Hey everyone! I’m establishing this new category of game reviews on my blog that I think will open up a lot more topics for me to write on, so I’m pretty psyched to try this out. I’ve been considering it for a while, but always held back on reviews because so many people already do them. Then, I had an epiphany. I want to give you more than just a standard review, so stay tuned and I hope you enjoy what is to come.
Today, I want to look at a game called Game of War: Fire Age. It is a freemium MMO strategy game for mobile (iOS and Android), but before we get into the review, let’s discuss what freemium is and take a look at the history behind this whole thing. Freemium refers to a pricing strategy whereby a game is released to the consumer for free. The game only charges money for certain features, functionality, or virtual goods. Having played MMOs in the past on PC and console, it was typically frowned upon to pay cash for in game currency or items, thereby circumventing the hard work involved in attaining these things. This was typically due to the in-game economy which mobile games tend not to have. In essence, what was once considered a hindrance to cooperative online MMOs has become a common place and acceptable form of gameplay. The best part is that games that utilize this pricing strategy don’t suffer from it and can become quite successful.
So how did all of this come to be? Real-time strategy games began as early as 1982 with a game called Utopia on the Intellivision. Two players took turns establishing a civilization on an island, exactly how we would imagine RTS today. There were no grand wars, however, as the game was decided by points. The game basically established the genre and made way for a far more popular and familiar title, Warcraft, a massively popular RTS that spawned sequels and expansions. Other well-known titles include Age of Empires, StarCraft, and even Halo Wars.
RTS is actually a sub-category of the more broad term, MMO (massively multiplayer online). These types of games range from any of a number of sub-categories, such as building games, flight simulators, and first-person shooters. Pretty much any game can be an MMO and it seems we are moving further in that direction as online gameplay is pushed harder and harder every year. Of course, this social aspect is not a new concept. Video games practically evolved from the idea of playing with others. The idea of playing online was first implemented by Mazewar in 1974. It was a computer based FPS playable on the forerunner to the modern internet, ARPAnet. Today, you’d be struggling to find a new game that doesn’t support online multi-player.
Even freemium has an interesting history as the model has been used since the 80’s. You might recognize it as that little pesky pop-up that says “Would you like to purchase Win-Zip?” Computer programs have been releasing freeware for years in an attempt to get you to buy the full version and unlock parts you didn’t have access to. What would initially seem like a new way to pay is, in fact, dated. Our home game consoles are becoming more like PCs every year, is it any wonder all of these elements managed to come together to create a unique gaming experience? Funnily enough, even Warcraft evolved from an RTS into an MMORPG with purchasable in-game content.
With a little history in mind, how does Game of War: Fire Age stack up? I’ve played lots of freemium games and usually found disappointment. For me, clicking a “build” button and waiting three hours is not my idea of fun, but game of War does not leave me hanging. Yes, I have to wait, but this is an RTS after all. The beauty of it is that the wait time is not a game killer. I still have plenty of other things to do in-game and often find the timer flying by as I tap away. It is an RTS in every sense of the word and an enjoyable one, as well.
The MMO aspect of the gaming has a degree of depth. You have to join an alliance to survive after the 24 hour safe period. I managed to join one, but, unfortunately, I’m not a big social gamer so that aspect is still a bit of a mystery to me. Perusing the chat reveals rather technical strategies for growing as a community and it all seems very active with a new block of text coming in every few seconds. I even saw text translated from other languages. It’s obvious that the creators wanted this to be a highly social game!
The graphics are quite nice and colorful from the isometric perspective. Everything is distinguishable and your little kingdom is easy to navigate on the touch screen, as it should be. The sound is good, although the background music tends to be repetitive. Each little award is marked by a chime which I enjoy because it tells me when tasks are complete without me staring at the phone in anticipation. This makes it easy to multi-task and play at the same time. And I have to point out that at no time did I feel overly pressured to make an in-game purchase.
Should you download and play this game? If you are a fan of RTS, particularly MMOs, absolutely! The tutorial is quick and the game is easy to pick up, but be prepared for a learning curve when it comes to alliances. I went into this game blind, but I would recommend reading about alliances beforehand, perhaps even during your 24 hour safety period as you build your kingdom. I would honestly say that in a sea of bad freemium games, this one stands above the rest. But don’t take my word for it, it’s free! Go download it and try it out yourself!