Phatomgate is one of those titles where I am not sure where I stand. On the one hand, it's clearly a free-to-play gacha game. On the other, it's a competent turn-based RPG with some fantastic platforming gameplay. Then you have its high production values to take into consideration, which makes it all that much more difficult to label Phatomgate as simply a good or bad game.
Right off the bat players will notice how beautiful the art style is. There's no doubt that Netmarble spent a good chunk of change making sure that Phantomgate is one of the best looking RPGs on the platform. Especially when you consider its liberal use of Nordic-inspired landscapes and characters, which only adds to the charm of the art direction.
But with great graphics comes a downside. You see, the game is still a bit janky when it comes to an acceptable framerate. Considering that I was testing the gameplay on a Galaxy S8+, there really shouldn't have been any issues running this title smoothly.
Now when it comes to the gameplay, there are quite a lot of elements to cover. First and foremost Phantomgate is a turn-based RPG and a good one at that. While like most free-to-play RPGs you can set the combat to auto-fight, the default setting where you manually control these fights hearkens back to the classic RPGs of yesteryear. In my opinion, this is a good thing.
The thing is, the RPG combat is only delved into once you touch an enemy. This will sadly cost you a stamina point, of which you start out with 12. Mainly this is used as a wait timer mechanic. As you would expect, you can purchase more stamina if you find that you have run out too quickly.
The rest of your time will be spent platforming through an assortment of beautiful stages. These stages tend to have a few tasks for you to complete along with a few puzzles. I find this should keep the player immersed and entertained while traveling about. When you complete the stages's tasks and puzzles, you are then dropped into one last battle with some pretty strong enemies. Once this battle is over and you completely finish a stage, you will then repeat the above process until you finally reach the end boss fight for the chapter. There are a total of 6 chapters to complete, each with their own look.
Of course, any time you finish a stage you can simply jump back into the game's overworld. This is where you will clearly see the majority of free-to-play mechanics splayed out. Not only are there gacha draws for summoning new heroes, but you will also find the standard hero upgrades and combinability that artificially lengthen the gameplay. This is where the hero collection aspect of the title comes into play. While the majority of your actions in this central hub requires the use of one of the multiple currencies found in the game, you do at least earn most of these currencies through gameplay. But obviously, it's a lot easier to just pay up in order to progress with a little more ease.
As you can see in the above left picture, there are clearly quite a few in-app purchases in this release. They range all the way up to $89.99, which is nothing to sneeze at. You will find advertisements as well, but for the most part, they seem to be used for Netmarble content. At least Google Play Games Services is supported. While there are no achievements or leaderboards, cloud saving works out of the gate.
I would also like to mention that Phantomgate is an episodic game. What is currently available and reviewed in this article is only for episode 1. There are many more episodes planned, so as you can imagine there will be even more content to explore in the future.
So sure, it may be a lot to ask people to ignore the many free-to-play mechanics that typically bog this style of mobile game down, but for some reason, they actually fit well with the type of game Netmarble has created here. In my experience, I have yet to run out of stamina or hit a wall. This may change late-game, but so far my time spent playing Phantomgate has been balanced fairly well. When you consider how gorgeous the game looks and that the bulk of the gameplay is actually enjoyable, I am going to recommend that everyone checks this title out when it officially releases in order to make up their own minds. After all, it is free, so what's the harm?