‘Raid: Shadow Legends’ is absolute trash

January 24, 2020

“Forget everything you know about mobile games” is their tagline. But you shouldn’t. “Raid: Shadow Legends” belongs in the lowest depths of hell that is the industry of mobile gaming. It is guilty of the two most notorious sins: intrusive, deceptive marketing and aggressively monetization-based design. 

For those that have (luckily) never heard of it, “Raid” is a mobile turn-based role-playing game and the biggest sponsor on Youtube. Starting early 2019, I’ve been seeing their advertisements before every video, which features a cheesy, deep male voice trying to sound as dramatic as possible while touting the game’s features, like that it’s free, it’s got so many characters to collect, that it’s got an epic story, blah, blah, blah. Later, they would push out cringe-worthy skits of in-game characters being interviewed or revealing their inner-thoughts. They’re awkward in the sense that a money-hungry company is trying to act tongue-and-cheek to sell me their lies.  

But just when I thought Adblock would save me, Raid’s marketing team started sponsoring Youtubers to be the game’s mouthpiece, paying dozens of influencers to follow a rigid script and repeat talking points like the ones in their official ads: “Totally free! Awesome 3D graphics! Amazing storyline! Log in and get 50K and a free epic champion as part of the new player program!” The game’s marketing is like the cancer of cyberspace—it corrupts its habitat. “This video is sponsored by…” is now the most feared phrase on Youtube. 

And I’m ashamed to admit that it got to me, too. I ended up getting sucked in and played for a month. The money I was manipulated into spending was too much for me to tell you without feeling like an absolute idiot. But at least now I know what the game’s really like once you get past the taglines. At best, they are misleading, at worst they are outright lies. 

The gameplay is extremely mediocre: you control four characters in turn-based combat, and each character has a default attack and two skills, the latter of which go into cooldown once used. Levels consist of three waves of enemies—clear all three waves and you beat the level. You can enhance your characters by leveling them up and equipping gear. There’s an auto mode which lets the game control the characters for you. Nothing about anything here is special. “Raid” plays exactly like countless other mobile games, but somehow has the most primitive-looking and ugliest user interface. 

The ads can’t shut up about the fact that the game is “FREE FREE FREE FREE FREE!!!” I think most people who play games now understand that when a game is “free to play,” it really means “free to get,” meaning you can download it for free, but there are options to spend real money in-game. So my complaint isn’t the fact that it’s “free to play”—I’ve played my fair share of these kinds of games—but how much it wants you to pay. The game inundates you with a load of monetization options. You have the standard ones like buying premium currencies, which enables you to get new characters, at random of course. Then you get different types of “packs,” giving you silver (which is the in-game currency), restoring stamina which is used to enter into levels, straight up handing you really powerful gear, or a combination of everything. And it seems that the prices and contents for the same pack are different for each player. I know this because I contemplated buying one of the more expensive packs, so I consulted the Internet. Turns out people were confused as to whether they are talking about the same thing, because the packs contained different things and are marked at different prices. Now, I have no idea about how this works, but I suspect the game tracks your purchase records and modifies these purchase options based on what you will be willing to pay. Extremely scummy, if this is true. 

Perhaps I wouldn’t have been so bothered by the game’s egregious monetization if the game wasn’t so damn grindy. The sponsorships tell you that you get 50K silver as a new player, but the game may as well give you nothing, because that’s how worthless 50K silver is in this game. You’ll likely spend millions trying to fully upgrade a piece of equipment, because the upgrades aren’t guaranteed: at the high tiers you only get something like a 15 percent chance to upgrade successfully. Each character can wear six pieces of equipment, and you put four characters in your squad. As you can imagine, managing equipment is a resource management nightmare that will quickly dry up your silver. And to add insult to injury, it costs silver to remove a piece of gear, and it costs more if it’s high level gear. 

Farming for equipment is extremely time-consuming. You have to defeat difficult bosses, each requiring a different set up, to get a chance to win gear. And the problem is the chance of winning is simply way too low, at least for lower-level stages. And even if you get something, it’s often not the prize you want. I speak from experience, having farmed a single stage for several days and still not getting that one amulet I was desperately looking for. It wasn’t some incredibly rare, legendary gear. It was just an amulet, and I can’t get one. The tedium tempts you to surrender your wallet. And it is what finally made me quit. 

And now some rapidfire ad-busting: the marketing claims you can collect 300 characters (someone needs to check that number) with unique skills, but the truth is that many of them are reskins with basic skills that have no variation aside from damage modifiers. Others are low-tier ones only designed to be used as fodders for others, so you end up only wanting a very small portion of the total roster. Also the draw rates for a legendary (the highest tier) character, are horrid. Graphics are nothing remarkable, at a quality that is only serviceable. “Explore and fight?” You can’t explore anything—all levels are linear spaces and you can’t move characters manually. “Amazing story?” Completely forgettable (I really forgot what it was), there might as well not be one. 

You may be wondering what the name of the game refers to. Absolutely nothing. I remember finishing the campaign and thinking: “Huh, the story never mentioned anything about raids, shadows or legends. What the hell?” I like to believe that “Plarium,” the developer, picked these three words, which are quite common words in video game names, just to get the most exposure in search results. This artificial name is much like the game itself: It’s not made to tell a story, it’s not made to be a work of art, it’s not even made to entertain you, which is easy enough; it’s only a hideous machine made to squeeze out as much money from players as possible. Please, don’t make my mistake. Shallow garbage such as this deserves to be disposed of, incinerated and immediately forgotten. 

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