As a gamer who has prided himself on playing nearly every console that has released since the ’90s, I’m overwhelmingly, utterly and absolutely sick to my stomach. Without a doubt, I am more ashamed of myself now than I have ever been. What might the reason be, you ask? I can’t believe I’m admitting this on the internet of all places, but, for the first time in my 24 years of existence, I spent money on a ‘freemium’ app. If I never hear the word microtransactions again, it’ll be too soon.
When I say I spent money, I don’t mean to buy the game itself. No, I mean I downloaded the game for free and spent money on in-game items. Items that I could otherwise obtain if I were a hell of a lot more patient than I am. And why did I do it?
Just so I could play the game for more than five minutes. This is my unexpected, yet heartbreaking, introduction to free-to-play games.
Now, I don’t want to stray too far from my typical review format, but I felt like I had to address the fact that I don’t really play mobile games. Touchscreen really isn’t my jam; gameplay, while simplistic and sound, always leaves me wanting more; and a solid story seems to be non-existent in phone games. Not a very appealing mix of characteristics, so why stress too much over it when I have a gaming PC and plenty of consoles and to play on?
Well, as it turns out, if you find the right game, there’s a huge reason to give these titles a shot: they’re as addictive as a crack-filled pot pie with meth sprinkles on top.
Up until this point I had only played Tiny Tower (a distinctively mediocre game about building the tallest tower), Secret of Mana and Plants vs. Zombies on my iPhone. Over a six year period, those were the only games I could stand to play for more than a week. No Angry Birds, no Flappy Bird, and, God forbid, no Kim Kardashian’s “Who wants to be the most famous fake person?”.
All of that was fine and dandy until last Thanksgiving when my brother introduced me to World of Warriors, a team-based fighting game that has players assembling the strongest team of fighters to conquer an extensive storyline as well as win prizes in a weekly leaderboard.
The game starts out by awarding you with a team of three common warriors. These have fewer abilities and generally worse stats than their rare, super rare and legendary brethren. When you make some progress, you find out first-hand how much of a difference these classifications make as the game supplies you with a random rare or above warrior.
The first rare fighter I received was Aka, a tribal hunter who hits like a truck with dynamite strapped to the grill. I found myself using him any chance I could, as his earth powers gave him the ability to pack quite the punch. That brings me to the elemental factor in World of Warriors.
Combatants have one of four elemental attributes: fire, earth, wind, water; each of these powers effective on the element after it. Think of a more restricted version of Pokémon, and you’re there.
In this, players are given another variable to take note of when constructing a powerful team against their rivals. However, a few legendary fighters can turn the tides of even the most unfavourable of match-ups – leaving legendary fighters the most sought-out prize in the whole game.
Unfortunately, there’s just one catch: in order to obtain these powerhouses, players will either need to get lucky with the random warrior the game gives them, place in the top 999 on the online leaderboards, or gather enough wildstones to take a chance at obtaining a strong fighter.
The only way to place high on the leaderboards is to take on the tower of trials, a five-tier arena that grows in difficulty as you near the top and awards points based on how far you travelled within the area. Taking a chance here will cost you valuable in-game materials and will yield nothing if you lose. Constant point-farming on the tower (three to four perfect runs daily) is a must if you expect to take home the top prize, which typically consists of a legendary warrior, seven wildstones and three potions that maximize damage when you’re in the middle of a difficult scuffle.
With ten wildstones, a player can visit the “door of epics” for a chance at either a rare, super rare, or that legendary you’ll be holding in such high regard. The only problem is, good luck finding any of these elusive babies. The campaign has awarded me maybe five after 30+ hours of play; pretty pathetic. Your only saving grace are the built-in achievements the game presents to you. Upon finishing all of the achievements, a frugal player can score themselves several chances to receive a legendary hero. However, once the achievements are complete and the wildstones spent, you better hope the World of Warrior gods smile upon you because if you want any more, you’ll mostly likely be paying out of pocket.
Not only that, but if you get a warrior that’s already part of your collection, you lose those wildstones and only receive experience toward an existing warrior and a few other items to help buff up your team. Unfortunately, this happened to me on the first legendary warrior in my party – talk about pure, unadulterated frustration. Don’t worry though, you can buy wildstones at the cheap price of $1.99 for two, all the way to $99.99 for 280. What a completely fair, not-ridiculous-at-all steal!
Now, I’ve said a lot of bad about this game here, and trust me, I’m getting to the positives, but before it gets better it has to get worse. The absolute most despicable part of World of Warriors is the option to watch ads, get free insurance quotes and subscribe to countless publications, all in the name of wildstones and honor stones, the more common currency used to buy materials and warriors.
Keep in mind, you don’t have to take part in this, but the fact that this game even gives the option to is so slimy and dirty that it prompts me to take quick showers after each play session. For example, Tapjoy, the program that hosts this service, offers players 56 wildstones to subscribe to the Disney Movie Club. I mean, it’s great advertising, but it’s also just so cringe-inducing I can’t stand to be in the same room as my phone at times.
The upside is that when I’m watching Netflix, I can play random ads on my phone and watch TV while I accrue enough honor stones to take on the tower for the fifth time today. No joke, this game will change the way you live your life.
Now to the good stuff: World of Warriors does create a turn-based combat system that rewards well-timed screen taps. This, at least, doesn’t leave the outcome of battles strictly to team composition and stats. The game also has an announcer who exclaims “Stupendous!” and “Bang on!” when you execute precise commands, leaving you a sense of fulfilment that will have you thirsting for the next battle. He also shouts “No guts!” and “Epic failure!” when you do poorly, a bit of negative reinforcement that has you fighting harder as well.
The story, as it seems to be the case with most mobile games, is shallow but supplies players with plenty of cheeky moments that lie somewhere between childish and funny.
Without a doubt, the part of World of Warriors that’ll have you coming back time and again is warrior growth and the different mixtures of teams you’ll be creating as your roster expands. When you win battles, your warriors gain experience and level up. Once they level up enough, they can be upgraded (think evolved) to stronger warriors, who not only have tougher appearances but an expanded skill set and stats to back it up.
It might take 5-10+ hours to get a warrior ready for upgrade, but when you do, the payoff never disappoints as heroes will have more abilities and slots to equip stat-boosting equipment to. These upgrades allow for better combinations of teams and a more consistent chance to beat the tower and win more legendary fighters. In this aspect alone, the game will pull you in. Once you’ve invested enough and – if you’re weak-willed like me – have spent a few bucks on warriors and power-ups, that’s when WoW really digs its claws in deep and never lets go. I guess all games with that acronym have a tendency to do that!
And that’s where the self-loathing begins. Sure, you’re having fun and starting to really rank high on the leaderboards, but at what cost? $10? $20? *gasp* $100? At the end of the day, fighting in the campaign or the tower, gaining equipment, or training and upgrading warriors all comes at a price. Sometimes it’s meat that only regenerates at a rate of one piece every five minutes (I can carry 40). Sometimes it just takes precious time as training level 17 warriors can take more than half a day. But other times it’s cold, hard cash – and in the thick of it all, guess what? You’ll pay that cash. You’ll smack your debit card on the table and fuel that insidious software, only to realize they didn’t give you a damn thing besides a few pixels and an empty hole in your body where your soul used to be.
Bottom line is: the game is too much fun for its own good, and by the time you realize just how fun it can be, you’re flat broke. I’m actually writing this from a cardboard box so don’t think I’m joking. And trust me, the wi-fi in a cardboard box is less than desirable, but at least I’m still able to rank on the leaderboard…