Posts Tagged ‘game’

As noted last time, I had a secondary backlog to deal with in this Operation: Backlog project; my collection of Humble Bundles that I’ve gathered over the years.  It turns out that there were about 60 games I had tucked away in their system that hadn’t been added to my Steam list.  So, I went through and bulked up my library.  There are a few that were part of these bundles that were included, but that I’ll never play, like Amnesia: The Dark Descent and Penumbra Overture (I very strongly dislike horror games, but hey, if that’s your thing, they do show up in bundles here and there), but there are still more than a few that will get the 15-minute treatment as I’ve done before.


I’m going through my Steam list alphabetically, picking up games I own but haven’t played to see what’s there.  15 minutes each is all I’m budgeting, but I reserve the right to get sucked into a cool game.  Some I’ve played already, though, so I’ll mention them in passing here and there, giving them a rating like the other games.

I’ll be giving each of these Backlog games a rating of sorts, as follows:  Regret (uninstall and forget), Remember (uninstall but wish for more time), Revisit (leave installed for later) and Recommend (wish for more time to play this right now).  This is a squishy continuum of sorts, and deliberately imprecise.  This isn’t an in depth survey-and-review, it’s Spring Cleaning of my video game backlog.


Since I’m dealing with a new influx of games, I’ve gone back to pick up the ones I skipped over in the alphabetical list.  First up is Air Conflicts: Pacific Carriers.

I’m just not a flight sim fan.  I’d rather play something like Privateer or Freelancer, out in space with a bit of whimsy.  Air Conflicts is a historical combat flight simulator built around carriers in the Pacific theater, specifically in the second World War.  You can fly for Japan or the U.S., piloting planes that look decent over terrain and ships that look decent.  I have little idea whether or not they are meticulously accurate to real history, but the visuals look good overall.


The play is what I’d consider to be an “arcadey” combat flight sim.  It’s not a cartoony flight game like Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed (we’ll get to that later) or Pilotwings (those were the days), but it’s not really trying to be a hardcore simulation of flying these planes.  I’m OK with that, since flying real planes can be a very complex procedure sometimes, from what I understand.


Just speaking to how fun the game is on its own, though, flying around is fun enough, though I’m just not very good at the combat portion.  Controls are decent if a bit “floaty” and imprecise.  Stuff blows up nicely.  The sounds serve their purpose well.  There are different options to play, from a campaign to Instant Battle, which was nice to just jump into.

I don’t have any big complaints other than just the simple fact that this isn’t my sort of game.  It’s not a bad game, it’s just one that I have no interest in playing again.  I’d be the sort that just flies around the arena, looking for screenshot opportunities.  I just don’t follow orders well, and I’d get tired of being shot at.


I’d say I Regret this game, but really, it’s not something I paid much for, since it was part of a bundle.  I had a bit of fun with it, but it’s not one I’ll play again.  If arcadey flight sim WW2 games are your thing, it should be good.


Then, in a significant shift, I tried And Yet It Moves.  I used my XBox 360 controller for this one.  It’s a quirky platformer which lets you rotate the world.  This relatively simple concept changes a lot of how you move through the world, and I find that I’m rather fond of the twist.  The controller makes it easier to sort the controls intuitively, which is important.


The visuals are unique and consistent, though it’s not quite the sort of style I’m really fond of.  Still, I give them credit for staying true to their vision and really embracing their design.


Controls are decent (though the character feels a little floaty and doesn’t jump all that high), platforming around is good fun, and learning how to handle the world (and your character’s motion) is a nice change from something like Braid, which, for all its time-bending gameplay, is still relatively static.


I give this one a Revisit rating because I probably won’t play much of it, since Dust fills my platformer impulse at the moment, but AYIM is a solid little game.  If you’re into platformers with some thoughtful design, it’s a good one to check out.



Anomaly 2 is the next game I tried.  I have the first one around here somewhere, probably from a non-Humble bundle, but now I can’t find it.  I’ll just pretend that the two are more or less designed similarly, and hope that’s right.  “More of the same, but better” isn’t a bad thing, and Anomaly 2 should offer at least some idea of what both titles have to offer.  They are “tower offense” games, where you’re not controlling the towers to defend against enemies as in tower defense games (GemCraft, Defense Grid, etc.), you’re assaulting the bad guy towers with your squad and commander.


That’s enough to Recommend the game if you’re a fan of tower defense games.  If you’re just looking into the game with no particular interest in the genre, know that it looks really good, controls are excellent, and the core design is solid.  Your commander usually has to stick with your squad, escorting them through hot zones and making the most of their abilities to finish missions, though you can wander off if you consider the reward to be worth the risk.


Different units and layouts mean finding ways to stay on your toes and keep on top of the tactical situation.  It can get a little twitchy at times, but it rewards fast thinking and situational awareness rather than just reflex tests, and I appreciate that.  I find that I don’t mind needing to execute fast controls at times if I have enough time to anticipate them well, and Anomaly 2 works well for that.


One quirk is that each unit can “morph” between two different forms.  They have different abilities, like the first unit which changes from a tank with a killer cannon into a two-armed flamethrower “urban warfare” unit that can target multiple foes.  Juggling the morph states gives your six-unit squad more flexibility and keeps things from getting too repetitive.


It’s a game that is great for fans of the tower defense genre, and I think it would be good even if you’re new to the genre.  I really like the time I spent with it, about 25 minutes, and would someday like to play more.  The game eases you into its design and has multiple difficulty settings for a variety of players.  It’s easily one of the better games I’ve played in this project.



Aquaria was up next.  I’m pretty sure I have this at least three times from different bundles.  It’s a pretty game with a good sense of style, good voice work, good music and decent controls.


It’s really nice to be able to just swim in any direction, though Naija doesn’t turn as quickly as I’d like.  She feels a little… floaty… which is odd, perhaps, for a mermaid, but still, moving her around is nicely freeform, just a bit imprecise and sluggish feeling.  She has the ability to sing songs that help her in what I assume are various ways.  The only one she starts with is Shield, which didn’t actually seem to shield all that much.


The reviews I’ve read of this bill it as a Metroidvania game, and it does feel a bit like Insanely Twisted Shadow Planet (another such game, and a good one).  It’s really, really slow to start off, though.  It’s rather fond of its narration, but I just wanted to get on with the game.  Metroid Prime spoiled me on that, I guess.  There’s a good Reddit thread on it over here.


Perhaps it gets better and more interesting down the line, and a slow start does fit the ambient lackadaisical sort of mood they seem to want to evoke, it’s just… it doesn’t show all that well in the first 15 minutes.  If that was all I played, I’d have to give it a Regret rating.  As it is, I played for about 25 minutes, and eventually found a sort of “combat flashforward preview” thing which hinted that the game might get more interesting, so I’ll Remember it and move on.

This game, more than others I’ve played in this project so far, seems to suffer the most from a slow start.  It was easier to get away with this in days long past, but in today’s more saturated market with more ADHD customers (and/or just time-starved like me), your game has to make an accurate and good impression as soon as possible.  It’s just not as likely that customers are going to play for 3 hours before your game gets good.  We don’t have time for that.  Get to the point, developers!  Even if it’s a tease like Metroid Prime, where you’re given lots of toys to play with up front, but then you lose them and have to find them again, players will know in short order what the game has to offer later, all within a few minutes.  Even the super-dense Endless Legend makes a quick good impression, and they have more depth and play options to get through.


Atom Zombie Smasher isn’t a game I’d buy on its own, but since it came with a bundle, I figured I’d give it a shot.  It’s… not a typical zombie game.  It’s more of a Real Time Strategy game with minimalistic visuals.  That’s not a bad thing in itself, and it certainly cuts down on the cliche gore that zombies usually show off.  You try to protect little yellow dots (humans) from little pink dots (zombies) in a city, using a variety of weapons from your “eye in the sky” tactical view.


It could really be about any two groups of things where one tries to escape the other.  The theme isn’t strong, but that’s OK.  The gameplay is solid, and that’s more important to me anyway.  The art style, simple as it is, is consistent and clear.


That yellow dot on the right is not going to come to a good end.


Send in a chopper to save yellow dots, protect them with green dots (soldiers who fire on pink dots within range/sight), maybe use some land mines or artillery (remember that explosives can open new avenues for pink dots), and maybe even some pink-proof barriers.


Those land mines leveled buildings that could have kept the pink dots controlled a bit.


It’s a solid game, one I’ll Remember.  If you’re into RTS or zombie games, it’s worth picking up and playing for a while.


aaaaand that’s it for this time.  I’m still not through the secondary backlog, but should get through it next time.

Thanks again for stopping by, and here’s hoping you have time to dig through your list.  There are a LOT of great games out there, and tons of good ones.  It’s a good time to be a gamer.

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So… Blizzard’s World of Warcraft is back in Draenor.  I liked the first visit, with the weirdly shattered, floating-in-space landscape, but hey, if they could Cataclysm the geewhillikers out of Azeroth (a pox on them for flooding Thousand Spires!), they can go fix Draenor with some superglue and spackle.

I have something of a love/disgruntled relationship with World of Warcraft.  There are elements of it that I don’t care for, but it’s a lovely world and I love flying around in it.  I did finally get a character to the level cap in Pandaria, and do a little shuffling around in the endgame dungeons and Timeless Isle.  Since I hit level 90, I can fly around Pandaria, too, and that meant I spent a few days’ worth of game time just flying around, taking screenshots.  I still have fun with the game, warts and all.  That last binge used up my last game credit from the now-defunct WoW Visa, though, which is unfortunate.

Lately I’ve been wondering if I can’t kill two birds with one stone, though.  Y’see, I’ve been supremely busy of late trying to find a job after circumstance effectively “retired” me from the game industry.  I’ve worked as a Technical Artist in games for almost a decade, but with a crummy economy and young, enthusiastic grads always ready to be fed to the beast, I was over the hill anyway, and fell out of the industry due to a company downsizing.

So it goes.

Anyway, wouldn’t it be grand to have a fairy godpatron step up and offer me a full time job, being a tourist and photographer in the revised Draenor?  Take screenshots, write guides, opine about… everything.  I know, I know, that’s the dream of millions of devoted Blizzard devotees, and I’m just as likely to point out problems as I am to praise the finer points.  Who would pay for that?

I’m sure I’ll play around in Draenor once the expansion goes on sale and I can free up some time and justify the cost.  (The cost isn’t just the $15, it’s the time spent since I have to get what I want to done before the timer runs out.)  I’ll take some screenshots, mess around in a few dungeons, have some fun.

In the meantime, it’s good to see people having fun in the game.  It’s not a perfect game, but it’s hanging in there, and though I don’t have a hand in its creation, it is nice to see a game appreciated by its patrons.  Sometimes the simple joy of playing is lost in the periodic waves of griping, and the early days of a WoW expansion tend to hit higher points of optimism in the expansion life cycle waveform.

So… have fun, everyone!  I’ll be along later.

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I’ve been dabbling in game design again.  It’s just one of those things that I do to keep myself from stressing too much, and since this whole “being unemployed” is really stressful, well, I’ve been doing a lot of creative things to destress.  I suppose I could have played more games to get through my backlog, but creative pursuits just seem more wise in the long run, since there’s at least some potential to make some money to pay a portion of the bills.

That’s part of why I did the Tinker Gearcoin Kickstarter.  It turned out really well, so thank you, all of you, who were a part of the campaign!  Despite the pretty numbers that we posted there, it’s still not a career replacement stream of revenue, though, so I keep on creating.


Anyway, this Chromaround game may someday turn into a project that we put on Kickstarter, just to get them professionally printed on spiffy paper, complete with a nice box and shrink wrapping.  We may put them up on TheGameCrafter.com before that as well, like we did for the Tinker Deck prototypes, but the whole point of taking it to Kickstarter is to get a bulk deal going to leverage the economy of scale that we get from printing a large quantity of decks.

For the moment, though, we need to really put it through the wringer and playtest the game to make sure it’s ready for release.  I’ve ordered some sample decks from Artscow.com for testing here, and I may send some out to other interested parties.  We’re also offering this “print and play” version of the game (again, like we did for the Tinker Decks).  It’s technically based around color, so printing in black and white won’t give the full effect of the game, but I’ve tried to make it possible to work for colorblind players with the elemental logos.

Rules for the core game are below.  This is where we really would love some input, if you’re up for some experimentation.  These cards could be used for several different games, actually, especially if we make them hexagonal and have the outer gems sliced in half (so they could be placed side by side to create a whole gem, making for puzzles and position-based games), but for now we’re just looking to develop this one.  (The game is playable by 2 to 8 players, though there are special rules for two players.)  Words that are bold are key terms for the game.

Thank you everyone!


Chromaround 1.0

Card Components

Each card has a Core (large colored gem) that consists of one or two colors, and a set of smaller outer Gems that indicate what colors of opponent Cores that card can defeat.  A dual color Core is considered to be both colors, and therefore may be defeated by any other card that could defeat either of its colors.  The grey “chips” around the perimeter are placeholders and do not affect either offense or defense.  Each color has an attendant elemental logo to help identification, especially for color blind players, but these logos do not have a direct impact on play in this game.


Players are trying to collect the most points.  Each trick you collect is worth one point.  (For a more complex game, score by counting the Cores that you collect in tricks that you win.  Single color Cores are worth one point, dual color Cores are worth two points.)  A trick consists of the stack of cards after every player has played a single card.  (Two cards per player if playing with two players.)  

A round is completed when all players have exhausted their hands.  A game may consist of one round or several, depending on how long you’d like to play.  We suggest letting each player be the dealer once (change the dealer each round) as a simple baseline.  Record your cumulative score after each round.  The player with the most points after all rounds is the winner.


For each round, shuffle all the cards and deal 5 cards to each player.  (10 for each if you’re playing with two players.)  ***This is an easy place to suggest variation.  Odd numbers of cards make scoring less likely to produce ties, and fewer cards make play faster and decisions easier.  Two player games tend to play better when each player can play two cards per trick.***

Set aside the rest of the deck.  The rest of the deck is only used during play in a two player game.

Basic Play Structure

The first player plays any card from their hand.  This is the lead card for the trick.  (If you are playing with two players, for each trick, flip over the top card of the deck as the lead card, then proceed as usual.)

Each player must then play a card from their hand (see below in Card Interaction for how this works), taking turns in sequence.  After every player has played one card (two if playing with two players), the owner of the top card on the stack takes all of the cards in the stack.  (This is a trick, which is relevant for one style of scoring.)

The player who took the trick starts the next one, playing the next lead card (or card after the lead card if playing with two players).

Once all players have played all their cards, it is the end of a round, and you should record your scores.

Card Interaction

When a player must play a card, they may play any card they have in hand.  If the card played can defeat the top card already in play on the stack, it is placed on top of the stack and becomes the new top card.  If the card played cannot defeat the existing top card, it must be placed somewhere under it (order does not matter), and the existing top card retains its position on top.  (Keep track of what you play, since the player who played the card that remains the top card at the end of the trick claims the cards in the stack.)


And that should cover it.  It’s designed to be fairly simple and quick, at least before you start trying to plan a few plays ahead.

The big question we have is, well… is it fun?  Also, is it actually simple and quick?  Does it allow for any sort of strategies or interesting decisions, or is it so easy to play that there’s not much mental meat to it?  (That’s not enough to kill the game, but it could constrain its appeal to children learning colors and how to play card games… more of a gateway game rather than one to break out in more serious settings.)

We have two big structural questions beyond that, though.

One is about the cards and their Core-Gems system.  Presently, they are designed in two “paper rock scissors” triangles (primary colors clockwise and secondary colors counterclockwise) such that:

  • Blue always defeats Purple and Red
  • Red always defeats Orange and Yellow
  • Yellow always defeats Green and Blue
  • Purple always defeats Blue and Green
  • Green always defeats Yellow and Orange
  • Orange always defeats Red and Purple

This was a simple rule to allow for some element of memorization and planning, to see if it’s possible to force others to play into your longer term strategies.

It might prove more interesting to make the perimeter gems more varied by making the perimeter gems more arbitrary and not follow a pattern.  This would make planning almost impossible, but it may make for more varied and unpredictable play, for better or worse.  Would you like a more unpredictable set of outer gems on each card?  (This has considerations for alternate game rules as well, like card placement games, if we can get them made as hexagonal cards.)

Two, do the dual color Cores help or hinder the game?  There are some clear tiers of efficiency among color combinations, but dual color Cores might make the game too easy, meaning the last player in a trick is almost always going to be the one to win that trick, since most can defeat a wider array of other Cores, and each in turn can be defeated by a wider array of attackers.  The hope was to make the game more varied but still allow some planning, but they may not actually be performing that function.  They also make scoring more varied, with some more subtle decision making about when to play them, but maybe that effect is also not working, or is not interesting enough.

If the answer to the first question is “yes, make the perimeter gems more arbitrary and unpredictable” it would naturally affect the approach to the second question, as the cards could be balanced along different lines.  The dual color Cores are inherently a “more options on offense and more weaknesses on defense” sort of system, but they need not stay that way if the color defeat cycles are broken.


Thank you everyone for your interest and feedback!  Comments here or via email to tishtoshtesh at gmail will be most appreciated.

I can’t help but feel that there’s something here, but the game really needs to be put through the paces to see.  I look forward to any opinions or data points you might offer!


The deck is designed as a standard-ish 54 card deck.  That means you’ll print one of each of these and then three more copies of the simple single color Core cards (so there will be four copies of the single color Core cards and single copies of each of the dual color Core cards).  The backs are optional, of course.

ChromaroundPower ChromaroundSA1Pri ChromaroundSA1Sec ChromaroundSA2 ChromaroundSimple ChromaroundWeak ChromaroundBacks

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There are just over 24 hours left on my latest Kickstarter project, the Tinker Gearcoins.  We started with 3 coins on offer and 7 moulds ready to go for stretch goals… and we’re up to 15 coins and a lapel pin (to make one of them a miniature astrolabe).  I might try to make another one purely as an Add On.

So… things have gone well.  Thank you all for your help, and if you’ve a moment, please spread the word!

The campaign is here:

Tinker Gearcoins Steampunk Game Coins

Tinker Gearcoin Wall

And some photos are over on Pinterest:

My photos of the prototypes

Professor Candy’s photos

Oh, and we have the Havok & Hijinks coins up for sale over on our storefront.  We made these as a part of a crossover with Ferrel‘s card game Kickstarter.  It’s a sweet little game, and the coins work well as dragon treasure.

Dragon Affinity Coin Set

We’ll have more stuff up on the store eventually.  Since I’m officially unemployed and jobs are scarce, I’m trying to scrape things together to try to make my own products work.


(And yes, I’ll have a non Kickstarter post up later this week.  I’ve had ideas, I’m just really busy with too many things.)

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Yes, I still have things I’d like to write about games, game design, art and photography… but I’m neck deep in the whole “finding a job” thing.  I promise, we’re not going dark here at the blog, we’re just really busy.

In the meantime, though, I have a new Kickstarter campaign fired up!

Tinker Gearcoins

Tinker Gearcoin Wall

There are some other photos kicking around on Pinterest over here, if you want to see some more details of the prototype coins.  I’m really looking forward to getting these little gems made and sent out to people.  They have a lot of tinkering potential, I think, being coins that can actually function as gears.  The Gearchips were toothed well, but these Gearcoins have a hole in the middle for a pin, so they can be pinned to something and spin freely.

It’s going to be fun, seeing what people come up with.

Thanks, everyone!  Please spread the word if you have a moment.  This one, like the Tinker Dice campaign, will definitely benefit from stretch goals, so the more the merrier!

Oh, and we got some word that the Gearpunk Dice should be done soon.  We’re getting the latest prototypes in the mail Monday, and I’m hoping we can approve them for full production.  They sent us a photo to tide us over, but I’ll post some beauty shots as soon as I can.

new dice samples (2)

Next time, I’m going to try to finish up a bit of a rant about Marvel Puzzle Quest… again.

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Tinker Oddments

This is a simple enough post… we’re just looking for a little feedback on what future projects we might windup doing in the Tinker stable of fun metal gaming oddments (well, all but the potential plastic Tinker Dice).  If you’ve a moment to opine for us, we’d love your input.

Thanks!  (If the surveys aren’t showing, this is an alternate link to the PollDaddy version:  Tinkering with the Future)

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I loved Puzzle Quest.  I loved the sequel, PQ: Galactrix.  I really like Bret Airborne, though I found that I was a bit frustrated by the campaign’s limited “lives” (though the core of the game is really great).

So, when I caught wind of a new Puzzle Quest, I had to investigate.

Specifically, it’s Marvel Puzzle Quest.  It’s on Steam, but I’ve been playing on my phone thanks to Google Play.

It’s… different.  Some really good parts, some… less so.  At its heart, though, it’s still Puzzle Quest, and I do recommend it.  (For an entertaining video review, check out TotalBiscuit’s one over thisaway.)


It’s match three combat, with bonus abilities powered by matches.  That’s the heart of PQ, and it’s strong here.  There’s a twist or two, though:

It’s three-on-three combat, with each team fielding three units.  This is a nice expansion of the mechanics, as you can shuffle around your team by making matches strategically, allowing you to have a “tank” that keeps itself healthy and “DPS” units that hang back and use damaging abilities.  There are even healer units.  Yeah, it’s a weak trinity design in some ways, which can often be kind of trite, but it’s a nice expansion of the PQ systems.  Building around the trinity isn’t necessary, either, but it’s there if you want to use it.  Smart planning of overlapping abilities and specialties can make for a strong team, and figuring that out and then executing smart play is the heart of the game, I think.  That said, if your team isn’t all about at the same level, your weakest character may never actually step to the front of the team to take the hits.  That might be a good thing if that’s your damage dealer, but this isn’t always ideal.

It’s fast.  Faster than PQ has been before now, at least.  That may not be good for everyone, but I like it.  Every single match you make does damage.  There are no “skull” tiles that are alone in their ability to damage.  Every move you make helps you somehow, and that’s a Good Thing.  Certainly, making matches in colors you can use for abilities or that your characters do more damage with (usually the same thing, though not always) is usually the right decision, but even if you’re forced to make a subpar match for defense or to set up a combo, it will still help out a little.

It’s fairly pretty.  Yes, it’s a match-3 game, so it doesn’t need a lot to look good, compared to a Gears of War or Kingdom Hearts, but it has clean, readable UI and an overall good design.  Character portraits and action shots are static images that get a little Flash magic applied to them, and it works pretty well.  There’s a bit too much rim lighting for my taste, but that’s a rant for another day.  Overall, it’s a nicely presented product.

It’s Marvel.  I like some of the Marvel characters, so their IP is a nice touch for me.  The characters have abilities that fit their theme as well, like Captain America’s tactical shield strikes that “boomerang” back to give you more power for a repeat strike, or Thor’s pure, unadulterated beatdown, with all three of his special abilities doing direct damage.  The flavor of the characters and mechanics going together is a nice touch, and in its way, more interesting than the generic fantasy abilities of the original PQ.  Yes, you had four classes in that game, but their unique abilities were often superseded by found abilities. That’s one of the strengths of that game, to be honest, but in this PQ, being limited to the three prebaked abilities (albeit of different power levels depending on your cover build) per character isn’t necessarily a bad thing, as it allows for more experiments to see which characters synergize best for your playstyle.  It’s not too far removed from the original game in that you’re effectively fielding a team with a handful of abilities, where in the older game, you’d have a single character with a handful of abilities.  Making smart choices of what to bring to the fight when you’re limited is a big part of the strategy of the game.  Limitations aren’t always a Bad Thing.  And yet…


The progression is… dumb.  (TotalBiscuit’s video covers it well, but I’ll also expand here.)  The experience system in previous PQ games was great, as you could build your character or skills just by playing (experience gems were part of the combat board).  This cover-and-ISO system is far too random and finding rarer covers (presently there are four levels of rarity) makes the rarer characters far less useful than common characters.  You’ll have a very difficult time acquiring all the characters and once you do, it’s going to be very hard to make them all competitive.  It may be exciting to get an Invisible Woman cover, as I did rather unexpectedly, but when she’s limited to level 30 until you get more covers, and your Uncommon team is nearly maxxed out at lv. 85, she’s a bit underwhelming for a character that should be special, because she’s rare.  (It’s a bit like Magic: The Gathering in that regard, if all the rares were big, splashy, overcosted creatures, except there’s no secondary market to take the edge off the sting, and the present Legendary characters all have big power costs, meaning quick Uncommon or Rare characters would make short work of them anyway while the Legendaries scrape together enough energy to use their abilities.)

Characters with two skill colors can max out their abilities.  Characters with three skill colors can only power up 13 out of a total 15 slots (five levels of each power).  I get that game devs think that “decisions should matter”, but this is inconsistent.  There is also no way to respec your character if you build it in a way that you don’t like.  If you don’t like your choices of those 13 (and there’s no way to look more than one power level ahead, so you must go to a wiki to properly plan ahead, a twinkie denial condition in my book), you have to just build the character all over again, with new covers and more ISO-8.  (Apparently, the devs are looking into a respec system, but this is the sort of thing that should have been designed better far earlier than now.)

ISO-8 is how you actually level up your characters.  The covers level up the powers and raise the character’s maximum level, and ISO-8 expenditure is how you actually have the character grow in their basic attack power and health.  ISO-8 is earned fairly easily from fights, events or redoing fights… but it seems to come at a slower pace than experience in older PQ games, and trying to grind out ISO-8 by replaying old missions is a VERY slow process.

Common, Uncommon, Rare and Legendary characters have disparate power levels… too disparate.  Beside the trouble of finding enough covers to fully realize the rarer characters, if you do happen to get one of each tier to their maximum level, you’re probably looking at a level 40 character, a level 85 character, a level 141 character and a level 230 character.  This difference in power is absurd.  I’d have made them all have the same power caps and let special ability and playstyle synergy keep things interesting.  As it is, if I were to have the two existing Legendary characters maxxed out and a Rare character at level max, there’s almost no way that any different team would be competitive against me.  The Rare character’s lower power would be so small a part of my team’s overall power that it almost doesn’t matter who is in that slot, aside from absurdly strong abilities that might be on offer, and a team of Rare characters would have a tough time beating the Legendaries, even with their slower powers, just because of the massive power difference in basic match attack power and health pools.

PvP is weird.  It’s not actually against other players, it’s against their team, but the AI is driving.  Since the AI is a little flaky (it plays too offensively, with too little defense or disruption, and doesn’t seem to see cascade opportunities or right angle “five” matches), it’s a less than satisfying proposition if you really want to test your skills.  The matchmaking system is rather annoying as well.  And the “progression” rewards for winning matches, well… they are more of a tease than anything to really aim for.  You’ll almost never get more than a few tiers in, just because of how the scoring system keeps pulling you back down when your AI-controlled team loses.

Health packs are… not cool.  Damage your characters take is persistent between matches, and while your characters do heal naturally over time, it’s very sloooooow.  Health packs are consumables that restore a character to full health, but they are throttled over time as well.  I’m not sure if there’s a limit to how many you can carry (I think the limit is ten, but I haven’t verified that), and they regenerate over time as well, but they are slow to regenerate (35 minutes or so each), and if you spend all of yours, the natural regeneration only regrows so many.  You’ll usually only have the five that the automatic regeneration gets you (you can pick up extras as rewards).  It seems designed for mobile gaming, with long breaks between play sessions, but it’s a troublesome throttle.  It’s a monetization vector, but it’s one of the more annoying ones.

Finding covers is a gamble.  You win or buy “recruitment tokens” that are an awful lot like coins.  You then put those in a sort of slot machine and hope you get something useful out of it.  You’ll get a cover each time, but most of the time it will be something that you don’t want, and have to sell for a pittance in ISO-8.  This is better than a box full of useless Magic: The Gathering commons, but only barely.  (Check out these two videos for more fun in this vein.)  I’m decidedly not a fan of this sort of thing in general (though I love MTG drafting), and it only exacerbates the problems with the cover progression system.  There is no cover trading, no way to trade a red Wolverine cover for a yellow one, so you wind up with a lot of useless junk.


It’s Free to Play.  This kind of annoys me, actually, since I think it’s tied to the cover system.  I don’t begrudge them the Hero Point system, at least not the way I’ve used it.  I just use the Hero Points to expand my roster, allowing for me to collect more characters.  It’s like buying character slots in a F2P MMO, and I’m OK with that.  The other uses of Hero Points, though, from shields to protect PvP score to buying recruit tokens… those are closer to “pay to win” and “lockbox” purchases that I’m not fond of.  And yet… it’s free.  You can download it and just start playing.  You can do a lot without spending money, and that’s pretty cool.

Still, I really wish I could just get the game via a single purchase and play it single player.  I suspect this would allow for the hero levels and rarities to be normalized, quicker and more even progression (single player games don’t have to worry about keeping up with the Joneses), and ultimately, more exploration of character synergies.

…in sum, I do have a lot of little complaints with the game, but they are almost entirely on the progression side.  The core gameplay is really good, and I wish that the progression side would facilitate that better.  I’d have done that with a very flat level curve (no inherent advantage given to rarer characters) and drop the cover system, but you can’t win them all, I suppose.  It’s definitely possible to just play and have fun with whatever team you can scrape together, you just won’t have a great deal of success in PvP or PvE races without some luck in the progression scheme getting covers you want, and enough ISO-8 to make your team stronger.

I’ve been lucky to get a max level Thor and Captain America, as well as a midlevel Hulk, Hawkeye and Wolverine, and they have carried me to a fair bit of success.  I placed in the top ten (out of 1000+ players) of the most recent week-long PvE competition, scoring in the top 50 in half the two-day overlapping mini phases, in the top 10 in most of the others, and top 2 in one of them.  I didn’t get the top spot, but I wasn’t far behind.  It took a fair bit of time overall, but it was fun to play, so it worked out.  The way that the scoring opportunities “regenerate” during events means playing every 8 hours or so… but it doesn’t take a lot of time in each play session to scrape out a handful of high-scoring matches and stay ahead of the curve.

I’ve been able to have a fair bit of success in the game without spending anything other than time.  I count that as a successful game… though I’d still really like to get a single player single purchase version with some of the more annoying F2P barnacles scraped off.

…and yes, I think F2P can be done well.  I’m just not all that happy with this implementation.  You really can do a lot without spending money in the game, but I find myself stubbornly refusing to spend money, wishing rather for the ability to spend on the game the way I’d prefer to.

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