Mobile Gaming: Geronimo! “Doctor Who: Legacy” is Fantastic and Brilliant

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Timed nearly perfectly to coincide with the widely viewed “Day of the Doctor” 50th anniversary special, the wickedly entertaining video game Doctor Who: Legacy was made available today for iOS and Android devices, developed by Seed Studio and produced by BBC.

Despite being an avid fan of all this DW, I was initially very skeptical of Legacy because Doctor Who is a quirky, story-driven show that is full of adventure but mostly avoids violence. In fact, the Doctor is known for his strict non-violence policy. Even if you did include some of his more violent comrades, what would the Doctor do, stand on the sidelines? And what of all his companions? Most of the people that journey with the Doctor are regular people (i.e., a temp from Chisweck) , albeit typically more clever than average (i.e., Rory Williams).

How could this adventure across time and space work in a video game, a medium that is in many ways defined by its use of violence? And how would the story work? Would you simple revisit past plotlines to solve mysteries and outsmart opponents with timey wimey tricks and wibbly wobbly solutions?

I half-expected Doctor Who: Legacy to be a slow-paced puzzle adventure game that retraced the plot of the show as you drifted through familiar story lines. But as I sat down on my morning commute and fired up the game, I was in for a wonderful surprise.

You can tell from the promotional images that the game focuses in on the adventures of the 11th Doctor (now actually the 12th, but that’s a whole other story) played by Matt Smith in the show. There’s no voice acting here, which is ideal on a mobile device, and definitely preferable to any voice actors that aren’t the actual characters. The game borrows the likeness of Matt Smith’s Doctor, along with the likeness of every companion and comrade, and when I say every companion and comrade, I mean it. Once he’s unlocked, you can even switch it up and have the Doctor be 10 / David Tennant’s version. The different incarnation comes with his own unique stats and special abilities, but more on that later.

Oh no! A Reaper!

Story:

Doctor Who: Legacy is a fresh tale that falls neatly within the larger scope of the show. The game opens in 1870 Cardiff. The TARDIS materializes on the side of the street and the Doctor saunters out, chatting with Madame Vastra about the results of their recent chess match. The Doctor notices you right before he realizes that the Santarans have mastered time travel and have begun going back in time to alter all the greatest battles in history so that they can dominate the universe. It’s up to you to join up with the Doctor and Madame Vastra as they gather companions and revisit familiar “episodes” to do battle against foes in the Doctor’s timeline. The setup for the game plays off the nostalgia the gamer gets from revisiting the same places from the show but also gets the satisfaction of participating in a story that is new and exciting.

Gameplay:

In the menu, you select what episode from the series you want to play, beginning with “Nightmare in Silver” and working your way through major episodes in Series 7 before unlocking Series 6. You battle many familiar enemies including the Daleks and Cybermen and even a few interesting throwbacks, like when a Reaper appears looking to feast on a Time Paradox caused by the Santaran soldiers.

Companions:

When the story opens, you have control over just the Doctor and Madame Vastra, but they quickly begin to recruit the help of other friends and companions, beginning with Jenny and including epic warriors to help your cause like the indestructible, indomitable, voracious…Brian Williams?

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I kid. When I unlocked Brian I almost burst out loud laughing. How could he ever fight with the likes of Strax and Vastra? But the more I think about it, when you’re just in a video game and the Doctor is “fighting” too, why not just throw in every character you can? It only makes for a more interesting and dynamic experience. I’m hoping there’ll be a lot of one-off characters that you can recruit. If only they included previous series so I could get Wilf on my team. That would be awesome.

Only one Doctor can be active in your party. 10 seems to be the only other alternative but 11 can wear a number of different unlockable costumes. Up to five companions can join your in battle, each with their own Special Ability, Color assignment, and Stats. Special Abilities range from wide-range attacks to status boosters, which reminds me: let’s talk battles!

Battles:

Each episode consists of several waves of battles, and it takes several in-game episodes to cover each television episode. For example, there are several waves of battles on the Moon in different locations before you finally face off against the possessed Doctor and complete “Nightmare in Silver”. Along the way, you can event recruit Porridge!

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Each character is assigned a color – or perhaps you could call it an element – that corresponds to a colored jewel on the battle board. If you look at my screenshot, you can see that the 11th Doctor is Blue, Vastra is Yellow, and Jenny is Red. Pink is the healing jewel…because stereotype. Attack commands are decided by whatever combinations you make on the jewel board, so if get three Yellows in a row Vastra will attack. Get 5 in a row to deal more damage. And if you get 3 Blue in a row along with a Red and Yellow combo, then all three of them will attack in unison! Rather than being a frustrating version of Candy Crush, the way DW: Legacy functions is quite intuitive. You can grab any one jewel and move it anywhere, rather than be limited by moving it to an adjacent slot. But you better watch out! Many enemies, especially bosses, can mess with your jewel board and lock some in place or even “DEE-LEET” some of your pieces.

In addition to color assignments, characters also have those unique stats and special abilities. The three stats are HP, Attack, and Healing. Vastra naturally has some of the highest Attack around whereas Rory’s is comparably low, but he has some of the best Healing in the game. Couple with those nursing skills, his special ability allows a quick heal to your whole party. I haven’t unlocked him yet, but I’m hoping and expecting that Strax will have killer Attack and stellar Healing too. It only makes sense, right?

It gets really interesting when you get enough characters that you have to think about balance. Jenny’s ability allows her to transform all Blue jewels into Red Jewels, which is bad for the 11th Doctor but great for Jenny and the 10th. If 10 is your Doctor in any battle, having Jenny use her ability allows them to work together very well. Vastra and Brian Williams also share Yellow with a combined attack way higher than the 10th Doctor-Jenny combo. Rory and Jenny both have stats geared towards a healing, more supportive role. I don’t have quite enough characters just yet to warrant mixing it up too much, but I’m looking forward to developing a different lineup!

Did I mention that this game was released today and it is completely FREE? And yes, there are those pesky incentives to spend money in-game, but who does that anyway?

Pros:

  • Interesting and compelling story rather than a lazy rehashing of existing plot.
  • Made by BBC, so all of the characters, music, and episodes are taken right from the show.
  • Engaging and dynamic battle system.
  • A fun adventure even for non-fans.

Cons:

  • As in inherently peaceful character, the Doctor wouldn’t necessarily want to “fight”. But here, in a non-violent, puzzle-based battle system it hardly seems an issue. Purists might take offense, but I absolutely love this game so I’ll allow it.
  • The inclusion of random, one-episode characters seems a bit odd, but a welcome addition nonetheless. In fact, it makes it kind of funny.
  • The presence of in-game purchaseables is an annoyance, but it’s also standard for any free to download mobil game these days. Gotta make money somehow on these free games, eh?

Verdict:

Why are you still reading? What have you not downloaded this already?? It’s the best thing you’ll do this week other than pass out with a belly full of turkey and red wine tomorrow!


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