which is barely explained and not really addressed.
This game might have worked as a high fantasy retelling of Angry Birds. Reimagining the different kinds of birds and pigs as fantasy heroes and villains in a Saturday Morning cartoon could have been fun. You’d think they could have at least mined ideas from the actual Angry Birds cartoons, but no. The first hero, Red, is the only one who even corresponds to a character from the other games.
Birds, Pigs and People, Oh My!
Speaking of the heroes, there are nineteen in all, divided by race, class and color. There are three races: bird, pig and human, but they don’t affect much other than what resources you need to upgrade them. The classes are also an unremarkable trio of damager, tank and support. The colors are a little more interesting. They work on a four-way rock-paper-scissors logic. Green/plant counters blue/water, which counter’s red/fire. Red counters yellow/lightning, which counters green, bringing us full circle. The fifth color, purple, doesn’t seem to counter or be directly countered by anything, but only one hero uses that color.
Weirdly, only the player’s heroes stay the same color from battle to battle. Enemy heroes match the color of the region they’re in. So, while your second hero Uriel will always be green, you’ll fight enemy Uriels that are other colors. This leads to two problems. The first is that it makes the combat too simple since you don’t have to think about who counters what. The second is that since it takes so long to unlock new heroes, you’re going to be using your initial team for a good chunk of the game. And since the first four heroes are red, green, blue and yellow, respectively, one member of your party is always fighting at a disadvantage.
Combat is turn-based with an interesting twist. Each character has two standard abilities and an ultimate ability, which you unlock by using regular abilities. These show up as cards on the screen. Matching two of the same card upgrades it to the next level. Combining two one-star cards makes a two-star card. Two two-star cards make a three-star card. What makes this interesting is that using or moving a card costs an action point but combining does not. Since you can only combine cards that are next to each other in your hand, the goal is to make as many matches in as few moves as possible.
It’s a neat idea but too random for my liking. If Angry Birds is 100% a game of skill, Angry Birds: Legends is more like 70-30 in favor of luck. A good hand is the only thing separating victory from defeat, and I usually either won or lost in a landslide. Adding to that, most heroes of a given class have basically the same abilities, with only a few exceptions. Their stats might be slightly different, but not enough to require change in how to use them. This means it doesn’t take long for the gameplay to get repetitive.
Angry Birds: Legends is okay if you only need to kill ten minutes. Beyond that, though, there is no attempt at a story, and the gameplay is neither relaxing nor engaging enough to be fun. Angry Birds: Legends offers a fun concept but fails to do anything with it. Rovio almost had a good idea, but it fell short of its potential. The full release might bring more to the table, but I’m not going to hold my breath.
Is it Hardcore?
Shallow and repetitive, there are worse ways to pass the time but many better ones.