Chinese massively multiplayer online games are usually nothing to write home about; they have the pretty much the same tropes, similar artwork, and in the end they are just plain boring grind fests. So what happens when you take a generic Chinese MMO and move it onto a mobile device? It gets a lot worse. Just look at the newly released Chinese MMO The Forgotten Immortal (忘仙) for example.
Released in December last year for both iOS and Android, The Forgotten Immortal (忘仙) takes your generic Chinese mmo and shrinks it down for a smartphone or tablet computer. In that transition is the whole package of touch screen controls and gestures. Unfortunately the end result is a mess.
Story wise, the game is what you would expect from a Chinese martial arts fantasy based game. Heaven is looking for a warrior to kill a demon lord and bring peace to the world, and at the end of the quest the warrior will become an immortal. You, as the player, have a choice of 4 classes, warrior, assassin, mage and some sort of priestess. Sounds simple enough.
Despite the simple premise, playing the game is anything but simple. The screen is way too cluttered. There's a touchscreen joystick and button setup a la GTA III. On top of the control layout the next big issue is the pop ups and the chat boxes. Pretty much opening any menu selection, from inventory to stats, creates a big semi transparent window that takes up the whole screen. These windows make it nigh impossible to move the character around.
As if the overly large windows weren't a big enough problem, the biggest problem of the game rears its ugly head once the chat function is activated. It's to my understanding that MMOs are supposed to be played with other people and that chat and communication is an integral part of the gameplay mechanics. Well in The Forgotten Immortal (忘仙), if you want to chat with someone, the whole screen is taken up by the generic text input box. An update to the game eventually changed it to an in-game input box... but it still took up the whole screen.
I played the game on my 7-inch two year-old HTC Flyer and my 4.3-inch HTC Sensation XE (yes I'm an HTC fanboy) as well as my co-worker's iPad 2. The result was the same: the screen was too cluttered. Playing the game on a bigger screen didn't spread anything out. To my surprise, and to the credit of the developers of the game, the game plays really well on all devices. There weren't any slowdowns or noticeable lag even when I was in a location with loads of monsters or players with mounts. I was able to run the game smoothly on both 3G and Wi-Fi. Keep in mind that I live in China and internet speed is terrible.
Gameplay wise, The Forgotten Immortal is like every other MMO out there. You talk to an NPC, get a quest, kill a monster, pick up a drop and then level up. There's nothing new to formula. One thing that I did notice was that the monsters didn't attack. In fact you can walk right through a mob and not lose a drop of HP. Perhaps it was to make sure players didn't die when they were touchscreen texting.
Now all of this isn't to say that mobile MMO's in general aren't good. I play quite a few on my android phone. My favourite to date is Elemental Knights. The issue here is that the developers took what could've been good as a browser game and made it into a mobile game. They didn't make it special for the mobile device, they didn't add any value to it. Overall my issue with The Forgotten Immortal (忘仙) is just that the game is really really... really boring and cluttered.