I have a hard time getting excited about games from Glu. They are notorious for being packed full of everything bad about free-to-play: ads, timers, energy bars, and lots of in-app purchases. That said, their action RPG series, Eternity Warriors, seems to be the exception to this rule. While the first two installments in the series certainly made use of in-app purchases, they were full-fledged games with great visuals and exciting gameplay. You weren’t ever limited from playing as much as you wanted and it never felt like you needed the in-app purchases to succeed. The series has just received its third annual installment — Eternity Warriors 3 — and it looks and plays better than ever before.
The game returns to the kingdoms of Udar. Despite the years of peace made possible by the heroes of Eternity Warriors 2, a great Dragon corrupted by demon magic has unleashed a terrible evil by unsealing the Eternity Sword. There’s also some stuff about the Lord of Hell attacking so he can take over the world, but all you really need to know is that peacetime has ended in Udar.
There’s the standard human warrior who plays very much like the last two games: slow and heavy with an enormous sword. There’s a elven mage who unleashes her devastating elemental attacks from afar (an elven mage was added to the first game months after its original release). Finally, there’s a monk whose blue skin is said to be a sign of demonic ancestry. He attacks quickly and he’s light on his feet. Each character is really great and has a distinct playstyle.
Eternity Warriors 3 lets you play as any of three heroes right off the bat. Each has access to hundreds of unique pieces of equipment that boost their stats and alter their in-game appearance. Each hero also has a unique playstyle, bolstered by their own collection of a regular attack, a defensive skill, three offensive skills, and three passive skills. There’s a lot of variety in the skills, and they are a large part of why each hero feels so different to play as.
The warrior is as fun as always, playing very much like the first two Eternity Warriors games. His huge wide-angle swings can chop down enemies off to his sides or even behind him. He can take the most damage, but he’s also the least mobile so he’s hard to dodge with. The elven mage is a glass cannon, dishing out tons of damage to multiple enemies at once, but also the most fragile of the heroes. All of her attacks are ranged, including her basic one. The monk’s blue skin is said to be a sign of demonic ancestry. He uses a pair of blades attached to his hands, allowing him to attack very rapidly. He’s handily the most mobile character — in my experience, his dodging abilities (combined with some knockback attacks) are so good that they kept him alive even longer than the warrior.
The mage and monk are great additions to the game — all three heroes are a lot of fun to play as and different enough that most players should have no problem finding a hero whose playstyle they really enjoy. You can switch between the three heroes in-between missions and progress with each one individually. You’ll have to go through the same tutorial with each hero, but it only lasts for a couple of levels and then the game puts you in full control.
Eternity Warriors 3 really amps up the game graphically. Environments, heroes, monsters, gear, animations, and special effects all look awesome. Despite the high level of detail, the game runs smoothly even when you’re firing off your most intense attacks against a group of five or more enemies (for reference, I’m using a 4S and haven’t seen the game hiccup once). The smooth framerate is really important in a game with so much action. The stages have a lot of great variety between them, ranging from ruins to jungles to fiery dungeons. They are also bigger than before, though they still feel a bit small because even the biggest levels contain only seven or so rooms connected by bridges and stairways.
The gameplay is very much like Diablo. Enter a stage, kill enemies, collect loot, leave. You complete a stage when every enemy is defeated and each stage ends with a boss fight. After you finish a level, you can keep all of your gold but must choose only one piece of loot to take back to the village with you. I’m not a big fan of that limitation, even if it makes more sense for your hero to carry one breastplate back instead of five. You can, of course, replay levels for more gold, experience, and loot.
RPGs often run into the problem where you have an enormous pile of loot you are never going to use. All of this generally gets sold for money. Eternity Warriors has you fuse it to the gear you like instead. Better gear gives more experience when it’s sacrificed to fusion. Once an item reaches its maximum level, you can evolve it using rare reagents like minion’s eyes and minion’s blood. These reagents can be found as standard loot, but because you can only take one piece home from each excursion, you’ll have to replay quite a few levels to collect enough to fuel evolution. It’s worth it, though. While fusion slightly improves an item’s stats, evolution gives a bump big enough to knock a piece of equipment into the next rarity level.
A lot of modern free-to-play games make use of mechanics just like fusion and evolution, but I usually find them problematic because they are so expensive they practically require a real-world payment for a pack of gems or gold. Not so here, every bit of gear, gold, and reagent you’ll need to power up your weapons is readily available through normal play. It’s nice to have something that gives your junk gear a purpose. Even if you’ve powered up a helmet several times and then stumble upon a much better one later, at least your old helmet will provide a good chunk of experience for your new one.
When you’re not out slaying monsters, you’re in a little village that serves as a hub for all sorts of character management. Here you will pick up and turn in quests, manage your inventory and skills, check your friends list, chat with other players, and a bit more. The interaction with other players is notably limited. You can chat with players on the server or see them running around the village. Tapping on one gives you the option to view their equipment, chat with them, or add them to your friends list. That’s it. There’s no item trading. No cooperative play. No PvP. It’s worth noting that both of the first two games in the series supported co-op play and Eternity Warriors 2 supported PvP. It’s a major point against this game — my biggest one in fact. I don’t understand why the game needs to be always connected or why I care about chatting with other players if I have no other way to interact with them. We can only hope this is something that will be added in an update.
Glu’s got to make money somehow. Like its predecessors, Eternity Warriors 3 sells packages of gold or gems via in-app purchase. These can be used for all kinds of purposes, such as learning and upgrading skills, buying potions, or increasing your inventory size. It never feels necessary though, and the game never crams the in-app purchases down your throat with constant ads and pop-up dialogs.
Eternity Warriors 3 is an incredibly good game for its asking price. It’s very nearly a complete package — the music and art are awesome, the fighting is fun, the controls are tight, and collecting new gear and upgrading it is exciting. There’s a ton to do and the game never stops you from playing because you’re not a paying customer. There’s just that one massive sore spot of paper-thin multiplayer. Chatting with other players is pointless if I can’t actually play with them. I’m confused why Glu would remove such a great feature that was already a part of the series. I really hope it was just a technical or scheduling issue and that co-op gets added in a future update. If you’re a fan of single-player dungeon crawls, loot-collecting, and leveling up, this game is a blast and certainly a bargain considering how many hours you could reasonably put into it without paying a cent. If playing together with friends or strangers is important to you though, it’s just not there yet. You could play Dungeon Hunter 4 which already sports both PvP and co-op, but be aware that it uses a much shadier free-to-play model.