I have tried to stay away from Free-to-Play games for quite a long time, but I’ve also been interested in how they work. So, for science (meaning there was nothing scientific about this), I decided to just try out such a game.
I enjoyed Orcs Must Die! and it’s immediate sequel Orcs Must Die! 2. The initial news on Unchained was that it would be a multiplayer game, which didn’t interest me that much, but after finding out that the multiplayer would just be a mode, I felt like giving it a try.
I decided I would pay freely when I need something. Turns out, that’s quite often. I don’t know how much I paid all in all, around 300 euros for playing the game. It’s an amount of money I can spend without problems, but it doesn’t make it feel any less.
That is quite a bit. However, I did also play a total of around 300 hours, so in general one euro per hour isn’t that much. On the other hand, at no point did the game make me feel good about spending money.
You can play without spending anything, but it’s very slow. You will end up playing certain levels over and over again with diminishing returns, as you can’t hit certain benchmarks more than once. Therefore, in order for you to progress in the game at a meaningful pace, you need to spend money and actually quite a bit of it.
Since the levels have been constructed in such a way that the enemies become progressively more resilient and dangerous, you need to keep up with them, which means that you need to gather skulls, which will often take a long time. You’ll often receive around a 100 skulls for completing a level and upgrading a trap from level 1 to level 7 costs a total of 7650. So, either you have to play around 76 levels or just pay.
Now, this would actually be fine, if there weren’t so many different traps to upgrade. And while you will develop a style, which will be based around certain traps (at least I did), you will have to change the traps you use quite a bit over the whole game, which means that you also need to upgrade traps you might not even use that much over the course of the whole game.
One of the problems with the game is that since it has been designed for F2P, you need to be connected to the server. This, combined with the multiplayer aspect, makes the game a pretty bad experience in many cases. Of course, the connection isn’t always optimal, so there will be situations where the server doesn’t completely agree with the local data and things will jump around. This is especially bad, because many of the later levels are quite hectic, these small changes will mess up your game at times. This is especially frustrating, because certain parts of the game are highly random, and when they do fall in your favor, that slight change can be catastrophic to your perfect performance, which again means that you won’t be able to get the benefits of those five stars.
There’s also certain cosmetic things within the game you can buy. Basically just different skins for your heros. The problem with these is that they cost quite a bit. You’ll pay at least around five euros for a skin, but you can’t even choose what skin you get. This is quite stupid. I prefer certain heros, but if I want a certain skin for them, I just can’t do it without buying a bunch of skins and hoping for the best.
All in all, I do like the game, but it is very problematic. Of course, from the point of view of the publisher, their payment scheme worked in my case, but that’s just because I have the means to put this much money into a game. However, there aren’t going to be that many people who are willing or able to do the same. Which is better? A few whales like me or a larger volume of players paying a fraction of it?
What I would like is a list of purchases I’ve made. This should actually be legally required. You should be able to access this information freely and easily. If the lawmakers understood the problems, I think this would be something that would be mandatory already.
My overall experience was pretty negative. I felt pressured to spend the money, because otherwise I would have been stuck playing the same levels over and over without getting anywhere. The end result for me is that it will probably take quite a while before I’ll try anything similar. What I’m thinking is that there must be a way to make paying for the game fun without destroying the balance.
Now, I don’t know what this means exactly, but I’m not the one doing this for my job. There must be a lot of data out there by now, so someone should be able to figure this out.