Despite being a mobile game, it kind of has a story. Essentially you’re in charge of a group of adventurers who are trying to vanquish the big boss. In the process of fighting the boss, some of your fellow adventures become corrupted.
This results in the first battle of the game against weakened versions of your former friends. Of course, this was a tutorial fight so you win after being shown the basic mechanics. The game then shows you a cutscene of the carnage your party left in its wake, your corrupted friends, and the big bad boss escaping with your comrades.
Portal Quest is very intuitive and easy to pick up. In the span of a Saturday playing intermittently, I managed to level up to level 10.
The pacing of new content in the early levels also feels good. I never felt overwhelmed or like one feature got short-changed in favor of others. I also appreciated the incentive system to encourage you to play more at the early levels.
The early game has a challenge for you to reach rank 10, 20, and 30 within the first week. If you’re able to do this, then you get some decent awards like extra energy to do more things.
Honestly, it was pretty easy to hit this goal. Once you get access to the quests, the early levels fly by. If you simply do the daily quests you can usually gain at least a couple of levels until level 15. If you couple questing with the main campaign then it’s a breeze.
I was also pleasantly surprised by the combat system. Although it’s simple to plug and play, there is a surprising amount of depth and complexity for a free mobile game. There’s a simple combat triangle with different types of heroes, but then each hero also has unique skills. You can also level these skills in order to increase the damage/effect and increase the hero’s total power.
The complexity comes in when you combine the pyramid and skills together for interesting synergies. Although I’m only level 38 out of 60, I’m already starting to see some interesting variety.
Another level of complexity is added by heroes having two types of ranks. The first relates to the gear that they have equipped. The second is how “mature” they are in their journey. The “maturity” goes by a star ranking. If you have yet to unlock a hero, collecting shards of their essence allows you to unlock the hero. If you’ve since unlocked the hero, the shards allow you to upgrade a hero and add a star level. This then boosts their overall stats.
Another pro is that while they promote their microtransactions, they don’t shove them down your face. Also, they make their “paid” currency very accessible in the early game if you’re proactive about completing “trophies” which are rewards to advancing in the game.
Lastly, I just love the art style. It’s that cartoony style which makes it feel more “homebrew” and less corporate for me. Also, given the fantasy story, the artwork fits in well.
For a free game, it’s a generally solid experience, but there are a few major gripes I have.
Firstly, although the power levels are supposed to be a good approximation of how your team stacks up against another, it’s not perfect. There have been cases where I have had a power level significantly over another player in PvP, but lost due to their composition.
While this isn’t a pure con because it suggests a deeper level of play, it’s a con for a casual player who just wants to click and forget.
Secondly, the game is a lot harder if you don’t join a guild. This is because there are specific quests, rewards, and incentives for this behavior. Again, not a strict con, but for someone who just wants a mindless game on their commute, this can be frustrating. Granted, this player also probably doesn’t care as much about obtaining all the trophies or maxing out their global ranking.
Another gripe with leveling is that skill points only stack to 10. That equates to about 2 hours afk. Now, I understand they want you to play the game more often, but this feels like it punishes me. I just want a fun game that I can pick up and play, but not feel gimped because I want to have a life outside the game.
Lastly, the late game pacing feels off when compared to the exponential growth of the early game. Of course, this is by design. Partly so power feels earned, and partly to incentivize impatient players to spend money to continue advancing in the story/power level.
The finite amount of skill points you can acquire at a time also factor into this for me.
Personally, if this strong NPC power creep didn’t make it so I occasionally have to wait up to a day between the story missions I wouldn’t care. Unfortunately, the power creep also affects the pace I can consume the story at, regardless of my careful team selection.
Overall, this is pretty great for a mobile game. Especially when I consider that this one is free and doesn’t constantly spam me with upsells and microtransactions.
Because there is a story, it can be more compelling for more traditional gamers; however, it’s also fun just to pick up and play through as a time waster. There is enough depth in the mechanics to min-max if you’d like, but you don’t have to in order to enjoy the experience and get a pretty fun story.
I personally give this game an 8/10 and would recommend that most people at least give it a shot.