Going back to a time when I was a wide-eyed youngster, I remember being introduced to my first MMORPG. That game was Sega’s Phantasy Star Online for the Dreamcast. Through it, I was indoctrinated into a fantasy world where not only could I play games online from my couch with a community spanning the globe, but I could do it in real-time. But more importantly, I could be the talk of the nerd crowd when I walked into class after getting that rare double saber following a weekend of questing.
Flash forward to today's world, and you'll find MMOs are more commonplace. You don't need a fancy console to roleplay alongside strangers from around the world. You can even play them on that little device we all carry around that controls our existence! So why do so many of them seem like money saps designed to get you addicted and steal your cash?! For something so familiar, we all continue to play these silly games, and even more inexplicably, we spend our limited, real-world resources on our virtual addiction! Devil Book, an action MMORPG with a stylish hand-drawn art style, is one title that avoids falling into the trap of being a money-grubbing succubus—though it has moments where it comes close.
Developed by Starter, Devil Book isn't your typical MMORPG. Obviously, there’s the fact that, unlike most MMOs, someone spent months hand-drawing every character and animation in this game. Even beyond that obvious visual difference, though, Devil Book is missing some of the more classic elements found in most RPGs.
For starters, there's no character customization system. We're all familiar with selecting a character and their face, build, hairstyle, etc., but you won't find that here. There's no class selection system either. Want to be a rogue? TOO BAD! That's not what Devil Book is about. Instead, this game implements a gacha system where you draw from a pool of dozens of characters to build a team.
To my surprise, the gacha system in Devil Book actually works quite well! The hand-drawn approach to the art really shone here and hooked me in. Each character stands out and has such a unique and impressive art style that it made me appreciate collecting new members to optimize my team of three. The character animations themselves are also impressive. My magician Viki literally took out a giant carrot and walloped foes with it! The imagination at play in these characters kept me interested enough that I was able to move past the game’s lack of player character creation.
The gacha system is also, of course, where Devil Book’s monetization comes into effect. You can buy various packs where you'll roll for S-grade summons of the game’s colorful array of characters. Additionally, you can buy in-game gems to purchase equipment, costume upgrades, and tickets to participate in dungeon events. And naturally, the game regularly has new packages and banners that are pushed via advertisements in the in-game store. With all that said, I was able to play the game for hours without spending a dime, and I had a decent enough time doing so. The monetization and pay-to-win elements are likely to become a bigger problem for players who really want to dig into the endgame and become competitive with others who have happily opened up their wallets.
There’s an important reason to try to build a balanced party composition in Devil Book: The game’s combat utilizes an elemental system, where each character has the element of rock, paper, or scissors. If you’re familiar with the classic game, you’ll know to mix and match to make the strongest team. Character classes such as fighters, hunters, knights, and magicians also mirror the more traditional classes found in classic MMOs. Finally, each character has a rank that must be maximized to increase their power. I relied heavily on my SS-ranked hunter Elle, who literally made it rain arrows from the sky with her appropriately titled ability Arrow Rain.
While the strategy and collection aspects successfully pulled me in, Devil Book is light on narrative. Essentially, a mythical library at the end of the dimensional horizon has been attacked by a group of demons, and the “books of destiny” have been scattered to other dimensions. The books must be found to correct the heroes’ destinies. This state of affairs brings the various characters together, which is fine, if not particularly compelling. But it doesn't help that, at times, the text is so poorly translated that I had no idea what the characters were talking about.
For better or worse, you don’t have to spend too much time actually controlling those characters, as Devil Book uses the ever-popular (and ever-loathed) auto-battle play style, where you can simply click a button and let the computer do all the work. Some players will hate how every aspect of Devil Book, down to the equipment optimization, can be automated. Generally, I have no problem with this mechanic on a mobile game designed to kill time. Still, those looking for more intricate combat systems may be disappointed.
That’s not to say that everything in Devil Book is watered down and oversimplified, however; the game has a plethora of customizable features and ways to progress your characters, such as leveling, skill improvement, and finding equipment. Equipment is essential, as there is an entire system for upgrading and leveling gear to increase your overall power rating. By defeating enemies in combat, I gained loot that granted skill points, which allowed me to earn new abilities. If you prefer the pacifist route to gaining gear, there is also crafting proficiency to focus on.
Quests in Devil Book push players toward different types of dungeon adventuring zones. On top of all that, the game has PvP for competitive players and achievements for the completionists. There’s so much to do here that it can sometimes feel overwhelming in terms of figuring out where to focus your energy. Then again, almost all of the game’s content really boils down to going to a given location, killing an enemy, and repeating. It’s a case study in how a game can be overflowing with stuff to do but still feel extremely repetitive.
Despite that repetition, Devil Book is still a pretty fun time-waster to sink a few hours into before becoming bored. The character design and art style stand out as stronger than many other examples in the genre. But the simple combat and the overwhelming number of customizable stats might be off-putting for some. In a world where many MMOs are simply predatory, Devil Book at least makes an effort to be more than just another money suck, and I applaud it for that...even if I wasn’t ultimately compelled to spend money on it.
SCORE: 3 STARS OUT OF 5
PLAY IF YOU LIKE:
•Genshin Impact, if you like sampling games with unique visual styles, Like Genshin Impact, try Devil Book: Hand-Drawn Action MMO.
• Gacha games. Devil Book: Hand-Drawn Action MMO is very much gacha style in its approach. If you are fond of this style, give Devil Book: Hand-Drawn Action MMO a try.
💬 Do you think all Mobile MMOs are out to get your money? And do you think Devil Book is one of them, or do you agree with me that it rises above the crowd in that respect? Let us know in the comments!
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