Image Source: Netmarble

Solo Leveling Arise Is a Fun Game Buried Under Bugs & Predatory Gacha Tactics

With Solo Leveling being the hottest anime event of 2024, it’s no surprise that Netmarble wasted no time in releasing the first video game based on the IP. Solo Leveling Arise has moments of brilliance, but I can’t, in good faith, recommend that you play it.

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Solo Leveling Arise is, at its core, a gacha game. That alone should trigger some warning bells for certain players. Even so, I’ll be the first to admit that I’ve dabbled in my fair share of gacha games and the truth is that while they are all inherently predatory in that they want you to get hooked and spend money, most of them are also extremely F2P-friendly. In fact, it’s actually pretty hard to find a game that isn’t shy about wanting to nickel-and-dime you in this day and age. And yet, here we are. That’s exactly what Solo Leveling Arise wants to do.

We’ll start with the good bits first. Solo Leveling Arise is a good-looking game. It covers all of the story content from the manhwa and anime series, letting you live through the action by stepping into the shoes of protagonist Sung Jinwoo. The combat’s actually rather enjoyable — even if you’ll end up facerolling the first few chapters — and once you start filling out your party with other hunters, things get pretty damn fun.

a screenshot of cha hae-in in combat in solo leveling arise
Screenshot captured by The Escapist

Solo Leveling Arise allows you to recruit various hunters from the manhwa to join your cause. While playing as Jinwoo, you can have up to three hunters supporting you from the backlines, and you’ll be able to get them to trigger support abilities to either heal or buff you, or damage and debuff your foes.

In other game modes, you can play as the hunters themselves, but only in a party of three. This is where the game truly shines as you’re finally able to swap between party members freely. I was fortunate enough to grab a copy of Cha Hae-In early on, along with Choi Jong-In and Kang Taeshik, which means that I could basically steamroll any and all early game challenges without even dabbling in Artifacts or weapons.

I’d enter a flow state where I could slash my foes with quick Light-based attacks with Hae-In, followed by Fire-based AoEs with Jong-In, and then seamlessly end off the combo with Dark-based attacks and poison damage from Taeshik. When you’re able to pop off like that and line up your cooldowns just right, the combat in Solo Leveling Arise almost feels as good as Genshin Impact, and that’s high praise.

There’s quite a bit of depth to the equipment system as well, as you’ll eventually have to farm for Artifacts and accessories to properly gear up your characters. The usual gacha grind is present of course, as you’ll need to farm for upgrade materials, and even wait for a while to accrue enough resources to level everyone up. That’s par for the course for most gacha games, which I personally was fine with, but it won’t be for everyone.

a screenshot of sung jinwoo in the lobby in solo leveling arise
Screenshot captured by The Escapist

The problem with Solo Leveling Arise is that it doesn’t take long at all for you to hit your first progression wall. Even as I was doing my best to play optimally as an F2P player, I found that I could no longer progress after just two days of playing. I was solidly stuck in the story mode, and my only way of progressing was to wait for my Activity Funds to pile up so I could grab some experience points to level up my characters once or twice (maybe), then try again.

To make things worse, the game wastes no time in shoving ads and store pop-ups in your face, even at the very start of the game. As soon as it detects that you’ve hit a wall, a pop-up shows up trying to get you to purchase a monthly pass or bundles that’ll help you level up on the spot. This is, quite frankly, obnoxious and Netmarble definitely could’ve eased up on the prompts.

There’s also the fact that the game itself seems rather poorly optimized even on PC, which lowkey makes me afraid to even try it out on mobile. Every little thing you do in Arise is met with a five-second loading circle on the screen. Whether it’s clicking into a menu or exiting a Gate, the game just seems to perpetually need to load something. Thankfully this isn’t an issue during combat itself, but it definitely soured my experience with an otherwise pretty decent game.

Solo Leveling Arise had a lot of potential, but unfortunately it seems it’s been squandered away and buried by the annoying store pop-ups and ludicrous number of load screens. There’s always the hope that Netmarble can salvage the game and fix these issues, but you know what they say about first impressions. Those rarely ever go away.


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Author
Zhiqing Wan
Zhiqing is a History undergrad from the National University of Singapore. She started playing video games in 1996 when her dad introduced her to Metal Gear Solid, Silent Hill, and Resident Evil -- and the rest, as they say, is history. When she's not obsessing over Elden Ring and Dark Souls lore theories, you can find her singing along loudly and badly to Taylor Swift's latest bops. Formerly the Reviews Editor at Twinfinite, she joined the Escapist team in 2024. You can reach her at [email protected].