Posts Tagged ‘Gamevil’

Kingdom Royale

Uncategorized | Posted by davidludwig
Dec 10 2012

Well, as I get ready to buckle down and delve into Arel Wars 2–with the intention of writing the strategy guide as I go this time–it seems time to discuss other offerings by the company, Gamevil. Unfortunately, I don’t have much good to report. Arel Wars wasn’t nearly what it could have been–it should have been amazing but small easy-to-fix problems reduced it to okay, which is fine since the game was free, but I still wish it had been worth putting money toward since I would have very much liked to.

That said, as far as I’ve discovered Arel Wars is by far Gamevil’s best effort. Other of their titles I tried lacked even the promise that Arel Wars should have lived up to, and most of them were so bad they didn’t stay on my phone for even a day and thus don’t merit a review.

Kingdom Royale is an interesting middle ground, whose place on my phone is probably going after this review but managed to at least engage me for a time.

Kingdom Royale has an amazing design aesthetic to it–which sadly is all the further too many iPhone Apps seem to bother going–and in the vein of Arel Wars is an all out fantasy war game. I didn’t catch what the storyline was since they give you about one second to read a whole screen of text and I couldn’t find any way to go back to it–but I did catch that there was one and that seemed cool.

I’m not a great strategist, which is part of my chagrin at having to write the Arel Wars strategy guide, so simple effective strategies really appeal to me. In this regard I am very much a fan of Kingdom Royale’s double-layered Rocks-Paper-Scissors mechanic. In true RPG style, your units are defined by a combination of their race and class.

Orcs beat Humans, who beat Elves, who beat Orcs–but also Melee beats Range, which beats Magic, which beats Melee. That seems to me like enough to be really interesting to play with–say an Orc Melee unit against an Elf Ranged unit would be a fairly even match against each other or against a Human Magic unit, but reverse the classes in the first pairing and the Orc gets curb-stomped. Those sorts of mechanics are really fun for me to play with, and figuring out the troop roster to take into any given battle, who assign to guard duty and how many of each unit to keep in reserve makes me happy.

Even better, you don’t have to choose a faction when you play! All players have access to all three races and can produce and maintain troops as they see fit. I don’t mind having to choose a faction, and admittedly my play style heavily favors my elven units, but the completionist in me really loves the idea of being able to get everything–every unit, every structure–on a single play through. So I play elves whenever I can, but sometimes having exactly the right unit for any given job is immensely satisfying.

Now, Kingdom Royale is one of those resource oriented games where the passage of real time–whether you’re in the game or not–is required to build up the resources to build your structures and produce your units. That’s not an inherently bad thing to me, it can be nice to come back with a sense of progress after leaving your phone alone for an extended period.

Unfortunately I believe the actual implementation of resources in Kingdom Royale is one of its unforgivable gaffs. That’s right, I have good things to say about the game but this will not be a positive review over all.

The first three resources you work with are Gold, Wood, and Food. Gold is used in everything you do–and is proportionally easy to come by. Wood is used more heavily in the construction and improvement of structures and fortifications, while Food is significant to the production of units. All three of these resources are actually quite well handled–frequently used but easy enough to come by. Another thing the game does right is the general store in your secure home area where you can exchange one resource type for another if you need something other than what you’ve got in a hurry.

The next three resources I liked in concept, Sapphires associated with Human units, Amethysts with Elven units, and Emeralds with Orc units. These are a little harder to come by and later upgrades demand quantities that can be difficult to collect, but early in the game you can secure sources of Sapphires and Amethysts safe from seizure by other players so even if holding and taking ground against others is proving difficult you can still get the resources you need given enough time. No such luck with Emeralds. The first source of Emeralds is a little further in to the game, and is hotly contested enough I was never able to hold it long enough to have any pretensions about building any sort of meaningful force of orcs. I would have been fine with this, but even humans and elves start requiring some Emeralds once you begin producing 4th level units.

The final three resources are the ultra rare, Diamonds, Opals and “Crowns”–with the latter primarily being obtained by paying real world money into the game. The balance of supply and demand for these resources seems fairly reasonable to me, but I’ll never get far enough in the game to say whether this holds true to the end. I’ve got a sinking suspicion it doesn’t.

See, the difficulty of obtaining Emeralds–one of the core three gem types–throws the whole economy out of balance even before factoring the exponential price increases that far outstrip any sort of resource income I could envision having achieved.

I love the character design of the units, and find the sound from music to effects to voices spot on for the game. I even discovered that it is possible for a unit to gain experience and become more powerful–without you having to spend half a day training the entire unit type, or just buying the next level up of the race/class combination. This is an awesome touch that really lines up with my preference for developing an elite team with as few casualties as possible.

Unfortunately, the reality of the situation is that there’s virtually nowhere to train your units up. The storyline missions are all only played once before moving you on, and the enemies become stronger faster than your units can–and I have yet to meet a player who just offers up their fodder units for you to train on and then take their land. Also, when on offense–as you will generally be–your units can be killed and then are gone along with potentially the vast amount of resources spent producing the higher level ones.

Your main keep has a hospital where defense units, or offense units who weren’t actually reduced to zero health, can recuperate over time. If there were better odds on a unit being sent to the hospital rather than killed then even in loss a player could build their forces up and do better next time–but as it actually stands when you lose you lose big.

It is technically possible to alleviate the deficit of any resource (Emeralds being the prime offender) by building structures dedicated to harnessing that resource on a limited number of vacant land plots within your secure home area. Unfortunately, Sapphires, Emeralds, Diamonds and Opals all require Crowns to build their structures–unlike the others that can be built with in-game resources. Since the game never convinced me it was worth money, and I burned crowns on unit resurrections while I was still learning the game, getting a reasonable supply of Emeralds is out of the question for me, and thus so is advancing through the game.

The challenge curve is the last problem with the game I think is worth mentioning–because between the rapid scaling of challenges and the rapid scaling of costs I found it completely inconceivable that I could ever really get anywhere in the game. If the Player versus Player element happened on a separate map and resources gained on the regular map were retained, or if there were at least a secure source of Emeralds that would be different. But as is I reached the 12th area of Payro with the first real boss enemy and found that no combination of units I could produce could stand up to him without devastatingly high losses (Spoiler Alert: You have to fight him more than once in that area) that would take days of play for me to recuperate from.

So I was stuck unable to get the resources I needed to build up my forces, unable to advance the single-player storyline, unable to complete the side-quests (which advance in difficulty as rapidly as the core missions), and unable to defeat other players in such a way that I gained more than I lost. So at this point the only thing I can do is log in and collect resources from my safe sources, and that just isn’t fun at all.

The good news is that since playing the game is free, there’s no real reason not to try it for yourself and form your own opinion if you think it even might be different from mine–plus you can benefit from my folly and spend your crowns getting an Emerald mine in your home area rather than on unit healing/resurrection.

I give the game 3 of 5 stars–similar to Arel Wars. I’m certain there’s something there, I love the aesthetic and I definitely feel it actually is a game–I just can’t seem to find the way in to it. One difference is that Arel Wars could have easily been a 5 star game if they’d bothered fixing what I felt were obvious errors… Kingdom Royale could probably get up to 4 stars if they fixed their wonky resource availability/expense balance, but getting all the way to 5 would take serious work and require more story and character for me.

Still on Arel Wars

Uncategorized | Posted by davidludwig
May 14 2012

So there will be no new My Phone Monday post this week, because I’m fervently working on my Arel Wars Strategy Guide. For Helba and Juno at least the game desperately needs one, and since I couldn’t find any (except one for Vincent) I have taken it upon myself to craft my own strategy guide for the game.

Juno’s guide is done (my first and still preferred faction), but Helba’s is taking a little longer to complete. I do not anticipate any difficulties whatsoever with putting up my own account of Vincent’s campaign however.

I have beat the game with all three factions and am happy to answer questions if my guide doesn’t (either currently or in general) cover said questions. I am, however, playing through the game again with each faction (in Hard mode) as a refresher for what the missions were and what difficulties I encountered on my way through, so completion of the guides is somewhat contingent upon actually beating the game again.

And that’s the problem. Turns out there’s a difference between being able to complete a mission once and being able to repeat the performance–let alone explain how to complete that mission so someone else I may never meet can also complete it. As of right now I have 35/40 Stages complete in Hard Mode for Helba, but have stalled because of difficulties following my own recommended unit levels in Hard Mode (which I still think would be better labeled “New Game+”, but admittedly is quite Hard by the end).

You see, in Hard Mode the computer is fielding “x2″ versions of the units you fight in the Normal play-through–and the units you get as quest rewards are also of the “x2″ variety. That’s the only difference. Of course with the computer playing x2 units I also want to play x2 units–but the gold costs to upgrade x2 units is RIDICULOUSLY high.

This isn’t necessarily anything wrong with the game, upgrading x2 units being more expensive makes a lot of sense–and it is technically “Hard Mode”. However it is slowing down my ability to complete the last 5 Stages so I can post Helba’s walk-through as I already have for Juno’s.

If I could have one wish for Hard Mode–which is totally separate from my recommendations at the end of my Arel Wars Review to actually fix problems with the game–it would be that the units gained from replaying stages were also of the x2 variety, since selling those excess units would provide the gold necessary to upgrade the x2 units I’m keeping. So unlike the recommended fixes I don’t think this is necessary to make Arel Wars the game it should have been (should have been 5 Stars), and rather is just something I would personally appreciate.

Right now my intention is to without fail post Helba’s Strategy Guide this week. If I am unable to beat Hard Mode in that time, then I’ll just have to post what I’ve got and then update as necessary later.

That’s all for now.

Arel Wars Review

Uncategorized | Posted by davidludwig
Apr 30 2012

And now I’m finally going to review Gamevil‘s “Arel Wars“, the original reason I thought reviewing the applications on my iPhone would be a good thing to do for this site. I really want to like Arel Wars. I want to love it.

A tower defense fantasy strategy game, there is a lot to love about Arel Wars. Three totally distinct factions, each with their own play-styles, strengths and weaknesses that I think balance out beautifully. Juno and her elves excel in the late game thanks to powerful units and a focus on resource building and ranged combat, Vincent and his humans play the mid-game by building quick and having respectable units, and finally Helba and his Busters play the early game by rushing out of the gate and try to win before their opponent has even gotten started.

There are even three developed story-lines through the three campaigns in the game, with 40 stages to each campaign. These stories intersect at various points, and playing all three gives you a much more complete picture. So why don’t I actually love this game? Because for a free game it displays a level of avarice, incongruous with its status as a free game, that is absolutely nauseating.

Here’s a little lesson on the world of Drusilla, where Arel Wars is set. There are two major currencies. Gold is the first, and is obtained in the usual way for such games–by accomplishing goals and defeating enemies. Cash is the other currency, and while available as a rare prize in-game (and a free bonus for your first file) is primarily obtained by paying real money to Gamevil.

Everything Gold can do Cash can do better, Cash can do things Gold can’t do, and to top it all off Gold has a tendency to fail at its most critical function (upgrading your units). Throw on top of that challenges that by mid game expect either flawless strategy or else heavy expenditure of currency to even advance. I wouldn’t object to Cash adding value to the game, but it feels like the developers were so hung up on how to leech more money from their customers that the fact that they actually made a good game is mostly a happy coincidence. Instead of making a game people wanted to pay money to see more of or show support for, the approach was instead to make a game that claimed to be free and then demanded unsubtly named “Cash” to continue enjoying the game.

This critical decision–in my opinion error–on Gamevil’s part has ensured that the game won’t see a penny from me so long as it remains a money-drain first and a game second. That said, many frustrated hours have resulted in my discovery of ways to play and enjoy the free game without paying for it. So anyone interested in enjoying a solid fantasy-strategy game without being cheated out of your money should be happy to know that I will be posting my own strategy guide for Arel Wars on this site, which should get you through both Normal and Hard Modes without having to pay any money.

We of course miss out on the awesome Hero Units and Permanent Items among other things that I think would be good places to spend real money if it weren’t for the amount of real money being asked… But no matter how powerful the unit is, I don’t think a single digital unit is worth $5 of real money–especially when there are 6 such units and I’m a completionist and could never be happy with a partial set.

Fights like Helba, Handles Mana like Juno

Specialized in production of soldiers. Has high Attack Strength and a fast Movement Speed. A Powerful Melee Unit.

So this should be a Great Game, and because it’s free that should mean a five star rating… Unfortunately they shot themselves in the foot. Repeatedly. With a shotgun.

My final rating for Arel Wars is 3 of 5 Stars. It’s an okay game, and because it’s free there’s no real risk in trying it out and coming to your own conclusion. I’ll just be forever irked that it’s little things keeping it from living up to its amazing potential.

I find the variety of typos and grammatical difficulties in the game endearing. They could be fixed, but wouldn’t change my opinion of the game. The following items could actually change my star rating though;

Guaranteed Gold Upgrades: If Unit Upgrades paid for with Gold, the legitimately “in-game” currency, did not have the failure chance they currently have that would be worth a whole extra star all by itself. I wouldn’t mind level caps based on your Hero’s level, or what stage you’re on (which seem to be factors anyway), or if Cash could bypass those limitations. I just don’t want to spend over 3,000 Gold Pieces (average Gold reward for a mission ranges from 30 to 400 depending on what stage it is) and get nothing but a message saying “the upgrade failed”.

Reduced Cash Costs: I think Cash is involved in way too much, and should maybe get out of Unit Upgrades altogether, but either way I think a 50% reduction in Cash Costs would go a long way toward generating appropriate return for investment. With a 50% reduction I could get all 6 Hero units for $15 instead of $30, still a bit steep but I’m pretty sure I’d pay it (partially because Arel Wars is a good game and I’d like to give it money). Alone not worth a star though.

Cash Sharing: Right now you can have 3 save files on a single phone, which matches nicely with the 3 factions/heroes/stories. But each file has its own separate finances, both Gold and Cash. Also alone not worth a star, but implemented with the reduced costs and the Guaranteed Gold Upgrades could get Arel Wars back to the five stars it should have had.

 

Feel free to check the game out and form your own opinions though. I’ve beat it with all three heroes, so if you need help feel free to contact me or check out my Arel Wars Strategy Guide.