Beast Quest is a new free-to-play game from Miniclip coming to iOS and Android early next year. What makes this interesting though is that it’s based on a 14 million selling book series and offers open world fantasy game-play with role play character development and real time battles.
Visiting Miniclip to have a hands-on session with the game I had expected to discover an endless runner or mini-game collection. However, Beast Quest on iOS and Android offers an experience drawing on games like Zelda, Infinity Blade or even Shadow of the Colossus.
Certainly Miniclip knows the target audience well, with over 70 million unique users per month in this younger demographic. Even so this Beast Quest project is something of a departure and ambitious even for them.
Players take on the role of Tom, and like in the books partner with Elenna to battle the different monsters and enemies of the land of Avantia. Picking the game up I soon discovered that this offered not only linear story missions, but an open world to explore and light role-play character progression.
The books are aimed at boys although there is no reason that girls wouldn’t enjoy them too. They have a strong female lead in the form of Elenna who often saves the day just as much as Tom. In the game they work in tandem but the player is restricted to controlling Tom throughout, something of a shame.
The game takes you through each of the worlds featured in the first six Beast Quest books. In each world we meet a different Beast, along with a range of varied enemies and allies. As mentioned, we play as hero Tom, journeying through the kingdom of Avantia on his quest to free the Beasts from Malvel’s evil spells.
Talking to Sam Smith, Community Manager at Miniclip, it was interesting to hear more about how unusual this is for Miniclip. Headlining their inspiration, Smith was quickly reaching for top drawer adventure experiences “think Zelda, think Shadow of the Colossus think World of Warcraft“.
It’s a claim that sounds a bit far fetched until you play the game itself. While a little way off the scale of some of the referenced titles, it certainly feels like a game in that category. “It is a big open world with a lot to do. The level of content here on a free to play game is unlike anything else on mobile at the moment. This is the biggest scale game we’ve done. In terms of ambition it feels like a full priced console release.”
Here Miniclip again has its finger on the pulse of the younger audience. With full console games like Skylanders Trap Team proving that there is plenty of appetite for them on tablets, it is an ideal time to bring an original console-like experience to the platform.
As with any good book series for children, Beast Quest is cleverly designed to appeal to grown-ups as well. Smith outlined how the game was aiming to mirror this. “We’re hoping that this is something that kids can play with parents, but also the parents will end up playing it themselves when the kids are in bed. We want everything to be simple enough for kids to understand it but with depth for older players.”
Playing through the first 30 minutes of the game you encounter a range of things to do, from hunting down healing herbs in the environment to going after Nanook. Then there were Hungry Wolves, Ice Marauders and Dark Fang enemies to fight.
These encounters switch to a third person view and offer simple dodge and attack moves with taps and swipes on the tablet. As the battle rack up things get more complex though with multiple attacks to co-ordinate and a wider variety of moves.
Afterwards you get rewards in terms of gold and experience to heal and upgrade your character. This presents a choice about the sort of hero you want Tom to be. More heavily armoured, or better equipped with a killer blade.
Being touted as free-to-play, the game’s in-app purchase system hadn’t been finalised when I saw it. But the mechanics to implement faster progression and greater access to the game by playing real money was firmly in place.
The game is releasing early next year, and complements a general broadening of the Beast Quest offering with this month’s Beast Quest magazine and even talk of a movie being a possibility.
Andy Robertson is a freelance family gaming expert and runs Family Gamer TV.