The tough lot of being a fan of Marvel's god of thunder, Thor, has become somewhat easier over the last several years. With soon to be two solo movies under his belt, and an important role in the biggest superhero movie of all time, ol' Goldilocks seems to have finally broken out of being that stiff, weird, Shakespearean-speaking guy with the big hammer and a stupid hat. Now, he's that stiff, weird, Shakespearean-speaking guy with the big hammer and no hat. Let's hear it for progress! In all seriousness, if you had told me as a kid that someday I'd get to see Volstagg, Heimdall, Fandrall, Sif, and Thor duking it out with frost giants in Asgard in a live action movie, I'd have thought you were nuts. And if you had told me Thor would star in an awesome video game, I'd have called you insane. Well, Kid Shaun was half-right, at least.

For most of the history of video games, Thor hasn't really been popular enough to merit his own game, even though his abilities and attitude make him an easy fit for action games, and his home world makes for a natural fantasy backdrop. Never mind a starring role, Thor wasn't even playable in a video game until 2006's Marvel Ultimate Alliance, in spite of his teammates showing up in a variety of beat-em-ups and fighting games. Since his first movie released, Thor's had a starring role in a few video games, with the best of the lot being a half-decent side-scrolling action game for the Nintendo DS. His previous turn on iOS, Marvel Entertainment's Thor: Son of Asgard [$2.99] was a boring and clunky third person action game in the vein of Sony's God of War. Well, Thor's luck isn't changing today, because Gameloft's Thor: The Dark World [Free], based on the new movie, is probably the worst F2P superhero game yet for iOS, and that is saying something.

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I haven't seen the new flick yet, so I have no idea if this game is following the story or just serving as a companion piece, but if you're a fan of Thor, there's nothing really surprising about the premise. The Dark Elves are attacking Asgard, Loki's being a jerk, and just about every one of Thor's major enemies are trying to ruin his day by messing around in the Nine Worlds. You, naturally, play as Thor and need to travel around extinguishing threats with the help of your friends and summoned einherjer of various job classes. Basically, the game is a top-down action game, with Diablo-style tapping controls to move and attack. Each of the four worlds you visit during the course of the game is broken up into around 20 stages. Most of these stages have you fighting your way to the end of a very linear stage and destroying an enemy base. Occasionally, you'll encounter stages where you have to defend your base or pull off a rescue, just to mix things up.

Thor's got a fairly limited set of moves. You can tap on an enemy to attack them with his hammer, double-touch to throw it, draw various shapes or tap a button to launch powerful lightning attacks, and summon einherjer by touching their icon at the bottom of the screen. You can also drink a health or summoning potion by tapping on their icons beside their respective meters, but be careful about using those. They're worth their weight in Uru. Thor will automatically go into a few different types of combos when you attack an enemy, but you're not going to find much depth in the battle mechanics here. Thor is very powerful himself, but the real key to victory is through effective use of einherjer and allies to take down enemies so you don't have to.

The einherjer are an interesting element of the game. You have a constantly-replenishing summoning meter that you can use to bring warriors of various types into battle with you. As you play through the game, you'll unlock more types, and you can spend your gold to level up the ones you like best. If one of them should fall in battle, you don't need to worry, because as long as you have summoning energy, you can bring in another. They have to walk from your base, though, so if you're near the end of a stage, it'll take them a while to get to you. Each enemy type is strong against some einherjer and weak against others, so using the right einherjer in the right situation is a major help.

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In addition to the einherjer, you can also unlock special allies to help you out. Fandrall, Volstagg, Sif, Baldur, and even Loki can be recruited to support you. Like Thor, they have special abilities that you can use by tapping an icon, and they are considerably more powerful than an einherjer. Suitably, the consequence of them falling in battle is far greater than a simple einherjer. If they fall during a stage, they are gone for the rest of the stage, and even worse, they'll need time off to recover before you can use them again. Some missions require certain allies, and if that particular one is injured, you'll have to wait out the timer, unless you want to spend some Uru. And by Uru, Gameloft means money.

Thor: The Dark World has a whopping three currencies, and they all feel premium to a certain degree. Runes are the most common currency, earned when you clear stages, though only in any reasonable amount when you clear a stage goal for the first time. Runes are used to level up Thor's allies and einherjer, and to buy and level up new costumes. It takes a lot of runes to keep levels and equipment where they need to be, and you're going to run into a wall almost immediately. You can grind stages to stock up on them, but when you're trying to save up 50,000 runes for the first costume unlock and you're only earning 1,000 for re-running a stage, well, that kind of sucks. A reminder: this is the most common currency.

The second currency is ISO-008, which is kind of the go-to premium currency for Marvel FTP games. Well, it's been demoted here. ISO-008 is used to level up Thor's abilities and stats, and to unlock new powers. You'll earn it the first time you finish stage goals, and only then. This currency oddly didn't feel as scarce as the runes, simply because there isn't as much that you need to spend it on. Of course, unlike runes, it's a finite resource, so if you run out and you have no other goals to clear, you're kind of out of luck.

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Finally, there's Uru, which is the game's real premium currency, and the only one you can directly purchase. Uru is used for all the usual stuff premium currency is used for. You can kill timers with it, continue mid-stage, unlock things early, and exchange it for the other two currencies. It's also the only way to get new hammers. Some of the stage goals are connected to using certain hammers, which is extremely dirty pool, since the game generously gives you not a single Uru to start with and only rewards it to you in insultingly minimal quantities for clearing achievements.

To be fair, you can progress in the game without clearing every stage goal. There are points where you need to have enough stars, earned by clearing stage goals, to proceed, but the bar is low enough to miss some goals and still pass. Missing stage goals means missing out on runes, though, and without enough runes to keep your levels up, you'll eventually hit a wall and have to go back and grind. What makes the grinding worse is that the stages themselves aren't really interesting enough to merit replays. You're basically doing the same thing in every level, using very similar tactics, sometimes on the exact same layout. It's nice that the game has four different backdrops for the action, but when just doing each stage once feels repetitive after a short period of time, pushing the player to grind is not a good way to curry favor.

The only nice thing I can say about the monetization model of this game is that there is no stamina meter for Thor. Your allies take real time to recover, but once you've recruited a few, that's not a big issue except for stages where you need a particular one. Unfortunately, at the moment, the timers are a bit bugged, so if you check on how much time an ally has left for recovery, it'll often reset his or her timer. I guess it's true about a watched pot never boiling. Thor can keep going all day long if you want him to, which is good because to keep your equipment and levels up to date, you'll have to. You can't even fall back on chugging potions to get through obstacles above your level grade, because while you'll occasionally earn them from beating goals, if you run out, you'll need to spend, of course, a stupid amount of Uru to get more.

I should also mention that you can't really finish the game yet at this time. The last world on the world selection screen offers a "coming soon" message if you try to choose it, something I'm seeing pop up in more and more games these days. If you're not going to release a finished game, at least throw a half-baked faux-ending in there to give some temporary closure to the story, guys. It's just another strike on a game that doesn't need any more of them.

With all that said, there's a lot of great fan service in here for Thor fans. Fighting alongside Thor's Asgardian allies is one of the things this game gets right that others have failed to, lots of Thor's foes are here, well-known or otherwise, and the lore is all pretty well done. The unlockable costumes are great, and you can even get Beta Ray Bill. I mean, you probably won't, because you have to finish in the top 500 in the arena tournament, but hey, Beta Ray Bill!

Unfortunately, in the final tally, Thor's a pretty mediocre game on its own merits, even without taking the crushing monetization aspects into account. It's repetitive, it's missing its final world, and it's buggy. Add the insane amounts of premium currency or grinding required to have a decent chance of seeing the game through, and you've got a recipe for disaster. I'm not going to say I was entirely happy with the model in play in Gameloft's Iron Man 3 [Free] from earlier this year, but Thor: The Dark World is even more of a grind, with less enjoyable base gameplay. Even Marvel's game is better than this.

TouchArcade Rating

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  • Lazer Kat

    At least the iOS Synthesizer "Thor" is great.

  • hourglass

    Yeah, that's basically what I said...

  • defunct32

    It's free if it's sucks delete... it's nothing spectacular but I did enjoyed the game though.

    • Morgan01

      Why wast your time with a free game if you don't like what you read about it or if you know you are going to stop playing when you hit the inevitable Paywall?

      • defunct32

        Why can't I waste my time if that time is mine to waste? It's free, I got curious like Mr. Kitty was, so I wanna try it for myself, paywall? Oh sucks, delete, move on to better things in life. Don't think too much about things it's not good for you.

  • Taclys

    Unfortunate.

  • BlueFalcN

    What did you honestly think from a movie tie in game grime gameloft? An actually good game?

    • BlueFalcN

      From*

    • detourne

      Well, since they are making some of the best movie tie in games out there, yes.

  • TheMerc

    Wow, I REALLY cannot agree with this score and some point raised in the review. I don't think this is at all a bad game.

    a) The three currencies aren't much of an issue: the Runes and ISO-8 are awarded quite frequently and in larger amounts as you progress through the game; and the Uru, less frequently given out, is mainly intended as the currency for those people too impatient to wait and play through the game in order to unlock items/characters that you can unlock for free later on (although, admittedly, some items are only purchasable via Uru).

    b) The Einherjar (not Einherjer, like the reviewer kept referring to them as) can be summoned to Thor's location immediately by pressing the small icon on the top left side of the screen: there's a cooldown period, but it's better than waiting for them to walk their way to you while you're in a tough spot.

    c) The combat can be considered basic in terms of what you directly command Thor to do (i.e. you don't choose what move he's going to do, you just select the opponent you want him to bash with Mjolnir), but there is room for you to try different strategies according to what special move(s) you have equipped/what Einherjar are in the field/what Allies you have near you.

    d) I'm currently playing on Jotunheim, and have only encountered one bug thus far.

    e) The fact that Beta Ray Bill is only made available if you rank among the Top 500 probably isn't that big a deal. I'm no world class gamer by any means, and yet I managed to rank among the top positions in Iron Man 3 in order to unlock an armor. And speaking of Iron Man 3, that game was much more of a grind than this one is.

    I also wouldn't agree with the classification of the grinding in this game as "insane". Like I said, I'm only on the third main stage of this game, have managed to keep Thor very well furnished in regards to skills, weapons, costumes and allies and all without spending a penny. Like I said above, all the currency you'll need is going to be awarded to you as you move on through the levels. The only grind I see needed here is in terms of experience, but how is that any different from, say, levelling up Charmander to a decent level before facing Misty in the Gen I Pokemon games? Maybe I have a different outlook here than the reviewer, as I don't have a problem gradually levelling up Thor and unlocking items as I go instead of having everything immediately made available...

    Plus, is the fact that Svartalfheim is not currently available that much of an issue? Developers do this (i.e. update their games with new content) all the time - I seem to recall X-COM announcing that Multiplayer wouldn't be available immediately at launch but would be added as a future update, and I don't think that was mentioned in the review - , and I don't see them getting that being held against them. Maybe it's because this is a Free-2-Play (strike one) movie tie-in (strike two) by Gameloft (strike three) that this isn't getting that same benefit (even though Gameloft more often than not delivers on the promise of new content rather than abandoning the game completely)...

    Disclaimer: I'm a comic book geek, and Thor is one of my favorite characters. However, I pride myself on being able to either separate my love for these properties from the movie/comic/game that's in front of me or fully admit to enjoying something that's bad merely out of said love. In this case, even though I have to recognize the game's flaws (the bare-bones melee combat mechanic, the repeated level layouts - that the reviewer forgot to mention - and the inability to have acess to potions and the like without spending the most valuable currency in the game), I also have to say that it isn't as bad as the reviewer described it as.

    I'm a sensible person, and realize that other people don't need to share my opinions on things, and that a quantitative score will always reflect someone else's personal views on something. And, as an individual myself, I'd give this a 3.5 Stars (4 for die-hard Thor fans, as there is some great fan service for you here).

    • TheMerc

      *Got my scores wrong: 3 Stars overall, 3.5 for Thor fans.

    • Lazer Kat

      TL;DR: TA Sucks, Gameloft RULES dude.

    • iValerio90

      you are a gameloft developer......fail.

      • TheMerc

        Lol, no, just a more ponderate gamer who's less willing to dispense vague "F2P? Faaaaail!" comments than most. Look me up in the TA forums, I'm quite active there.

      • iValerio90

        F2P is wrong..,is a tax after another tax....after another tax...after another tax...i dont want to play with "paywalls" chains

      • TheMerc

        So just because my opinion regarding a particular game goes against your (rather radical) view on something that's becoming inescapable in the iOS gaming scene, your first thought is that I'm on someone's payroll? Okay...

      • rewyan

        Freemium is where everything is headed. TA and its biased reviews toward paid games won't make a difference

      • dancj

        That's why TA gave glowing reviews to PVZ2 and Real Racing 3?

      • dariusjr98

        Ignore him. He's not worth holding an argument with. Believe me, I've tried.

      • iValerio90

        You dont understand because you were born when the true age of games end kid

      • dariusjr98

        This "kid" has more knowledge than you. What are you, ten? And I know what "true" games are. Stop labeling things.

      • jamarohn

        He's trolling. Move along, nothing to see here.

    • Maniacfive

      Xcom had an ending. Adding multiplayer to a completely solid and complete single player campaign isn't the same thing as releasing a game without an ending.

      • TheMerc

        My point is that games promising future updates is nothing new - quite frequent, in fact - and it seldom gets held against them on these reviews. However, I'll grant that X-COM isn't the best example. Let me try a new one: the tie-in to Man of Steel. This is a paid game that featured more than one currency (and here you actually had to grind in order to earn measly sums of currency), had fewer levels and feature gameplay with less depth than this game and, to top it off, didn't feature an ending at launch either. The lack of ending wasn't mentioned in the review, and the game ended up recieving a 3 Star rating. I don't usually do these comparisons (both because the reviewer of MoS didn't review this and because, as a rule of thumb, a critical analysis of any game has to be based on its own merits instead of comparing it to others more or less successful than the game in question) but I feel it is rather appropriate in this case.

    • NOEN

      Well said Merc.

    • diaskeaus

      I was going to write a response to the review, but you said everything I wanted to say and more, Merc. I, for one, am enjoying the game, and enjoying taking my time with it. It's not a MOBA per-say, but it has a similar feeling. The one thing I wish it did more was more customization of weapons and armor for your and your warriors, instead of just static upgrades. I also wish Thor had more of a choice when it came to skills on the battlefield. They could have easily implemented that, but I suppose in order to make sure the game came out in time for the movie, the end result is the game feels a bit rushed even though when you look at it, if given more time this could have been a magnificent game.

    • toxiccheese

      Well you don't have to "agree" with his opinion. You can have yours as well. Seems like you liked it a bit more than the reviewer. That's great!

    • detourne

      Dude, I completely agree.
      It's not a perfect game, but it's one of the best Thor games I've played. Well it's the 2nd best out of 4.

      Anyway, it's like the reviewer has never played a moba before. It's all grind.
      It looks like Gameloft was trying to be innovative (you know, like how the Iron man 3 game was) and different from the past grouping of god of war clone superhero games. They tried to mix a moba for the casual audience, and appeal to the superhero crowd too. No worries there.

      Of course, I would've loved to see Thor as an addition to the Avengers Initiative ios game. But then that's another infinity blade clone.

      There's just no pleasing some people.

  • bigjack66

    It's ok it's very nice to look at but as you say a bit simplistic and repetitive but it's free so once you reach your limit just delete no great loss and it did pass a couple of hours.

    • gandhimonty

      What kind of game is it when you pass two hours and you know you are end up deleting or paying $$$$...
      Break this FREEMIUM strategy... Make one time purchase, so that you can enjoy and take the game to the end and have a feeling of playing it...

  • elusar

    I liked the game but the freemium thing ruins everything!!

  • renatpl

    Well it's not fantastic but it isn't a bad game, i'd give 3.5

  • Opinion

    I was interested in playing as Beta Ray Bill until i saw the price heh

  • whitestatic

    Would love to see a TA article on why movie tie-in games are horrible. You would think that these games have a bigger budget than most and could afford a decent developer/designer. I don't think it's the shackles of F2P either, as this particular genre has historically always been bad.

    • Arch Deluxe

      I think they're rushed to make a tight deadline of when the movie is released. Also, the game studio is doing it as contract work, so their incentive is just to get it done, they don't care as much about sales.

  • DoctorDoom80

    It's a MOBA style game. Some people may like it some wont.

  • gandhimonty

    why bothered reviewing it... Secret is FREEMIUM ALWAYS SUCK...

  • wolivo38@yahoo.com

    Thor is a good game I am playing for now

Thor: The Dark World - The Official Game Reviewed by Shaun Musgrave on . Rating: 2