Promotional art from Solo Leveling Arise.
Image Source: Netmarble

Solo Leveling: ARISE First Impressions – Plenty of Promise

Solo Leveling: ARISE is finally here!

After one of the most popular closed beta periods in mobile gaming history, Solo Leveling: ARISE is finally out worldwide. Based on the beloved manga-turned-anime, this expansive mobile game takes the 3D action formula of Tower of Fantasy and Honkai Star Rail and adds its own monster-slaying spin.

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As someone who rarely plays mobile action games of this nature, I was impressed by just how good the game looks. While Solo Leveling: ARISE isn’t a proper open-world experience, the small combat arenas and hub worlds you explore are lavishly detailed in 3D and stand a step above what most mobile games can offer. The cel-shaded designs are timeless and suit mobile displays well, and while the art style isn’t especially close to the manga or anime, it’s exactly how you’d want a Solo Leveling game to look.

Combat in progress in Solo Leveling Arise.
Image Source: Netmarble via Twinfinite

You play as franchise protagonist Sung Jinwoo, in a story that combines existing beats from the manga and new narratives sprinkled in as side quests. The first few sections of the game are very exposition-heavy, as is the case with a lot of mobile games. There’s not too much gameplay, but a much keener focus on feeding you the basic narrative setup and an explainer of the main mechanics.

For gamers familiar with mobile action games of this nature it’ll be par for the course, but some may find the extensive hand-holding to be quite jarring. Especially if you aren’t already engrained in Solo Leveling’s lore and characters, you may find yourself itching to dive into the action early on.

While the combat isn’t the most intricate I’ve seen in a mobile game, it’s certainly enjoyable. Most of the time you can just tap Jinwoo’s main attack input, but as you defeat enemies you unlock finisher moves, dash attacks, and special moves performed by your allies.

Sung Jinwoo in Solo Leveling Arise.
Image Source: Netmarble via Twinfinite

That said, it’s pitifully easy for the first few chapters, with even end-of-level bosses providing little challenge – especially once you get the ability to upgrade your stats, weapons, and allies. Since the combat doesn’t amount to much more than spamming the main attack button and sporadically hitting special moves once they power up, it can make that early grind quite mindless. After those opening sections it does ramp up, though, so hardcore players will find plenty of longevity here.

Despite these qualms, I’m floored by how polished the game looks on a visual level, and I applaud its keen focus on storytelling. Most games like Solo Leveling: ARISE don’t place the narrative and characters at its forefront, so it’s refreshing to see that be such a focus here.

Despite this, the overall package is a lot less polished and seamless than the open-world whimsy of Genshin Impact or Honkai Star Rail, making it quite a hard sell for those not already invested in the world of Solo Leveling. There’s definitely promise in Solo Leveling: ARISE, but it may be a tough sell for newcomers at launch.

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Luke Hinton
Luke Hinton is a video games journalist currently working as Senior Guides Writer and Associate Editor at Twinfinite. He has undergraduate and postgraduate degrees in Journalism, Media, and Culture, and previously specialised in entertainment writing.