N.O.V.A. is one of the few hardcore gaming series to have a truly long lasting run on the mobile landscape. The series has long demonstrated the power of mobile hardware, offering a true Halo-esque experience on the go. Now, after a well received trilogy, N.O.V.A. is back with something of a soft-reboot that retools the franchise to be free to play friendly. So, what does that mean for N.O.V.A.?
Well, apparently it means a lot of what made the series fun must be thrown out the window for a mountain of displeasing freemium elements.
You know, I was actually looking forward to digging into N.O.V.A. Legacy, and after spending time with it, I could not uninstall it fast enough. What was once an impressively tight, competent FPS is now one of the most banal, broken experiences I’ve ever seen. Even some of the most basic elements of an FPS are just sub-par here. Enemies shoot into objects in front of them without hesitation. Grenades apparently don’t follow traditional Newtonian physics, and you can only gain more of them by completing missions. You have to craft weapons between missions, most of which only run between three to five minutes. There’s an energy bar system for everything that isn’t multiplayer, and when you can connect to multiplayer, you’ll face lag both from the controls and from the lackluster netcode. Map sizes are a fraction of what they used to be. Sprinting is always on so you’re always running head first into anything you’re looking at. You can’t aim down your gun’s sights, use your old electric shock attack, or even jump now.
Goodness me, what happened to N.O.V.A. Legacy? It’s almost like someone focused entirely on the freemium elements that pervade almost every angle of the game rather than ensure the final product was good. In addition to needing energy charges to play any of the single-player content, you have to unlock materials, and all your weapons require upgrades to remain effective. Rather than just implement a loot system like Destiny or Borderlands, N.O.V.A. Legacy instead opts to forcing you to grind and increase your stats so you can defeat the same enemies with arbitrarily increased stats of their own. The multiplayer doesn’t include any of these elements that I could find, save for your weapon unlocks carrying over. Instead, it’s just mediocre because it uses design philosophy not relied upon since around 2009.
There are three classes to choose from, although I feel that’s a bit of a stretch considering all they do is alter one to two perks you have on hand. When I opted to join multiplayer, I was just plopped straight into a basic free for all deathmatch, and that’s when that aforementioned terrible netcode got in the way. When first getting started, my opponents were teleporting around me, and even after the match really got underway, we all kept walking through each other and desperately trying to actually score kills. Cheap tactics abound, like rushing from behind with the shotgun and ghosting through your opponents to get the drop on them. Nothing genuinely skill oriented, and in a better shooter such a tactics wouldn’t be so easy to abuse, but not N.O.V.A. Legacy. Here, the bare minimum is good enough for fans of the franchise and newcomers alike. If you somehow find the sluggish controls and awkward combat somewhat endearing, then there are customization options and additional unlocks, most of which require progress in the campaign, but they’re there so you can at least get something out of the experience. You’re limited solely to free for all deathmatch against up to six players, but hey, it’s not like people would expect something beyond the bare minimum.
N.O.V.A. Legacy is a disappointment, and that's the nicest way of putting it.
Even in the visual department, N.O.V.A. Legacy looks worse than its predecessors, and had several frame-rate drops in scenes that wouldn’t be considered intense for the Quake engine to render. The soundtrack is equally unremarkable, and there’s no real voice acting to speak of. The sound design for the weapons is as lifeless as the animations, and really, at this point, I’m just giving you more reasons than you need to never touch this game.
N.O.V.A. Legacy is a disappointment, and that’s the nicest way of putting it. It’s free, and it only takes up about 40 megabytes of space for you to give it a whirl on your android device of choice, but why bother? With the mobile market supporting a strong staple of alternatives, including previous entries in the very same series this game is based on, why did Gameloft see fit to release N.O.V.A. Legacy in such a dare I say unfinished state? That’s a question I fear we’ll never get the answer to.