Updated: Nov 12, 2019
I always wondered what happened to that skeleton in the back of science class
I've been on a mobile gaming tear lately. It's no secret for the past 2 years I've been trying to find the perfect mobile MMORPG that hasn't been corrupted by the pay to win philosophy that dominates mobile games in general. A few weeks ago I caught wind of Mirage, a classic 2D MMORPG that brought back memories of "Dransik Classic" from back in the day, a much older MMORPG with extensive depth (at least before it was ruined after being bought by another company.) Coincidentally Mirage is also cross-platform on PC making for a seamless experience for those that want to make use of their gaming rigs.
Stepping into the alpha you're greeted by an animated picture of the starting village, something that's become a trend in modern RPGs which I also think is a nice touch. Graphics are your standard retro fare hearkening from the SNES generation. Colors are vibrant and there's some good detail. As far as PC requirements, the game runs on Java so even potatoes should be able to run Mirage at 60 FPS. To put things into perspective, if you can play any browser based game such as Runescape...you can run Mirage. The game itself takes up 10.1mb of disk space, around 231mb of memory, and uses less then 1% of CPU power (I'm running a Samsung Galaxy Note 9 & on my PC I have a i9 9900k overclocked to 5.1GHz.) As a testament to this, Mirage Realms is fairly popular in countries where people can't afford the best machines like Brazil, African countries, Philippines, Turkey, India, etc. The differences between PC and mobile are minimal. Pretty much with the PC version you get to use hotkeys to access the various tabs, although you can't switch between tabs using those hotkeys for some inexplicable reason and the hotkeys for the character stats/leaderboards/friends tabs seems to be missing.
"This is one of THOSE games where you're expected to put your adult pants on and play like its real life where there are no quest tabs and the like."
Character creation is straight forward. You choose from the game's three main classes (Warrior, Mage, Ranger.) From there you pick your gender (Male, Female) then proceed to customize your characters looks. Customization is pretty lackluster in itself. There's not many options and the color palette seems pretty off (some colors range from too bright to too faded while other colors are just missing for whatever reason so you don't really leave satisfied.) There is also no option to change your skin color whatsoever so every character is your standard "white." This seems odd especially since the game seems to have been under development since at least 2016, undergoing some sizable overhauls during the development process.
My first foray I chose ranger. Immediately you're thrown into the game, showing in what looks to be a small "spawn shrine." There's no tutorials, no help section, you're thrown in with the wolves with a few arrows and a training bow to defend yourself. Looking at the UI everything is as bare as you can get. There are no skills, quest tabs, help section, not even a map. This is one of THOSE games where you're expected to put your adult pants on and play like its real life where there are no quest tabs and the like. The only thing you do is attack monsters using your basic attack and that's it. On a side note, Dransik, Ashen Empires, Elderlands, and the like might not have had quest tabs, but there were at least quests in those games. Mirage Realms offers none of that extra depth, depth which makes the experience less monotonous and hellishly boring.
My initial travels took me down what looked like a hole in the ground which lead to a cave filled with rats. Thankfully unlike Dransik, Mirage illuminates players with an invisible torch in dark areas (in Dransik you had to make then light torches otherwise everything is pitch black and you'll die a harrowing death in darkness.) Killing the rats got me accustomed to the game mechanics, of which it's just point and click. Exiting the cave I found myself at the village from the login screen. This made me question why the game forces players to spawn in a shrine a short ways away and go through an underground tunnel. The town consists of shops for weapons, potions, arrows (don't know why this is an entirely separate shop as it just sells arrows), and a bank.
"While in this game I stumbled across a peculiar thing. There were a bunch of people just sitting around letting monsters hit them..."
Upon realizing I didn't have any money to purchase anything I set about on my adventures. Traveling south I noticed a cave entrance with a couple of trolls standing guard outside. In other games trolls would be a rather tough enemy, but in Mirage they went down quickly when faced with my level three ranger. One thing you do notice in this game is how slooooooooooow the walking animation is. It takes forever to get anywhere. In classi Dransik this was somewhat remedied by having a "fake" walking animation (you instantly moved a square and switched legs with every keystroke) so your movement was tied to how fast your could press the arrow keys. Entering the cave I quickly discovered it was full of spiders as well as my crushed hopes and dreams. I died fast and upon re-spawning took the northern route.
Up north was a troll castle. I entered another hole in the ground and found myself in yet another cave. While in this game I stumbled across a peculiar thing. There were a bunch of people just sitting around letting monsters hit them (some of which I naively attempted to save as they were near death.) One person mentioned they were "training." You see in this game you level up stats by using them. So if you want to level up defence (dev is from the UK) you let monsters attack you, but you have to be hitting them back as well for it to count. Through a system of holes... further down I went until I found an underground troll castle. Up until then I had run across troll mages, rangers, knights, but down here is the WARLORD! The warlords is pretty much a larger troll knight with an area of effect "blood" attack (even after a week of playing I have no idea what that attack is...is he throwing a grenade, casting a spell, farting??!?!?!.) Further down there are even stronger monsters called Firewyrms which are exactly how they sound, worms that spit fire or cast fire spells.
As you progress the shallowness of the game really wears on you. There is no marketplace so if you want to make good coin for the items you find you're forced to spam the various chats and keep an eye out for perspective buyers which can take days. For a person who has to work a full time job amongst other things I don't have time to be standing in the town square hawking items like in the Runescape days of my youth where I had all the time in the world.
There is also no party system and the developer made the odd choice of giving everyone who hits a monster shared experience. Apparently this was a change from previous years where everyone who hit a monster got full experience, but the result is the same...this game has a major problem with kill stealing. The kill stealing is frustrating as you get much less experience since everyone gets an equal amount (so if the monster gives 400 exp and 4 people hit it, they each get 100 exp.)
Maps are also entirely too small as well as the monsters too easy to kill so once gangs of players start showing up, leveling becomes infuriating if not impossible. A game like Dransik remedied this by having huge, expansive maps, extremely tough yet rewarding monsters, and penalties for "bad players" which included an actual prison system (where I myself ended up doing literally two weeks hard time for killing town guards and looting too many player corpses before the corpse was up for grabs.)
Mirage's language barrier exacerbates this problem even more as the servers aren't separated by region so Americans, Europeans, Brazillians, Mexicans, Indians, Filipinos, Africans, Asians, etc. are all thrown together and expected to communicate with each other. During my week playing this game I've been forced to learn how to say "Don't kill" in 5 different languages (Portugese, Spanish, Hindu, Afrikaans, Korean) to which less than half the players actually respond back. Not to mention there is no sound which when coupled with no parties at times it feels like you're alone on an island...mindlessly leveling with no real goal in sight.
"The game is impressive for a single person to have been developing it for 2-3 years, but at the same time it's obvious that a single person has been developing it as there is a ton of work that needs to be done..."
This segues into another issue...the player base. Mirage's player base at the lower levels seems to be pretty toxic. We are talking "Call of Duty" levels toxic. This is brought on by the fact that there is no reporting system, no chat filter, the game forums are "closed indefinitely", no contact info for the developers, and no real info about the game whatsoever that is maintained by the developer. So players just do what they want, some choosing to be complete sociopaths (Me as well as others been called the "N" word, a pussy, etc. for politely asking people not to kill our monsters when we're trying to train defence and they then proceed to continue to kill our monsters.)
The toxicity has gotten so bad that players that are level 30+ have begun their own bounty hunter/vigilante justice by starting "Kill on Sight" lists that consists of the undesirable players as in Mirage every 30+ zone doubles as a PVP zone. Players who make the "KOS" lists can expect people to patiently wait until they turn level 30 before they are relentlessly hunted down and killed every time they come online. The goal is to either make the player repent for past transgressions or have them quit the game entirely. Some have even gone as far as demanding payment to stop killing bad players. I've attempted to contact the developer Liam Stewart to offer feedback and provide evidence of these bad players, but so far he has yet to respond.
Overall, this game is still too early in development and too bare-bones to recommend. In comparison games like Dransik, Ashen Empires, Elderlands have been around for a long time and are already proven solid games with extensive depth to them. Mirage's community also errs on the "Call of Duty" side in terms of immaturity and toxicity. Until the experience system is revamped and there are active moderators as well as a reporting system I'll stay far away from this mess. The maps are also boring, small, and uninspired (you can only deal with generic "caves" for so long before you grow bored.) What the developer fails to realize is that those in-game mechanics like quests and intricate combat systems/skill trees is what keeps players interested (a working website would also be nice.) The game is impressive for a single person to have been developing it for 2-3 years, but at the same time it's obvious that a single person has been developing it as there is a ton of work that needs to be done before this game is ready for public consumption. One good thing Mirage does have going for it is the fact that there is no item shop which in turn means no controversial pay to win/free to play aspects in this game. In fact, this might be the only MMORPG on android that doesn't have a cash shop.
2 out of 5 stars
You can find the Mirage Realms game at the links below: