If you’ve been browsing through Facebook or Youtube over the past month, and most of us have, you’ve probably seen a curious trailer for a game called Disney Sorcerer’s Arena. Disney Sorcerer’s Arena is a crossover turn-based RPG for mobile devices that showcases fantastic battles between classic Disney franchise characters. You can build your dream team of Disney princesses and quirky villains to fight in real time PvP against other players, crawl your way up Towers of Endurance, or compete with your Club to overcome challenges and unlock stronger characters. While the core game mechanics are alright and pretty polished, there are a few flaws that don’t necessarily make it a perfect game for me. This is our review of Disney Sorcerer’s Arena!
A GALAXY OF CHARACTERS
With a flurry of bright colors and the visual of some of my favorite characters wielding iconic weapons or magic, I jumped right into Disney Sorcerer’s Arena with high hopes. The entire concept of the game intrigued me immediately. I was under the impression that as a whole, the Disney company didn’t want to associate any of their characters with direct violence, so it came as a shock to me that they came out with a mobile game designed around it. So, how were they going to handle this?
KINGDOM HEARTS INFLUENCE
Immediately, my mind went to Kingdom Hearts (KH), one of my most beloved game series. In Kingdom Hearts, you are able to summon some of the Disney characters you meet very briefly through a powerful summoning magic to help you in battle. Maybe it would be similar to this?
As the loading screen boots up, you’re greeted by a cosmic background and various floating islands with structures that you’ll be able to unlock and click on later. Sound kind of familiar? In Kingdom Hearts, you’re able to board a “Gummi” ship to fly through space and reach the other worlds. Not only that, but these structures look oddly similar to how worlds in the KH universe present themselves on the world map.
Even the music that plays as you’re hovering in space, dangling your fingers over where you’d like to explore next, is oddly reminiscent of Kingdom Hearts. There’s a melody progression with strings, piano, and gentle harp pulses that immediately pull me back to Kingdom Hearts II‘s menu selection. There’s nothing wrong with that. It’s actually really calming and enjoyable to listen to. But, for a more direct comparison of Sorcerer’s Arena‘s soundtrack that plays when you’re viewing the worlds and Kingdom Hearts III‘s world map music, here is the main menu theme for Disney Sorcerer’s Arena:
And here is the music for choosing which world you’d like to navigate to on the world map in Kingdom Hearts III:
I won’t linger on it for much longer, but I can’t shake the feeling that there was absolutely some inspiration that Disney took from their shared time with the KH series. Since they’re technically in the same universe as Kingdom Hearts, and this is a “crossover” game, I would be over the moon if any characters from the series decided to show up down the road.
DANGEROUS DAMSELS AND GOOFY VILLAINS
Sorcerer’s Arena isn’t just a turn-based game that pits Heroes vs Villains. You can forge your own team of Disney characters from whichever series you’d like. Want to mix the Horned King and Ariel? You can do that. Elsa and Yzma? Yup. In fact, you can have all four of those on your team, and battle other players in real time in an arena to earn more rewards.
League of Disney
League of Legends has almost 150 champions and counting to choose from now. Since they’re the authors of those character’s stories, they can keep crafting new worlds and planes for these champions to come from. And they do. Similarly, Sorcerer’s Arena has a wealth of material to pull from for their characters, and they’re not sticking to just the ones you’d expect. All hats are off when picking from the Disney-verse. There are a lot of sidekicks and classic characters from when Disney first got its start in animation like the Big Bad Wolf, Steamboat Mickey, and Pete.
An unexpected surprise (and one of the first characters you get) was Demona from Gargoyles and the Horned King from The Black Cauldron: easily two of my favorite pieces of media Disney has put out. Sorcerer’s Arena launched with a solid cast of characters to play with, and the app isn’t but a month old now, and we’re already seeing them add new characters from limited time events.
PROGRESSION & MECHANICS
So the basic premise of the game is to collect your Disney dream team. You can do this by earning their “tokens” to first complete the character, and then rank them up. If you’ve ever played any mobile arena game before, you’re probably familiar with this “shard” system in which you collect pieces of the character you want before you can power them up. It’s a clever way to get you to waste chunks of your energy crossing your fingers in hopes that RNG will give you the tokens you need before you run out of energy.
You can then use the team you’ve built to complete challenges solo or with your Club , fight other players in PvP, or scale towers of endurance for a loot chest.If you just want to mow through levels, there is an auto-attack feature where the AI of the game dictates what skills your characters use in a fight. The fights can even be sped up 2x if you’re really impatient.
VIP, PASSHOLDERS, & THE PAY-TO-WIN SHOP
At its core, Sorcerer’s Arena is free to play, but they have to make their money somehow. Cue the all too tempting shop dangling priceless gems and sparkling skins in your face everytime you log in. I’ve played a lot of play-to-win games before, but man, this one is kind of rough. There are two main premiums they try to sell you on the cosmic menu: Passholder Tickets, and VIP status.
The Passholder tickets are a one time purchase that lets you access a ton of rewards for completing your daily quests. Similarly to a BattlePass, these tickets are good for the season in which the rewards are being offered. There are two versions: a free Passholder ticket, and the Gold Passholder ticket. Let’s put this into perspective real quickly just so we can see how they compare.
PASSHOLDER SEASON 4
FREE Ticket Track
- Tier 1: 1 Sven Token
- Tier 2: 1 Kristoff Token
- Tier 3: 1 Olaf Token
- Tier 4: 5 Alpha Ability Runes
GOLD Ticket Track
- Tier 1: Special Animated Bruni Emote
- Tier 2: 8 Sven Tokens
- Tier 3: 8 Kristoff Tokens
- Tier 4: 8 Olaf Tokens
From the get-go, you immediately want to get the Gold track because you get a special emote just for purchasing it. And it’s cute. It’s really, really cute. That’s just the beginning of the track. There’s a lot more gold to be earned, rare materials to upgrade your characters, extra currency to exchange for more materials or tokens, and bonus energy. It’s just better all-around. Just fork over a measly 9.99 USD. But wait, there’s more!
Want some extra diamonds, bonus loot, and more currency to go with your Passholder Gold? Well, sink your teeth into the Passholder Gold + Booster, available for $19.99! Did I mention that the seasons only last around 3 weeks. You can outright just also buy tiers in increments of 5, 12, or 25. So if you really, really want that Bruni emote, you could pay $4.99 USD to get it. Why 12 though? That seems oddly specific.
Yeah, this section still isn’t over, but I’ll keep it short. If the Passholder tickets aren’t your style, you could purchase a VIP card to get a ton of rewards. Daily gems, more energy, and bonus daily quest rewards, and access to a premium exchange are just a few of the perks.
One of my favorite has to be the 3x Battle Play Speed. Seriously? If your game is fun to play at its core, you shouldn’t even need that. At this point, you’re just admitting that the content isn’t worth slogging through and agreeing that it’s a grind.
Skins & Bundles
I’ve yet to see another way to earn them in the game other than outright purchasing them, but occasionally you can purchase other outfits for characters. Aladdin has a Prince Ali skin, Oogie Boogie has a Flourescent Oogie Boogie skin, and Pete has a Steamboat Pete skin just to name a few. These skins replace your character’s default look and make them look…well, different than the Oogie on the other team you’re fighting.
Event Exclusive bundles are also available for purchase with huge amounts of tokens that allow you to immediately summon the event character being released, as well as a special emote, some diamonds, and more currency and materials.
How the current mega bundle for Simba is worth $49.99 USD, I have no idea. Maybe if they threw in like a month of VIP? Otherwise, it feels extremely inflated and kind of insulting to see that price tag on a bundle.
Is it fun to play? At first, yes. I loved unlocking a slew of characters, seeing the new stages you get to fight on and completing challenges. But, after a while, it starts to get a little stale and just turns into a grind. I no longer wanted to play through the stages manually and automatically sped through them so I can unlock a new stage just to grind more tokens for a specific character I wanted. What happens after that? Well, I can complete more of the same kind of dungeons with my little solo Club. Or, I could do my daily PvP matches. Just a few though, before I have to invest more currency to reset my tries due to a cooldown.
I can’t actually participate in many of the current limited time events going on because they seem to be more geared towards well-established players that have a wider pool of characters to choose from. So I miss out on a lot of tokens for new characters in that regard. Unfortunately, I’ll have to wait a long time for the event to come back before I can get any more of those character tokens because they were exclusive to the event.
Being a free to play players is difficult, and I think that’s intentional. Of course games want you to pay to play them, but I feel the weight of being a free to play player more heavily here than I do in other mobile games. In some instances, I almost feel like I’m being punished for it. I hate being reminded every time I hit a new tier in my free Passholder track that “here’s all the rewards you’re missing out on because you aren’t a Gold Passholder! Are you suuuuure you don’t want to buy it?” That just feels really sleazy to me.
So while the game itself may be pretty polished, I feel like a lot of its potential has been drowned out in a complicated store with way too many options to hand over your credit card. When I have to close out of 10 purchase prompts just to get to the main menu every time I start up a game it becomes an issue. When you’re almost guilt-tripping me into making a purchase from your game, I start to question your motives and the game’s purpose.
But, what the heck, it’s free. You’re not losing anything by trying a free-to-play game.