After the Update, It’s Time To Try Celtic Heroes, A Free-To-Play MMORPG
It was about a year ago when I first logged onto Celtic Heroes , the free-to-play pocket-sized MMORPG from developer One Thumb Mobile. It was not a game that gave a good first impression: an awkwardly designed interface, mediocre graphics, an uninspired entry zone, and a non-existent player base. If one gritted their teeth and pushed passed the cover, they found an interesting play experience; but I walked away less than impressed.
The developers, apparently aware of the first impression Celtic Heroes gave, have just put out an update that drastically changes the game’s early levels and gives the game a general facelift. The result is a much more polished, new-player friendly experience that opens up the game’s deep and interesting play. Celtic Heroes is now a game worth exploring for players interested in a new MMORPG experience.
Celtic Heroes is an MMORPG built in the Everquest/World of Warcraft vein. Unlike fellow iOS MMORPG Order and Chaos Online, Celtic Heroes doesn’t ape the flavor and style of those games. Instead, as the name implies, it draws off the history and cultures of Dark Ages Britain to fuel the style and content. One consequence is that there are no playable orcs, elves, or undead here; everyone is human. There are five classes: Warrior, Rogue, Mage, Druid, and Ranger.
After creating your character, you now play on a beach, where you’ve recently disembarked. And immediately, there’s a plot afoot: Picts are trying to destroy the lighthouse! It’s a far cry more interesting than the game’s original opening rounds, which had you wandering in a field, slaughtering wolves. It’s also built out as an actual tutorial, helping you get familiar with the nuances of the game’s interface.
Once you defeat the Picts, you get to move on and explore the newly redone Lir’s Reach. One Thumb Mobile did an incredible amount of work in renovating this zone. Farcrag Castle, once a giant box of a room, is now a giant space with actual layout, including a dueling area. Highshore Village is more rustic; the Temple looks completely different; Crookback Hollow is decidedly ominous, and its resident goblins no longer look like men in Halloween masks. The zone just looks good.
In fact, the rest of the game is beginning to look so good that the human PCs and NPCs look almost jarringly different within the setting. In fact, PCs and NPCs were left untouched in this update. The good news is that toons will get a major upgrade in the next update. The game’s Facebook page has even been posting concept arts, revealing a drastically different look for your heroes.
All in all, this update has drastically improved the early levels of the game, allowing players to more easily discover the layered game play that lies underneath. Celtic Heroes sports a less linear play style than a game like Order and Chaos Online, including multi-part quest chains that can sometimes take 10 or more levels to finish. For example, one quest — to visit each Farstone in the game (basically teleport points) — really isn’t completable until high level play, as it requires you to literally visit each zone to earn a reward.
The game also rewards players who actually pay attention. There’s no big blue quest arrow here to guide players along; figuring out what to do and where to go means reading NPC interactions and following the plot. Story-based quests are the norm for Celtic Heroes, and team play becomes important at all levels to defeat certain enemies, not just in the endgame.
Before this update, I would have called Celtic Heroes an interesting experiment by a small developer. After this update, I’m confident in saying that, though it doesn’t reach the level of polish that Order and Chaos Online or Star Legends does, Celtic Heroes is an excellent MMORPG. Fans of the genre should check it out.
For more about Celtic Heroes and other pocket-sized MMORPGs, check out the Massively Portable podcast.