The knock on free to play titles is that whether you're in an iOS state of mind or actually reside in reality, everything comes with a price tag. The Lone Ranger is an enticing package that isn't asking you for money up front, and since it looks as pretty as a Southwest sunset, what have you got to lose? Is this the gunslinger we've been waiting for, or does this six shooter draw blanks?
The Lone Ranger's greatest asset is its understanding of the sheer expanse of the Western genre. Filmmaker Sergio Leone, in his classic feature Once Upon a Time in the West, gave viewers a panoramic and sweeping view of America, a land rife with promise and corruption.
Although The Lone Ranger can essentially be summed up as a collection of mini-games masquerading as an open-ended role-playing game, it captures the awe of being a part of that era. The ability to swap a finger across your device and roam a desert or the outlaw infested town of Colby enables gamers to experience a three dimensional world that, during its best moments, may take their breath away. The following photo is an open cut sequence from the title, but it gives an accurate feel for the adventure's broad scope.
Admiring scenery only goes so far, and the game play for The Lone Ranger, although unspectacular, is decent enough to keep one engaged. Your job is to rid Colby of the evil that's draped over the town, and as a Texas Ranger, a big part of your battles will hinge on duels. Since you're able to measure your opponent's attack and defense stats against your own skills, the duel is almost predetermined before the first shot rings out.
Possessing a plethora of weapons at your arsenal will help your attack abilities, and purchasing high end outfits will keep your health meter from dissipating at a faster clip. Shooting your enemy requires a quick tap on the screen as soon as a red target is placed on a random part of his body. If you're a slow tapper, drink caffeine and get with the program; quick tapping is a must in winning the duel.
The main drawback centers on the time factor. Once you expend your bullets, throw your silver coins around, and whittle down your health, you'll have to put your device down for a spell for everything to regenerate. Each job or task you perform in Colby expends a certain number of energy bolts, and it just takes a bit of time for these bolts to replenish their supply.
The most valuable currency in The Lone Ranger are the silver coins, and you'll run out of them in seconds flat. Of course, this is the in-game purchase that is absolutely needed to expedite your way throughout the game. Assuming you have other titles to play or possess some semblance of a personal life, putting The Lone Ranger to bed for an hour shouldn't ruin your day or your gameplay experience.
The ability to purchase a myriad of weapons, horses, and outfits is just one of the reasons why the in-game purchase aspect of the game doesn't get my goat. Whenever I run out of bolts or need my health points to regenerate, I keep the game on my iPad and listen to the actual audio of the game. While most iOS titles have a melodic score to fill in the time, The Lone Ranger employs the sound of the desert wind and a few birds, giving the title just a bit of that extra Western ambiance.
I don't even have to be shooting bad guys or drinking from a dirty well to have fun in The Lone Ranger. Sometimes I'll just roam the town and zoom in on a few of its buildings.
The Lone Ranger effectively captures the desolate and, at times, haunting seductiveness of the Wild West. Although most of the title deals with performing tasks to increase one's experience points, its allure rests in its ability to paint us a huge canvas for exploration. Free to play titles usually offer a cute looking game with an empty shell, but The Lone Ranger, amidst all that brush and beauty, actually shows us how the West was won.