I really want to like Disney Mirrorverse. My Kingdom Hearts shuddered when I heard that it reimagined the dark fantasy of Disney characters in a shared universe. In Mirrorvese, Belle is a sorceress with a magic wand, Sully wears a mech suit, and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson has a demonic arm. Need I say more? Between that and the surprisingly engaging combat, Mirrorverse is a game I can see myself putting in a lot of time. Unfortunately, Mirrorverse is a fairly standard mobile game full of microtransactions, so time isn’t the kind of investment it’s looking for.
If you’ve played Kabam’s other free-to-play games, like the Marvel Contest of Shop Titans title, you already have a pretty good idea of the Mirrorverse. It uses many perverse tactics to encourage increased spending and mask the real price of things. At the heart of the Mirrorverse are character collectors like Fire Emblem Heroes or Genshin Impact, but unless you’re willing to spend the money, acquiring and leveling up these characters is extremely difficult.
Characters come from loot boxes called crystals. Some crystals can be earned by logging in daily, completing objectives, and completing limited game modes such as events and dungeons. These are supplementary ways to get a fairly limited amount of crystals. The main way to get crystals is to buy them with orbs. A crystal requires 280 orbs, but of course, you can’t buy 280 orbs. You can buy 350 Orbs for $10 and have 70 left. You can buy two packs of 350 and one pack of 175 for $5 to get 3 crystals with 35 crystals remaining, or you can buy a pack of 1,055 crystals for $30 and of course you’ll still have 65 less crystals. Math Forever won’t really work in your favor, it’s by design.
Opening the crystal will give you a 35-40 character with a random rarity from 2 to 5 stars. Each crystal has a featured character that has a slightly higher drop chance than others, but in general your chance of getting a particular character is about 2.5%. The rarity rating further increases the odds. There is about a 95% chance that your character will be three stars or less. The chance of pulling any particular character with a 5-star rating is about 0.003%. Mirrorverse is a Disney slot machine disguised as a video game.
Crystal Economy is just one tip of the Mirrorverse’s developing design. The sphere is just one of many items you can buy – even though it doesn’t tell you that at first. As you progress through the story, you’ll unlock the ability to purchase limited-time packs filled with crystals, upgrade materials, orbs, and other currencies. Bundles start out cheap and get more expensive the more you spend. The first round of bundles is just $3, but soon you have the opportunity to spend $7, $10, or even $30 on these bundles. Sometimes when you buy one, it’s replaced by one that’s more valuable than the one you just bought, so if you don’t invest in the second, you’ll feel like your first investment was a waste. By the end of Chapter 2, I had received 11 different bundles and a message from the game team in my inbox reminding me that time was running out. The game gives you a mailbox full of junk mail.
Of all the plans in the Mirrorverse, the ones that frustrate me the most are the cards. These are login bonuses that are paid on a daily basis and look like a good deal, but will force you to log in every day to get the most value. I can buy a beginner crystal card for $3 and earn a star crystal every day for a week, which sounds like a good deal. Anyway, I’m logged in, why don’t I buy a novice orb card and collect 200 orbs every day. Now that I have $7 and have committed to logging in every day, a $25 card filled with 3-star crystals for two weeks sounds like a good idea too. Of course, if you lose everything you paid for on any given day, you’ll forget to log in.
There’s a lot more to the way the Mirrorverse is monetized. Whenever you get a crystal, you have to swipe all the way through the store, past all the paid options, to find the one you already own. There are nine currencies and upgrades, including energy, that you’ll need to spend to actually play the game. There is no easy way to earn any of these currencies. There is a tab in the shop called Bazaar which offers eight random items for getting Orbs or Gold, which are the more common earned currencies, but if there is a specific resource you have to keep checking it, or you can spend Orbs to refresh the store. There is another tab offering specific Samsung and Four-star characters for sale. Like the bazaar, there are always eight and they rotate daily. They cost a very rare and different currency (called Stardust). The best way to get Stardust is actually to buy crystals, as each character you pull comes with a small amount of Stardust that matches their class type.
Sadly, all of this overwhelms the Mirrorverse, but beneath it all is a pretty solid game. The story is basically Disney’s Secret Wars – an invasion event that causes the multiverse to implode and evil crystal copies of Disney heroes and villains invade through a mysterious shattered mirror. These events are kiddie plots in the story that builds the world. On one hand, you help Tron and Buzz Lightyear reset time to stop Zurg from taking over the Mirrorverse amid all the chaos. It’s a wonderful world of comics that deserves more exploration. It’s also a great fight that’s both easy to learn and infinitely complex once you start thinking about all of the team’s abilities and passive bonuses. There’s a lot of depth to team building, and there’s a fair amount of skill in the game, but it’s all served by a flashing neon sign that constantly reminds you to spend more.
There’s a lot of disdain for mobile games these days, and the Mirrorverse uses a lot of the same strategy as Diablo Immortal to separate players from their money, but I don’t think we should just accept that’s how mobile games are. While they’re not perfect, neither Wild Rift nor Pokemon Unite are casinos masquerading as video games, and popular titles like PUBG, Fortnite, and Apex Legends Mobile are more or less the same experience you get on PC and console. There’s no reason other than greed to think mobile games need to drop to this level, especially those with Disney characters. I’m still wondering how to explain to my nephew that he can’t play Stitch until he pulls the lever of this slot machine a hundred times. His pocket money is only $20 a week, so it might take a while.
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