It’s a big statement to declare one’s mobile game as “an open world, sandbox MMO” but Durango: Wild Lands has come the closest I’ve seen to achieving that goal in a mobile environment.
Durango: Wild Lands’ premise is straight-forward. You, as the player, are caught up by a time warp and thrown into a prehistoric age. You are challenged to survive and build communities with other players. The game is a pioneering open-world MMORPG that is part survival, part exploration, full of hunting, crafting and society construction amongst other things.
You start the game by picking an archetype, essentially your specialty. Confusingly, you start off as level 20 but then after a series of tutorials you begin your journey as a level 1 character. I went with Soldier to start whose more of a melee gameplay type.
While the game is considered “sandbox” initially it does a great job of easing you into this mind set by putting you through its paces via several quests. The quests are a great platform to introducing you to the multitude of things you can do in game like gathering, hunting, farming, building, capturing, etc. These quests also introduce you to a few initial liaisons which eventually leads to contacts in “companies”. The tutorials are also beautifully done with professional sounding voice overs and they don’t come off as being too cheesy.
Our play sessions were on an iPhone XS Max so mentioning performance might be a moot point as we played on one of the current high-performance mobile gaming phones. That being the case, we never had issues with load times, frame rates, etc. even on high settings.
A Survivor Is Born
Once you get through the extensive tutorials and learn some of the basics you’re basically on your own. You’ll be doing a lot of your initial gathering/building skills leveling in your own private “instance” which is referred to as a “Tamed Island”. It’s here where you can acquire your own land, start building and level crafting skills. These “tamed islands” also have limited resources for gathering, once things are gathered they appear to disappear for good. This is inspiration, in part, to travel to “Unstable Islands”, for a cost. These unstable islands are where you’ll run into other players, dinosaurs, etc. Many of these islands are level gated.
A Survivor In Training
As you level up, quickly initially, you are awarded skill points that you can distribute in multi-tiered areas of melee, gathering, processing, survival, butchering, tailoring, weapon/tools, defense, cooking, construction, ranged and farming! To help you along there are “career guides” in some of these areas that set goals or achievements, e.g. in Tailoring get to rank three in making “leather outfits”. You can only work on one of these career guides at a time. When you complete the current one you can choose another or not. Completing these career guides benefits you with some decent rewards in the associated field.
What About Combat?
Combat is started by tapping a critter and selecting the Attack icon. After that it’s semi-auto attack. Based on the weapon equipped, and skills you’ve chosen, you’re presented with several icons for battle, using these level up skills. There are many possible options like body slamming, kicking, etc. There is also a blue defense skill button (roll / avoidance) whose timely use, especially when your opponent forecasts a yellow circle before a power skill, levels up your defense skill.
You can also capture and tame creatures which can then be used as mounts and/or pets to battle alongside you. Mounting is as easy as tapping an icon. If unmounted, your current pet will follow you around like a puppy and will automatically join you in combat. They can also hold items, be feed, etc.
Lots To Do…
After you leave the tutorials, you can set your own course. You’ll meet up with NPCs through Communication Centers on unstable islands where you can accept missions from companies to help you level and build favor with that company.
The game has an in-game market for buying goods and selling your own goods. The markets are based on the island you’re currently on.
There are plenty of daily and weekly tasks you can work on as well. There are also plenty of reward giving achievements to complete.
Gathering in this game was a joy, other than you do have inventory management to contend with because there is just so much you can pick up. The UI has a cool resource for gathering. By touching the magnifying glass in the lower right corner, you can show or hide tags on all on-screen items. This kept resource gathering from being a complete pixel hunt on a small mobile screen. Also, many resources give you a choice of what you’d like to harvest from them. For example, a “Raspberry Bush” can yield either leaves, raspberries or branches. If multiple items can be harvested, you need to push that icon multiple times. In one case I forgot to harvest meat from a dinosaur kill. Once I walked away from that kill a small group of raptors descended upon the corpse to claim what I forgot to gather. That added a certain “life” to the game.
You can create and/or join a clan (guild) which can then coordinate to hunt the bigger dinosaurs on Raid Islands and create shared villages. In a future update, you’ll be able to engage in clan versus clan for PvP battles where you fight for the rights to Savage Islands on which you can grow a clan domain.
…And Lots To Manage
While there are many things you can do in game you also have some things to manage like “fatigue”, health and stamina / energy. Some of these factors are mitigated by eating food, drinking or resting at your camp for example. Your fatigue is affected by many factors including being on high level islands too long. There are fatigue restoration potions you can make or buy in the real money transaction (RMT) shop. Fatigue is also affected, believe it or not, by how dirty you are. A quick wash in a body of water fixes this. Weather also plays a factor in your fatigue as getting rained on can lead to getting cold. During our play sessions fatigue, energy / stamina never became an issue where we had to abandon our play session like is common in other mobile games.
The game does have a real money transaction shop, as mentioned above. Currently, it contains cosmetics like outfits, houses, pets/mounts and leveling accessories, e.g. fatigue restoration potions. It appeared to be non-P2W from what we’ve seen.
I only managed to get to level 20 during our review window. Doing so I had a blast exploring, gathering and leveling up the multitude of skills. I felt like I’ve barely begun to scratch the surface of what this mobile game has to offer and look forward to moving on to bigger islands and bigger kills!
- A Jurassic era setting
- Plenty to do and accomplish
- Truly an MMO
- Great UI implementation for a mobile game
- Quest near completion objectives not always clear
Note: Our copy was reviewed on iOS via early access provided by PR.