Games based on superhero films have a bad rep, and for good reason. Take 2011's "Thor: God of Thunder" console game, which was a rushed and sloppy action title released simply to cash in on the success of its titular movie. Marvel has learned its lesson for "Thor: The Dark World," turning to mobile veterans Gameloft to create a free-to-play iOS and Android game based on the superhero sequel. This adventure may not be as stunning as the golden locks of “Thor” star Chris Hemsworth, but it's still worthy of a few hours of hammer-wielding fun.
"Thor: The Dark World" is a hack-and slash action game in the vein of "Diablo" and "Torchlight." The overall goal is simple: Get Thor to the end of each level and destroy the enemy base, slaying any malevolent forces that stand in his way.
To move Thor around or have him attack an enemy, players simply tap their desired location on-screen and the action will unfold automatically. Once an enemy is highlighted, Thor will sweep in and perform a devastating combo. You can toss the thunder god's trusty Mjolnir hammer by tapping the screen with two fingers, and perform a special attack by quickly drawing a thunderbolt on the screen or tapping the corresponding icon.
We particularly enjoyed the latter attack, as wiping out a swarm of frost giants with a massive thunderbolt proved to be mighty satisfying.
Thor may be a powerful deity, but he doesn't fight alone in "Dark World." In the midst of battle, Thor can summon Einherjar, which are a mix of Asgardian assistants with different specialties, such as long-range and close-up attacks. You'll also unlock a variety of special allies throughout your quest, including Asgard gatekeeper Heimdall and Thor's lovably menacing brother Loki.
Throughout the fight you’ll notice a blue meter at the bottom-left of the screen that stores your mana, or magic power. This energy can be used to deploy up to six helpers at a time, so you’ll have to keep a close watch on your resources as you hammer away at foes.
You'll encounter a variety of enemies from the film, including Marauders and Rock Giants. Each enemy has different strengths and weaknesses, so you'll have to summon different types of Einherjar and adjust your play style in order to finish each stage optimally.
Like many mobile titles, "Thor: The Dark World" uses a three-star rating system that encourages you to replay each stage. While your primary objective often consists of destroying an enemy base, you can get extra stars by beating levels quickly and defeating a specific number of foes.
The simple control setup of "Thor: The Dark World" works well for a touch-based game, though the point-and-click system might turn off action fans who want to feel like they're performing every hit themselves. The game is sorely missing a zoom-out function for better strategic planning, so we recommend playing on a tablet rather than a smartphone.
Story and Graphics
The mobile game version of "Thor: The Dark World" is co-written by comic veteran Christopher Yost, though there's not much detail to the game's story. As in the movie, Thor's goal is to put an end to the malevolent Malekith's actions and restore order to the nine worlds that comprise the thunder god's fictional universe.
While the game features voice-acted dialogue, you won't hear the voices of stars such as Hemsworth and Tom Hiddleston playing the respective roles of Thor and Loki. The acting is serviceable for a pocket-size game, and most of the chatter simply consists of a character telling Thor he needs to save the day.
"Thor: The Dark World" takes you on a journey through five of the famed nine worlds from the comics, and each realm's unique aesthetic is presented well. The golden palaces of Thor’s homeworld Asgard give way to some nice lighting effects, and the fiery depths of Nidavellir are appropriately gritty. You'll also play through the ice world of Jotunheim, the grassy plains of Vanaheim, and the dark elf homeworld of Svartalfheim, which will be unlocked for players at a later date.
You won't mistake the digitized God of Thunder for his movie counterpart, but both Thor and his supporting cast are rendered nicely in the game. The character's brown beard, flowing long hair, red cape and iconic gold-and-silver suit are crisp and detailed, and companions such as Odin, Sif and Fandral are just as well put-together.
Extra Content and Upgrades
Freemium games range from generous to money-grubbing, and "Thor: The Dark World" is unfortunately closer to the latter. While none of the game's stages are locked behind a paywall, you'll need either extreme patience or the willingness to spare some real-life cash to get through the whole thing.
There are three forms of currency in "Dark World": runes, Iso-8, and URU. Runes and Iso-8 can be earned by beating stages, and you can find additional runes by breaking barrels and treasure chests throughout the game world. You'll get some URU for free at the start, and you can earn more by completing in-game achievements.
Runes are used mostly to unlock new characters and costumes, while Iso-8 is utilized to improve Thor's powers. URU is used to replenish Thor's health, making it the most frustratingly precious resource in the game. Thor can lose vitality quite easily if you're not careful, and the game prompts you to refill your health even if you don't have URU on hand. If you do this, you'll be taken to a pay screen that asks if you'd like to buy more of it.
URU is the only currency you'll buy with real money, technically speaking. URU packs range from $1.99 for 200 URU all the way up to $99.99 for 15,000 URU. You can then use URU to acquire more runes and Iso-8. For example, 50 URU will net you 32,000 runes, while 100 URU will give you 50 pieces of Iso-8. It costs 10 URU to heal Thor mid-battle, and 50 to bring him back to life after a defeat.
The overall monetization system feels a bit cumbersome, and the game would be better off with just one or two forms of currency.
Hardcore Thor fans will be pleased to know that the game has a variety of unlockable suits, including his casual attire from "Dark World," an Old Thor variant, and his classic black-and-blue getup from the original comics. However, unlocking these suits can be a chore, as you'll need both a set amount of stars and a good chunk of runes that could otherwise be spent improving your arsenal.
To wield the mighty Mjolnir on iOS, you'll need an iPhone 4/iPad 2/iPod touch 4 or newer with iOS 5.0 and up and 795 MB of storage. For Android, you'll need Android 2.3 or higher and 1.6 GB of free space.
We played "Dark World" on an iPhone 4S and experienced very little slowdown, save for a few cutscenes that were filled with characters.
In an era when the most recent "Iron Man" and "Captain America" mobile games feel like cheap "Temple Run" knockoffs, "Thor: Dark World" provides a refreshing alternative that borrows from the PC hack-and-slashers of old. There's no reason not to try the free game, as it has a solid action-RPG foundation that can become surprisingly addictive if you manage to stay alive long enough.
That being said, getting the most out of "Dark World" will require either the patience of a god or the bank account of an Asgardian ruler. You'll likely find yourself making multiple attempts to complete levels due to the game's less-than-generous health output, and unlocking some of the more exciting costumes and characters will take a fair amount of grinding. Still, when the gates of Asgard have been opened for free, it's worth picking up the hammer for a few hours of fun.
Requirements: iOS - 5.0 or later/795MB storage. Android - 2.3 or later/1.6GB storage
Release Date: Nov. 1, 2013
Platforms: iOS, Android
You can download "Thor: The Dark World" now for iOS and Android.