Spirit of Hero review, visit ancient Vietnam in this exclusive Windows Phone MMO

Windows Phone 8 is home to an excellent massively multiplayer online role playing game (MMORPG) called Order & Chaos Online. Sadly, publisher Gameloft sent that game out to die by failing to support it with updates and keep it content-identical to its superior iOS and Android versions. What’s a Windows Phone-owning MMORPG fan to do?

Enter Vietnamese developer TeaMobi, recent graduate of Nokia’s AppCampus program. TeaMobi has just released an MMORPG called Spirit of Hero on Windows Phone – before competing platforms. We learned about Spirit of Hero through Windows Phone Central’s popular “Newly Discovered Games” forum thread, where our dedicated readers share the latest games they’ve discovered. Is Spirit of Hero a worthy successor to Order & Chaos Online? Find out in our detailed launch review.

Create your hero

After registering a TeaMobi account and logging into the game, players create a character. Spirit of Hero offers five classes: Warrior, Swordsman, Bowman, Gladiator, and Wizard. All must be human; no fantasy races here. You’ll select your hero’s gender and nation of origin – the Green Dragon (?) or Black Tiger (?). Your character also has an element that can’t be changed. How the nation and element affect the game itself is not explained.

The 3D models look great in the character menus, but things aren’t so pretty during gameplay. The game itself is also 3D, taking place from an overhead perspective instead of behind the character’s back. The level of detail is fairly low though, even when you set the game’s Graphics to “Very High.” Everyone has a blocky appearance, as if Spirit of Hero was designed for Windows Phone 7 (which it wasn’t). And yet somehow the frame rate isn’t all that smooth, even on the beefy Lumia 1520.

Visit virtual Vietnam

Tell me this dialog doesn't remind you of Full Metal Jacket.

I’ll be the first guy to tell you that graphics aren’t everything – a game like Spirit of Hero can still be fun regardless of its weak graphical engine. The premise (as I understand it) is that you’re a warrior in Son Nam, the kingdom that eventually became Vietnam in real life. You go on quests, and that’s about it. MMOs tend to try to hook players with a unique narrative, whether or not the game itself will actually follow up on the initial narrative. Spirit of Hero really has no story at the outset, for better or worse.

Your first quest will be to talk to all the NPCs (non-player characters) in the starter village. They all have wacky names like Brother Seven and Aunt Eight. I guess Vietnamese people actually go by names like that? Or maybe the developers translated everyone’s names regardless of the aesthetic appeal. Think about that idea. Would you prefer to be called by your real name or what your name means?

One thing quickly becomes apparent as you speak with NPCs and accept quests from them: TeaMobi does not have native English speakers on staff. The characters all speak simplistically, with improper capitalization (!)  and frequent grammatical mistakes. The Engrish translation sort of adds to the game’s hyper-Asian flavor, but it can be difficult to understand what people are telling you at times.

Monster hunting

Having introduced yourself to the NPCs, your next few quests will involve killing certain numbers of the local wildlife – standard MMORPG stuff. The combat is easy enough to learn. Simply move around with the virtual stick, and then press your main attack button or one of two sub-skill buttons to attack enemies. You’ll also find HP and MP restorative potions hotkeyed next to the action buttons.

Navigation and combat mostly work well enough, but the virtual stick is small and in a fixed position instead of the more comfortable follow-your-thumb-where-it-goes style. Some MOGA controller support would be great. Another issue I noticed while killing caterpillars is that picking up dropped items is much too hard. Walking over them doesn’t seem to do it, nor is there a button for it. I did manage to pick up some drops, but not others. Perhaps the hit detection on items needs some work.

Social features

People play MMOs for different reasons. One of those is to meet other players and socialize with them. One thing I can say in this game’s favor is that it feels well-populated at launch. You’ll encounter lots of live players in the starting towns and surrounding areas, selling the idea that you’re in an MMO instead of a single-player game. If there are instanced zones, I haven’t seen them yet.

That said, Spirit of Hero doesn’t encourage communication as much as other MMOs I’ve played. It lacks a global chat option, as far as I can tell. Any chat messages you type will be visible only to nearby players, not everybody.

You can add people to a friends list, but the process for doing so is unintuitive. After tapping and selecting another player, his or her name appears way off at the top of the screen. You have to tap the name from there in order to befriend, trade, or party up with the other player.

After reaching level 10, players can elect to engage in or abstain from PVP (player versus player) combat. Suppose you'd rather form a guild of like-minded players instead of fighting other humans? According to the character menu, guild support is coming in a future update.

In-app purchases

Spirit of Hero is a free to play game. The free-to-play payment model was basically invented in Asia, so that comes as no surprise. The only IAP I’ve encountered so far is gold, which you can earn by killing enemies, etc. or choose to purchase.

Gold comes in quantities of 99 cents all the way up to fifty bucks. Annoyingly, you have to select a gold package before you can see its actual price. It’s too early to say how essential gold-buying will be to the overall gameplay experience, but Asian MMOs (as I understand it) usually allow people to grind it out instead of forcing purchases.

Room to grow

It’s hard to pronounce judgment on an MMO at launch, especially one that will likely grow and change from month to month for a while. Let’s just summarize what Spirit of Hero is right now, that you might weigh the concept against other MMOs on the market.

As I said earlier, Spirit of Hero is set during a historical period of Vietnam. Although it has some fantastic elements like magic and monsters, it’s fairly grounded on the whole. Players can only create characters who look Vietnamese and wear appropriate garb. The only mounts I’ve seen in the game are horses, those equestrian enemies of poor Christopher Reeve and practically everybody in Gone With the Wind.

Although there seems to be little or no story, I get the impression that Spirit of Hero is a romanticized retelling of some actual historical event. Games with dry historical settings like this are especially common in China, but it looks like they come out of Vietnam as well. If you think of a generic Asian MMO, the game you picture wouldn’t look all that different from Spirit of Hero.

From my western perspective, Spirit of Hero doesn’t have an appealing theme or setting. It also suffers from an awful translation, poor movement controls, and a few bugs and crashes. On the other hand, it’s free and features a fair amount of content at launch. If TeaMobi improves the controls and releases a cross-platform Windows 8 version, Spirit of Hero might just become a fairly compelling experience.

  • Spirit of Hero – Windows Phone 8 – 111 MB – Free – Store Link

QR: Spirit of Hero

Paul Acevedo

Paul Acevedo is the Games Editor at Windows Central. A lifelong gamer, he has written about videogames for over 15 years and reviewed over 350 games for our site. Follow him on Twitter @PaulRAcevedo. Don’t hate. Appreciate!