Disney Mirrorverse Review - Shattered Dreams

  • First Released Jun 23, 2022
  • IOS
Jason Fanelli on Google+

A bold new direction for Disney's classic characters sinks under the weight of predatory tactics.

At first glance, Disney Mirrorverse looks and sounds like a child making up a story on the fly with action figures. Characters from all across Disney's catalog--heroes and villains alike--come together to fight off a malevolent force that threatens all of reality. These characters aren't their usual selves, trading in their children's movie personas for something with a little more edge. It's a bold and interesting choice, something never seen before from this group of characters, and this world's mere existence is an exciting prospect. Unfortunately, the boldness of Mirrorverse comes at a cost, literally, as the idea is buried beneath crystalline loot boxes, microtransactions, and convoluted progression. What could have been a whole new world for Disney is instead just the latest run-of-the-mill mobile game.

Disney Mirrorverse is an action-RPG set in the titular Mirrorverse, where enemies called the Fractured are growing in power. You battle these hordes with teams of three heroes called Guardians, chosen from the 44 characters who make up the roster. Each of the 44 fills one of four archetypes, Melee, Ranged, Support, and Tank, which informs how they fight. These classes are standard fare: Melee Guardians use swords and other handheld weapons, Ranged heroes rely on magic and projectiles, Tanks stay in the enemy's face while soaking up damage, and Supports heal teammates, debuff enemies, and more. You get new Guardians through Crystals--Mirrorverse's version of loot boxes that are both earned through gameplay and purchased with in-game and real-world currencies. Crystals come in multiple forms, some highlighting specific Guardians or guaranteeing specific ranks, and are opened with typical loot box theatrics via the in-game shop.

As a longtime Disney fan, I cannot stress enough how cool it is to see these characters in this new light. Belle from Beauty and the Beast steps out of the library as a powerful mage, wielding a staff powered by the magic rose itself. Her villainous counterpart, Gaston, has gone full Game of Thrones wildling with his massive bow and shoulder-spanning wolf pelt. The lovable bear Baloo dons his Disney Afternoon-era TaleSpin garb and uses a giant plane propeller as a broadsword. Not all characters receive such revolutionary designs--Elsa is an elemental who controls ice, for instance--but even those that don't stray as far from the source have their charm.

There are multiple modes in which to send these heroes to battle, the main one being the gigantic Story mode. The story covers seven chapters, each with, at minimum, 10 stages of enemies to conquer. You attack by tapping the corresponding buttons on the bottom-right corner of the screen--basic attack by tapping, strong attack by pressing, and ultimate attack by tapping it once it's activated. You can also move with the joystick appearing on the bottom-left–which can be flicked for a quick dash--and can switch between each of your three Guardians on the fly by tapping their pictures on the top-left. The attack buttons worked without issue, even when switching between tapping and pressing the standard button, but I had a very hard time with the flick-to-dash functionality. Most of the time when I flicked, the Guardian I was controlling would take a small step rather than dash, often resulting in being damaged by the attack I was trying to avoid. A few times this resulted in that Guardian's death, which made the lack of response extra frustrating.

Each stage contains between one and four battles, where the team fights enemies until the last one falls, then advances to the next battle automatically. Only the final battle of the stage has any sort of flair: a brief cutscene introducing a Fractured version of a Guardian that acts as the stage's "boss." Once that Fractured Guardian is conquered, you see a brief victory pose, collect rewards based on how many stars you earned, and move on to the next stage. There are other formats to explore, including Supply Runs, where you can earn one of the near-infinite currencies in the game, and limited-time events themed around specific Guardians, but this core stage structure remains consistent throughout.

Here's where the Disney magic runs out on Mirrorverse: This is the extent of the gameplay experience. Whether you choose story, Supply Runs, or any of the other modes, each stage plays out the same way. When the final battle is over, you see the same victory poses, followed by the same rewards screen, and then it's back to the stage-select menu. It's repetitive to the point of boredom, completely burying any excitement the original concept had created.

All of these currencies are used to buy resources that fuel the game's various systems, which border from lengthy to gratuitously over-complicated

There is one mode that nearly saves the day, however: 1v1 Showdown. This pits one of your Guardians against a single AI Fractured Guardian across 30 stages, with enemies increasing in power with each stage. While the main three-person battle system can sometimes fill the screen with action, these 1v1 battles are more focused and tense. I get a "no items, Final Destination" vibe from these challenges, as the mode distills the battle system down to its purest form. The matches fly by quickly, though, meaning that before you know it, you're at the end of the 30-stage gauntlet, but it is fun while it lasts.

However, the majority of your time playing Mirrorverse is spent in the menus, doing everything but battling: gathering quest rewards, purchasing and opening crystals to gain new Guardians, sifting through Mirrorverse's multiple currencies, and so on. I counted eight different types of currency that are used in the game's shop alone, and while most of these are earned through playing the game, Orbs--which are used to purchase the Crystals that unlock the Guardians--can be purchased in bulk with real money. The shop offers bundles of currencies, resources, and even Guardians as well, which it will continually remind you of as you travel through the menus.

All of these currencies are used to buy resources that fuel the game's various systems, which border from lengthy to gratuitously over-complicated. Take Motes, the resources used to level up Guardians. Motes come in five colors, one for each of the four classes and a fifth that can be used for any class. They also come in three varieties: Minor, which can only be used for Guardians at levels 1-20, Major for Guardians at levels 21-50, and Superior for Guardians at levels 51-100. That's 15 different types of an item that is crucial to your progress. Also, every 10 levels, you also need to increase your Guardian's "rank," which requires extra items called Gems, which, again, come in both color-coded and generic versions. Oh, and you'll need Books to level up each Guardian's individual skills, and there are six different types of Books to collect as well.

All of these convoluted systems create a situation where progress is halted until the in-game shop adds the resources I need to continue. For example: my main party is Tron, Elsa, and Maui. Tron and Elsa are both Ranged Guardians, but at levels 26 and 25, respectively, I can't power them up, as I only have Minor Ranged Motes. Maui, meanwhile, is stuck at level 30 while I search for two more Tier 1 Sapphires in order to increase his rank to four. It's maddening, even more so when I think about how awesome the core idea of Mirrorverse is, and it makes me want to play something else.

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Energy--a classic mobile game trope where you can play a finite number of missions until you're forced wait a certain amount of time to play again, or pay up to hasten the process--also makes an appearance, but I was able to gain more energy than the counter suggested, so the mechanic's normally restrictive nature wasn't as apparent. At one point my energy meter read that I had 84 energy out of 40 after leveling up my account; while I was happy for the overflow, eventually it dwindled and I was back to the waiting game.

I could go on and on, but Mirrorverse is stuffed with predatory tactics like this. They shred any remaining desire to further explore what is truly a bold and unique take on the Disney universe, which is a real shame. I'd hoped these Guardian versions of the Disney characters I'd grown up with would get more time to shine and show off their new abilities. Instead, I got buried in resources and currencies, which relegated these amazing heroes to posing on the menu screens, and the result is a big disappointment. I'm looking into the Mirrorverse, but I don't like the reflection.

Jason Fanelli on Google+
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The Good

  • Classic Disney characters are presented in a new and interesting way
  • Robust roster allows for experimentation
  • Battling is easy to control

The Bad

  • The game tries too hard to get you to spend real money
  • Overly convoluted resource systems are confusing
  • Repetitive core gameplay loop has low longevity

About the Author

Jason Fanelli spent 20 hours in the Mirrorverse, fighting alongside these new versions of classic Disney heroes. If only he'd spent more of that time actually fighting.