With hero-collection RPGs dominating the Play Store these days, it’s hard to pick one that’s bound to make you want to stay. I’ve had some luck with about a handful of these gacha games, and there’s one or two that I still play to this day. There’s a wide variety of reasons why a particular title sticks with me somehow, and for AFK Arena, the allure is in the title itself.
While the title of “AFK Arena” doesn’t really have any indication as to what the story or gameplay is all about, it does highlight its most important feature - its AFK-ness. Playing while you’re “Away From Keyboard” is a huge plus these days, especially since we all have too many games on our plate and not enough time to play them. I mean, even Elijah Wood has given in to the temptation to cheat on his RPG, which is an ad campaign the game is promoting right now to encourage players to take a break from all the grinding in favor of some “AFK and chill”. The game succeeds in exactly that, but that’s not all it does.
Despite its main feature that allows you to reap rewards and level up your characters even when you’re not actually playing the game, AFK Arena actually has so much more to offer. I was pleasantly surprised each time I pulled a hero and explored their traits and skills. Every pull has its own cleverly crafted backstory, which I particularly love to read about each time I summon someone good. They all have skills unique to them too, so they’re not just skins - and with the character portrait collection you can unlock with every new character, you really will want to collect them all.
Of course, the game suffers from the same drawbacks that any gacha game has, which is the whole concept of paying for pulls (diamonds, in this case). The rates aren’t too bad, as I was lucky enough to pull a handful of top-tier elite characters in my party at the moment. Right now, the game has a special event where you can nab either Lucretia or Zaphrael for free, and let me tell you - they are STRONG. Having either one of them in your party will greatly tip the scales in your favor with every battle - plus, you can also test one of them out for free for 3 days. Having them both in your party pretty much makes you OP, but don’t get used to it - once the trial period is over, you’ll have to give up your trial character and go back to your regular ol’ party.
Still, it’s a nice strategy to tempt you to spend on the game (they also give you free diamonds for posting a review on the Play Store, so if you want to sell your soul, er, express your opinion about the game, you’ll get rewarded handsomely for it).
To be honest, the campaign story really isn’t anything remarkable - it’s the extras that really make the game shine. Aside from the regular PvE mode, you can also send your heroes to do offline quests for rewards in the Bounty Board, participate in guild hunting challenges with your guild, combat against hordes of enemies per floor in the King’s Tower, or try your hand at awesome relics in the Arcane Labyrinth. You can also compete against other players in the Arena of Heroes if you’re feeling a little aggressive.
I also really love how you can strategize as to the positions of your party mates. Some will be full tanks, making them the ideal choice to guard the frontlines and absorb any melee damage. Long-range attackers and spellcasters will obviously go in the back row, but it’s not as simple as that. You have to check how the special abilities of every character work, as an AOE skill may only damage a certain portion of the battlefield (for example, just the middle part, or a single row). Positioning is everything in order to maximize your DPS and make every battle a breeze.
You also have to consider the factions of your characters. Categorized into Lightbearers, Maulers, Wilders, Graveborn, Celestials, and Hypogeans, these factions sort of serve as your “elements” that work in a rock-paper-scissors kind of way, with certain factions stronger or weaker against another. You also get HP bonuses and the like when you place certain factions in your party - really, there’s so much to strategize to make sure you win every skirmish.
Overall, AFK Arena may promote a casual vibe for players, but it’s really anything but. In that sense it’s a little bit like click-bait, isn’t it? It’s definitely not an idle game much like Sword Master Story is, as even though you can turn on the auto-fight feature and fast forward the combat to twice the regular speed, you still have to manually control the start and end of every battle.
It’s a good thing that I didn’t really feel like I hit a paywall while I was playing, so the microtransactions didn’t bother me too much. I also think that Lilith Games really outdid themselves with the graphics and animation. They remind me of Disney-esque TV shows, which is a refreshing change of pace from all the anime-themed art out there.