Summoners War: Chronicles is finally getting its global launch this week, and I got to spend a bit of time in a preview build of the game before release. While I’ve never played the original Summoners War myself, Chronicles’ setup feels standalone enough that you could probably jump in without feeling lost or overwhelmed. And besides, let’s call a spade a spade. This might be an MMO, but it’s still a gacha game at its core, and it’s rare that anyone ever plays a gacha game for the story.
Right off the bat, Summoners War: Chronicles impressed me with its graphical style and presentation. It looks a lot like this year’s Ni no Kuni: Cross Worlds, implementing an adorable cartoonish art style that makes the world and characters feel more welcoming as a result. It also helps that the basic classes you start out with in the game have simple enough kits that most players will be able to jump in without worrying about an extensive onboarding process.
That said, Chronicles does suffer from one particular trait it shares with most other mobile MMOs, and the experience feels cheapened as a result: most of the game is just played with auto movement and battle on.
While you’ll most certainly want to manually control your character in tougher encounters later on, a lot of the early game is spent literally just hitting a button and watching your character and companions wander around the open-world to kill things and take on quests. The auto-battle function does a decent enough job with regular enemies, and I’ll admit that I’m the kind of gamer who loves a good game that plays itself. Final Fantasy XII was completely up my alley when I realized I could straight up program my party members to just fight on auto for hours while I watched TV, but even this was a bit too much for me.
The problem with a game like Summoners War: Chronicles is that even if you want to manually control your characters, it feels like tedious busywork anyway. You’re really just running around a massive, yet somewhat empty, open-world to do fetch quests, and after a while, you’ll likely just give in to the temptation of letting the game play itself.
I will say, however, that I was pleasantly surprised by how lenient the gacha system was. Spend any amount of time in the mobile game community and you’ll soon learn that the original Summoners War was notorious for being a money black hole for anyone who dared try to summon a new character. Without a pity system in place, trying to get new units in that game was a nightmare.
Thankfully, Chronicles does have a pity system for each of its banners, with most of them guaranteeing a 4 or 5-star unit in 100 pulls or less. It’s not the most generous gacha game in history, but it’s certainly more in line with industry standards, especially given the series’ less than stellar track record. Of course, it remains to be seen just how much currency income F2P players will get. My account in the preview build was stacked with plenty of resources, allowing me to pull as much as I wanted, which was great for testing out new companions, but it was difficult to determine just how F2P-friendly the game would be.
Given that most gacha MMOs tend to lean heavily towards the pay-to-win side, however, I wouldn’t get my hopes up.
That said, it’s difficult not to at least recommend Chronicles to anyone who’s even remotely interested in the series or the genre as a whole. Summoners War: Chronicles excels on the presentation front, with lovely character and summoning animations that just make the game feel more polished overall. Even if the game does end up favoring the whales and dolphins, the barrier to entry is so low that I’d say it’s worth checking out at the very least if you want to see what it’s all about.
All your summoned companions get carried over between characters, which means there’s plenty of freedom to experiment with the different classes without needing to start over. And while PvP will likely be dominated by the whales with insane maxed out units, it’s easy enough to steer clear of PvP since there’ll always be an abundance of PvE-centric fetch quests to do in the open-world.
With how big the Summoners War fan base continues to be, there’s little doubt that Chronicles will be successful in attracting and maintaining a dedicated player base at launch. At the end of the day, it all comes down to how you feel about the gameplay, or lack thereof, especially in the early hours. If you just want to get lost in this animated world without worrying about any sort of meaningful story or combat, then Summoners War: Chronicles might be the ideal casual romp for you.