Uncasual: Avengers Alliance and Game of Thrones Ascent
Posted by Jordan
I feel like a failure, Dear Reader. Week after week I promise to bring you a Facebook game worthy of play, nay, worthy of the title ‘game’. Thus far I have found experiences which act like addictions but pretend to be farming simulators; war’games’ which hold little entertainment or narrative value; and hidden picture adventures ranging from the morbid to the wacky, but none all that amazing. What is the solution to this dilemma? Who can save us from a world of pixelated graphics and microtransactions? What can bring some innovation to this genre? Keep reading to see if I found a game this week worth playing.
As I wrestled with these existential questions, I settled on a possible solution. Superheroes! Superheroes always make things better. And so I fired up Marvel: Avengers Alliance, hoping against hope that this would be THE game that would prove, once and for all, that Facebook is a valid medium for an entertaining and engaging experience. Unfortunately, my hopes were in vain.
Marvel: Avengers Alliance starts off quite good. Your character is introduced as a new agent of S.H.I.E.L.D., an organization tasked with saving the world from any threat too large for the government. Through comic book style graphics, you build a team of Avengers and wage turn-based war on evil mutants and aliens. What could be better, right? Well, a lot of things, apparently. See, underneath the varnish of superheroes, this game is exactly the same as almost every other turn-based combat game on Facebook, and actually has quite a bit in common with Farmville and War Commander.
You must deal with a variety of objects which can only be gained through pestering your friends; you must ask your friends to help staff your helicarrier before you can progress to the next mission; and you must manage no less than four different currencies: silver, for purchasing weapons for your heroes, ‘command points’ which allow you to recruit more heroes, ‘S.H.I.E.L.D. points’ which are spent on research and upgrades, and gold, which is used to purchase ‘premium’ items. Gold, of course, is garnered at a rate of one per level. The average premium item costs anywhere from 20 to 100 gold. You do the math. Of course, you can always pay real money for gold as well…
This system of multiple currencies and friend spamming is the norm across every Facebook game I’ve played. No one seems to have any innovation in how to make these games financially viable – they just follow the trend of locking away a few heroes, horses, or cool buildings behind a paywall and hoping that people get so sick of spamming their friends and playing with substandard weapons that they break open the credit card. Underneath the gloss, they’re all really the same game.
I tried one other game this week as well, and actually found myself nearly enjoying it. That game was Game Of Thrones: Ascent. This too is essentially the same game under the varnish, with both gold and silver currencies, but the difference here is that Game Of Thrones: Ascent has a driving narrative which pulls you along. Each quest is part of a larger overarching storyline, and moral choices are made by the player which influence the overarching story. Always wanted to be a sneaky merchant who bribed his way into being a lord? Now you can.
The game plays like an interactive story. You get high-level control over what goes on in your little province, but no direct control. For instance, you can tell your sworn-sword knight to attack a neighboring castle, but you don’t control the attack yourself. You simply weigh the odds of completion, and wait to see what happens. Unfortunately I wasn’t able to play Game Of Thrones: Ascent very much as the game is still in beta, and suffering some pretty terrible lag. Their fan page promises that this will be fixed by the time you read this, Dear Reader, so go ahead and check it out.
Well, I don’t really know what I’m going to write about next time, so be prepared for ANYTHING. Well, anything to do with the weird wacky world of Facebook Games, that is. Until next time, Dear Reader!