Tag Archives: free to play

Go Ahead And Do Every ‘Optional’ Tutorial In The Complex New Gundam Battle Game

Bandai Namco’s free-to-play PlayStation 4 mech combat game Mobile Suit Gundam Battle Operation 2 came out in North America yesterday. It features fast-paced multiplayer battles on land and in space that players will surely fail at unless they complete every optional tutorial and put in some time in the game’s practice area. I learned this the hard way.

There are dozens of Gundam video games, many of which I’ve played to great success. But none of them, from the Dynasty Warriors-style hack-and-slash spin-offs to the mobile toy-battling games to the thoughtful turn-based strategy titles, prepared me for the intense combat of Battle Operation 2. It’s a third-person competitive multiplayer game with a focus on collecting and upgrading various types of mechs. It’s a game that requires anyone with the patience to create the perfect weapon loadout and familiarize themselves with the machine they’ve chosen to pilot.

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Battle Operation 2’s opening tutorial leads players through the most basic functions of piloting a Gundam in combat. It gets the fundamentals out of the way—shooting, switching weapons, jumping, thruster movement— and then it sets the player free to fail miserably. That is until they go back to the Information Center in home base and complete the rest of the tutorials, which again, are optional (but shouldn’t be). For example, I had no idea that I could cancel out the pause after swinging my Gundam’s melee weapon by using maneuvering jets to initiate fast movement. After losing my first four team matches miserably, I learned that helpful tip in the Intermediate tutorial menu.. The same tutorial taught me that my preferred Gundam, the G-Line Light Armor, had the ability to perform emergency evasion by pressing the X button twice.

There is a whole lot else going on in Mobile Suit Gundam Battle Operation 2 other than multiplayer battles. It’s also a gacha game, where players spend in-game currency on random rolls for Gundams and equipment. Since the game just launched in North America, new players are showered with gifts to get them hooked on the feeling, resulting in an inventory filled with shiny robot war toys. If it weren’t for the fact that I have to advance in rank to Lance Corporal (I’m currently only a Private 2nd Class) to unlock painting, I’d spend all day in my hanger, making my Gundams look pretty.

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The shower of giant robots is also why it pays to play around in the game’s practice mode. Players can take any Gundam they own into any of the game’s nine battle maps, which provide an excellent opportunity to get used to the lay of the land without distractions. Stationary enemy drones give players an opportunity to see how their weapons fire, the damage they do, and their recharge rates—all things important to know in the heat of battle.

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Between fights, Mobile Suit Gundam Battle Operation 2 has players loitering about a military base. It’s pretty meta; giant screens advertise the latest Gundams in the gacha machine. There’s a man who players visit to receive in-game rewards, and a woman whose job it is to sell players Gundams, gear, and gadgets. This in-game store is reminiscent of the most obnoxious free-to-play mobile games, with large, colorful fonts and dazzling images advertising limited-time sales specials.

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Fortunately, most of this tacky nonsense falls away once it’s time to fight. Teams of up to six players per side battle for territory on a series of sprawling maps. They’ll earn points for capturing control points, destroying enemy mechs, and blowing up the enemy base by ejecting from the cockpit and having their pilot plant a bomb. There are several good reasons to hop out of your ride during battle, like capturing points, hijacking enemy mechs, or doing repairs. I’m terrified every time I do it.

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But I’m getting more confident. The more I play with my preferred mech, the more comfortable I feel ensconced in its protective metal shell. I’m learning when to engage with enemies and when to hang back. I’m getting to know my weapons. I live for and by my Pale Rider’s devastating hyper beam rifle with its charged shots, while keeping my gatling cannon ready for when the rifle recharges. I have almost, but not quite, gotten the hang of maneuvering in space, thanks to spending time with those advanced tutorials and in practice mode.

Earlier today I was on the winning team for the first time. I attribute that win to those tutorials, the practice sessions, and sheer luck. My space maneuvering isn’t perfect, and several of my deaths could have been avoided, but the taste of victory is intoxicating nonetheless.

I won’t stop practicing. Every time I get a new Gundam or new custom parts, when I increase in rank and unlock new facilities, I’ll practice. Even when I reach Lance Corporal and unlock the ability to paint my mech, I’ll pop into practice mode to make sure my machines look good before they make their big debut. After all, 75 percent of any Gundam game is staring at the pretty robots.

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These are some really pretty robots.

Source: Kotaku.com

Mario Kart Tour’s Microtransactions Feel Gross In A Post-Apple Arcade World

Mario Kart Tour is a fine racing game. The graphics are lovely. The simple touch controls are fine once you get used to them. It’s overflowing with colorful Nintendo brand polish. Mario Kart Tour is also a free-to-play game with a microtransaction-fueled gacha collection mechanic and game options and rewards locked behind a paid monthly subscription. If that second part doesn’t bother you, you might have a good time with Nintendo’s latest mobile game.

“Nintendo games still don’t feel right on mobile,” wrote Gita Jackson in late 2017, commenting on the strange dissonance felt while playing games like Fire Emblem Heroes, Super Mario Run, and Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp after years playing the deeper console games in those series. Two years later, after Dr. Mario World and now Mario Kart Tour, and that dissonance remains. Games we’ve spent years playing on Nintendo consoles feel weird on phones and tablets. Especially when a game like Mario Kart gets turned on its side.

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In part, I mean that literally. What an odd choice, taking a game we’re used to playing in landscape mode and making it portrait. The narrow screen makes it more difficult to see competitors coming up alongside your racer. It’s not a great view on my iPad. It’s even worse on my skinnier iPhone. Having played the game for a couple of hours now, I still feel the urge to turn the whole thing around in my hands.

I’m used to holding down the accelerator button as I race through Mario Kart tracks. That’s not what happens in Mario Kart Tour. Karts move forward automatically. All I have to do is tap left or right to steer (there’s a gyroscope steering option but it’s rubbish). It takes a while to get a feel for how and when to start drifting, and different kart models have their own handling profiles, but after four or five races it’s not bad.

As alien as Mario Kart Tour can feel at first, it’s not really the gameplay or screen orientation that makes it feel like the awkward cousin of a proper Mario Kart game. It’s the structure. It’s collecting stars awarded for achieving high scores in races to unlock new circuits. It’s tracks where certain racers have distinct advantages over others. Musician Mario, one of the special racers available during the game’s New York City-themed opening event, has a special power that grants him two Bob-ombs instead of one when he collects that power-up. Looking at his racer page, we can see which courses grant him three items per power-up box.

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Certain racers having a distinct advantage over others in certain situations isn’t great. The game’s gacha feature, in which players can spend in-game currency for a chance to unlock rare racers, means that players who pay more have a better chance at having the right racer, kart, and glider combo to get maximum bonus points on any course they play. That’s verging on pay-to-win, even though there’s no real-time multiplayer in the game—currently, players race against computer-controlled ghosts with real players’ names attached to them.

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Mario Kart Tour isn’t quite as greedy as it was during beta. The test version of the game Ethan Gach played earlier this year had a stamina/energy meter, one of the most obnoxious free-to-play mechanics, as well as premium currency called green gems that offered players better rewards the more they purchased. The launch version of the game lets you play all you want. The green gems are now rubies, and doesn’t seem to reward you for buying more of them. Instead, there’s a $4.99 monthly Gold Pass subscription that grants players better rewards for completing races (including extra rubies), exclusive vehicles and equipment, and access to more challenging 200cc races.

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Is an optional monthly subscription better than earning rewards for buying currency? Not really. Especially when Mario Kart Tour launched just days after Apple Arcade, a subscription service with more than 70 high-quality, microtransaction-free games for the same $4.99 price. Apple Arcade is mobile gaming without all the bullshit. Mario Kart Tour is a Nintendo game with a big extra helping of bullshit.

According to app data website Apptopia, Mario Kart Tour shattered launch-day records yesterday, with more than 10.1 million installs across iOS and Android devices. The idea of a free Nintendo mobile game is an attractive prospect for many, many people. I wonder how long that will last.

Source: Kotaku.com

Mario Kart Tour Kicks Off Tomorrow In New York City

Nintendo’s latest free-to-play mobile game, Mario Kart Tour, launches tomorrow on iOS and Android. Every two weeks the nickley, dimey racer will test players in tours, special races inspired by real-world locations. The first destination is New York, New York, where players can earn Musician Mario and Super Mario Odyssey Pauline as playable racers.

New York City, huh? Kind of the obvious place to kick off a world tour, but the course looks nice and the racers even nicer. Mario is decked out in a jazzy sort of suit.

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While Pauline should probably be wearing a helmet or something.

The New York announcement comes courtesy of the first installment of the official Mario Kart Tour News. It’s hosted by Lakitu. You know, the jerk who drops stuff on your head in proper Mario games. This Lakitu is particularly charming, but he doesn’t fool me.

Source: Kotaku.com

I Can’t See Myself Enjoying The New Kirby Game Much Longer

Launched following last week’s Nintendo Direct, Super Kirby Clash is a free-to-play multiplayer game pitting multicolored Kirbys in medieval cosplay against massive bosses. I love the battles, but the game’s economy and endless upgrade cycle have me wondering how long that love will last.

Nintendo calls Super Kirby Clash a free-to-start game, which is a fancy way of saying free-to-play without actually saying it. Anyone with a Nintendo Switch can jump onto the eShop, download the game, and hop into its odd class-based action role-playing boss battles without spending money.

The game opens on a small, side-scrolling village. Here, the player, a proper pink Kirby, can shop for equipment, use the adventurer bell to receive gifts from other players, or embark on quests, either online with other players or offline with AI adventurers.

By quests, I mean battles. Players choose which of the game’s four character classes they wish to play as—Sword Hero, Hammer Lord, Doctor Healmore, or Beam Mage—and hop into an all-out melee against King Doo, Hornhead, Mr. Frosty, giant Waddle Dees, or any number of trademark Kirby foes.

The fights are a lot of fun, especially with four human players working together. The Sword Hero slices and shields while the Beam Mage casts slowing magic. Doctor Healmore drops puddles of healing magic. The slow-moving Hammer Lord swings its mallet for massive damage. When an enemy gets beaten down enough it drops four shards, one for each player, that when collected trigger a quick mini-game that brings a massive meteor smashing down on their foe.

Super Kirby Clash isn’t quite as engaging outside of battles. The game runs on a currency called Gem Apples, and it never lets you forget that. Gem Apples are used to unlock quests. Gem Apples are used to purchase equipment and unlock character enhancing perks. If your party runs out of time in a fight or everyone gets knocked out, Gem Apples can be spent to revive everyone.

There’s a tree in the village where players can harvest Gem Apples twice a day. Leveling up the tree causes it to drop more Gem Apples when harvested. Guess how to level up the tree. That’s right, buying more Gem Apples.

Then there is the game’s upgrade cycle. Players fight battles and complete quest goals to increase their Heroic Rank. Increasing one’s Heroic Rank unlocks more powerful gear and raises the maximum level the player can reach. New weapons and equipment cost a combination of resources earned through quests and Gem Apples (of course).

Quest, level, buy new equipment, quest, level, repeat. I’ve been playing Super Kirby Clash for days and I see no end to that cycle.

I still enjoy the battles. I’ve seen others complain of horrible connection lag but have only experienced it once out of a couple dozen online fights. I’m still getting a kick out of seeing all of these colorful Kirbys waddling around swinging swords and casting spells. It’s like the most adorable LARP ever. I just can’t help wondering how long until the charm wears off.

Update 9/10 11 AM: As several commenters have mentioned, this is an enhanced port of Team Kirby Clash Deluxe for the 3DS, which came out in 2017 when I wasn’t looking. Poor 3DS.

Source: Kotaku.com

2011’s DC Universe Online Finds New Life On The Nintendo Switch

On a large computer monitor or television set hooked to an Xbox One or PlayStation 4, DC Comics’ eight-year-old, free-to-play massively multiplayer online superhero role-playing game looks pretty rough. On a lesser-powered console like the Switch with its smallish handheld display, DC Universe Online is a perfect portable MMO.

DC Universe never was a looker. Released in 2011 on PC and PlayStation 3, the online game has always sported a generic comic book design reminiscent of the DC comic books I remember reading as a young teen. Not a lot of personality, but the powers and costumes are cool. Over the past eight years, Sony Online Entertainment and then Daybreak Games have released a bunch of new powers, costume bits, and story content for DC Universe Online, but the core game has stayed the same. Now the game is out for the Nintendo Switch and it’s exactly as I remember it, only smaller and more convenient.

The story remains the same. Brainiac is on the verge of conquering the Earth. In a last-ditch attempt to save the planet, Lex Luthor from the future travels to the past (technically the present) to release “exobytes” into the atmosphere. Exobytes are super-powers which are stored as data. They transform normal humans into superhumans on contact. Players take on the role of these new supers, fighting for truth, justice, and the American way. Or fighting for evil. That’s always a choice.

The coolest aspect of the Switch version of DC Universe Online is that it gets its own dedicated server. Crossplay between platforms is nice, but a dedicated Switch server means everybody playing the game on Nintendo’s console starts at level one. Payers familiar with how the game plays on other platforms will have a leg up on newcomers, but for the first week or so, everybody will be busy chasing thugs and leveling up.

It also means there are plenty of free character names available for players to apply to their superhero or villain creations. The game begins with players creating a hero or villain, selecting their powers, weapons, appearance, and creating a costume from an available selection of parts. Players can create a completely original hero, or start with a costume inspired by iconic DC characters.

Character creation is one of the places DC Universe Online’s free-to-play nature is felt most acutely. There are 15 different power sets in the game. Only six of these—nature, sorcery, mental, ice, fire, and gadgets—are available for free. In order to unlock more, like Green Lantern-style light powers, players must purchase downloadable content packs in the in-game store. The same goes for creating heroes with powers inspired by any actual DC heroes. Some heroes’ powers, like those belonging to Superman and Wonder Woman, are available for free. Others, like Livewire or Black Lightning’s powers, must be purchased.

In order to create my dream character, I had to purchase the quantum power set and the skimming movement type via microtransactions. There is also an option to purchase a membership to the game, which provides instant access to all available DLC packs plus marketplace discounts, the ability to form a league, unlimited in-game currency, and more. For now, I am happy with the stuff I bought to bring my quantum brawler, Entanglement, to fruition.

I am a sucker for simple costumes

Once inside the game, DC Universe Online is very handheld-friendly. It’s an action role-playing game. X and Y buttons perform light and heavy attacks. There are eight spots for powers and items on the game’s hot bar, activated by a combination of shoulder and face buttons. The B button jumps and activates a hero or villain’s travel power, allowing them to jump, fly, run, or float through Metropolis or Gotham City.

It’s a very structured MMO. Players take on a series of story-based missions which generally culminate in a dungeon of some sort. Entanglement had to battle Scarecrow’s cronies on the streets of Gotham, as well as help doctors treat patients affected by his fear gas. Eventually, she uncovered Scarecrow’s underground lair, rescuing Batwoman and serving quantum-powered justice to the deranged villain.

That caper complete, Entanglement headed back to the Gotham Police Department, where Batwoman gave her a hot tip about Bane, setting the next series of missions in motion. Eventually, Entanglement will have to group with other players and maybe get a nickname so I don’t have to type out her full name every time. But there’s plenty of solo content in DC Universe Online to keep me occupied until I’m ready for a team-up.

I wasn’t sure I’d even get this far into DC Universe Online for the Switch, having played a large chunk of this content of different platforms years in the past. But there’s something neat about playing the MMO on a small, portable screen. The graphics don’t feel quite as dated when I’m laying back in bed staring at a 720p display. I also was easily able to take the game with me earlier today when I was at my doctor’s office receiving an infusion of antibiotics. (I imagined it was superhero serum. I am a giant dork.)

If you can wade through the mess of microtransactions (maybe avoid the in-game shop), there’s plenty of fun to be had in DC Universe Online. Pretending to be a superhero or villain is one of my favorite things to do, and this is a fine, free way to do it.

Source: Kotaku.com

Forza Street Is Pretty Looking, But Too Simple

The newest game in the Forza franchise isn’t a sequel to Horizon 4 or a new entry in the main Motorsport series. Instead, Forza Street is an upcoming mobile game spin-off that is now available on the Windows 10 Store on PC. The game focuses on one-on-one street races and looks gorgeous. Sadly, there isn’t much in Street beyond the visuals.

Forza Street tells a light story about your driver making their way across the country in a series of races against high ranking drivers. The story includes TV news anchors, cryptocurrency, secret patrons and a cool looking older dude in a hat. It’s all very odd and I sort of admire the game for being weird like this.

The thing I was immediately impressed by was the visuals. Forza Street looks slick. Lots of night time races, with bright neon colors and reflections. The races also use multiple cinematic camera angles, making races feel more exciting. Of course, this is running on a fairly decent PC. I have no idea how well this Unreal Engine-powered game will run on older phones. But if the visuals hold up on a smaller screen, it might end up being one of the better looking mobile games I’ve played.

Sadly, the pretty visuals disguise a simple game that is probably too shallow to keep most Forza fans interested.

All driving, braking, and accelerating is done with one tap or button. There is no steering. Each race is a point-to-point and filled with a few turns and straightaways. To control your car you simply click and hold the spacebar or tap the screen. When you reach a turn, indicators on the track signal when you should let go of the gas. Timing this perfectly helps you keep your speed through the turn. Then as the turn ends, you time when to start accelerating again. Mess up the timing of these moments and you could lose speed or even crash, costing you time and possibly the lead.

This simple mechanic is fun enough, but it is also the entirety of what you do during races. There is a turbo button, but beyond that, every race I’ve played so far has boiled down to timing turns and hitting turbo a few times. Races only take a minute or so to finish. Quickly I found myself getting a bit bored.

The driving gameplay is similar to CSR 2, a popular mobile driving game. But where that game used a similar one button or tap control scheme, it was focused on gear changes, while Forza askes players to handle turns. I actually prefer the Forza Street racing gameplay as it feels more generous and has a better sense of flow.

Outside the driving, the game feels like an older mobile game. A lot of modern mobile games I’ve played recently, like Brawl Stars or Elder Scrolls: Blades let players play as much as they want and don’t use energy meters. Forza Street brings back this bad mobile game system. Complete too many races and you might just find yourself out of energy an unable to play. The game also has multiple currencies. It feels like a mobile or Facebook game from 2012.

Another disappointment, that is a little more tolerable but still strange, is that Forza Street lacks any licensed music. Forza games have had wonderful and eclectic soundtracks and it is a shame Street doesn’t have its own great soundtrack.

Forza Street might be perfect for you if you want a simple and quick bit of racing action. But annoying energy timers, basic gameplay and a lack of music make the game feel too small and shallow. Especially when you compare it to other racing games on phones, like the fantastic Asphalt series, which have more in-depth racing controls and multiplayer action.

Source: Kotaku.com

Five Free Switch Games Worth Playing

There’s no shortage of great games you could buy on Switch, but there are also a handful that are free. There was a time when a game being free-to-play marked it as subpar in some way. Now, free games can often be every bit as good as the paid ones and sometimes they aren’t even full of intrusive microtransactions. Here are a few of the ones worth checking out on the Nintendo Switch.

Warframe

Digital Extremes’ online shooter arrived on Switch at the end of 2018. Although this is a port of a massive game that originally got its start on PC, the developers cut almost no corners. The sci-fi environments are still gorgeous and the fun, twitchy combat feels just as precise. The basic premise sees you level up and customize alien exosuits as you travel the solar system fighting through rival enemy syndicates who have taken control of different regions.

Since the game originally launched in 2014, it came to Switch with years of additional content and new updates still coming every couple months. It’s the kind of game you could take on a desert island and spend years working through, at least if the desert island happened to have WiFi.

Brawlhalla

Before Nintendo released Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, the Switch had another great platform fighting game called Brawlhalla. While not as big as Nintendo’s fighting game, Brawlhalla still boasts 40 characters, a bunch of different stages, and quite a bit of nuance in its seemingly straightforward combat.

Each character has two unique weapons giving them multiple fighting styles. They all still follow the same system of combining light, heavy, and special attacks to keep things relatively simple. What makes the game feel extra good, however, is the aerial freedom. Fighters have three jumps and can grapple up walls at will, opening up lots of possibilities. And even though the game is free, the art style and combat animations all look great.

Paladins

Overwatch isn’t on Switch, but Paladins is and it costs nothing to start playing. The class-based team shooter has been maligned as a copycat since it was revealed in 2016, but the fundamentals are all sound. The game has three modes—capture-the-point, team deathmatch, and one that’s a hybrid of the two—and a few dozen heroes who all have unique abilities you can augment by equipping cards with bonuses that you earn through playing.

What Paladins really has going for it is an impressive 60fps, even in handheld mode. It sacrifices some visual fidelity for smoother, more responsive action, but it’s a trade-off that’s worth it. There are enough characters unlocked from the start and free ones constantly being rotated in that you can experience a good chunk of the different defensive and offensive roles without spending the $30 it costs to buy them all.

Arena of Valor

Arena of Valor is a multiplayer online battle arena, or MOBA, that got its start on mobile where it blew up in China. Last year, Tencent ported it to Switch, making it the best game in the genre that can actually be played on a console—unlike competitors Dota 2, Heroes of the Storm, and League of Legends.

Like in those games, two teams of five battle across a map in an attempt to destroy the other’s base, all while leveling up, earning gold, and purchasing better equipment. For people who haven’t played MOBAs before, it can be intimidating, but it’s really not, especially in Arena of Valor’s case. Characters auto-attack as you move them while the shoulder and trigger buttons deploy special abilities. Matches are short, letting you get the satisfaction of going through a normal role-playing game progression in just 20 minutes or so.

Fortnite

Almost every week there is something new to do in Fortnite. Even though the fundamentals of parachuting down onto an island, finding guns to shoot people with, and building your own cover haven’t changed, other things like special items and the map itself are always changing. There’s also plenty to do even outside the general battle royale loop of shooting other people until you’re the last one standing.

Sometimes it’s fun just to stroll across the map looking for new secrets or completing challenges to rank up the game’s free battle pass for unlocking new emotes and skins. There’s also a Playground mode where those who just want to build can do so in peace, essentially making Fortnite double as a free mini-version of Minecraft as well. And since Epic Games recently implemented cross-play, you can join up with friends no matter what platform they’re playing on.

Source: Kotaku.com

Nintendo Is Reportedly Toning Down Micro-Transactions In Its Mobile Games

Developers behind some of the free-to-play mobile games Nintendo has published in recent years say the company has told them not to be too aggressive with the microtransactions that these games tend to rely on to make money, according to a report by the Wall Street Journal.

Where individual studios Nintendo partners with are looking to profit off of the games, the paper reports, a source familiar with Nintendo’s business strategy said that the company sees these games more as ways to promote its brand and characters. The Journal summarized the Nintendo official’s thoughts as follows: “The company is concerned it might be criticized for being greedy in smartphone games.”

One of those games is Dragalia Lost, a pretty-looking role-playing game in which players grind to collect characters, created by CyberAgent Inc. When it came out last September, some players said they felt it was too difficult to get the rarest fighters, which also have the option to be unlocked by spending real money on an in-game lottery system. As as result, Nintendo apparently asked the studio to re-balance that aspect of the game so players would spend less.

Kotaku’s Mikey Fahey, who has been playing the game practically every day since it launched, says every new update since the game’s release has been quite generous. “The game is constantly rewarding players with summon tickets or in-game currency used to summon new characters,” he told me. “Just about every time a new summoning event comes around, it features new characters or powerful dragons that are easy to acquire.” As a result, even continuing players like him who really enjoy the game don’t necessarily feel compelled to spend a lot of money.

“Nintendo is not interested in making a large amount of revenue from a single smartphone game,” an official at CyberAgent told the Journal. “If we managed the game alone, we would have made a lot more.”

Like a lot of free-to-play mobile games, Dragalia Lost lets players spend real money for the chance to earn in-game heroes of varying power and rarity.
Screenshot: Kotaku (Dragalia Lost)

A spokesperson for Nintendo did confirm details of this specific instance to the Journal but said the company does have conversations with game developers about the payment models in games. “We discuss various things, not just limited to payments, to deliver high-quality fun to consumers,” the spokesperson told the Journal.

Nintendo did not immediately respond to a request by Kotaku for further comment. 

DeNA Co., Ltd., another mobile gaming studio, has worked on all of Nintendo’s major mobile spin-offs, including Miitomo, Super Mario Run, Fire Emblem Heroes, Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp, and the recently delayed Mario Kart Tour. According to the Journal, the company’s CEO Isao Moriyasu said in February that the only one of its mobile games that isn’t struggling is Megido 72, a heavily monetized RPG which it developed alone.

At the same time, Nintendo doesn’t seem to have completely shied away from the microtransaction model. Super Mario Run, free to try and then $10 for the full game, failed to meet sales expectations when it came out in 2016. Fire Emblem Heroes, microtransaction-based gacha game like Dragalia Lost, meanwhile, brought in five times as much revenue as Super Mario Run during its first year.

In 2017, a senior Nintendo official told the Nikkei Asian Review, “We honestly prefer the Super Mario Run model.” Despite that, Nintendo has continued to release monetized freemium games. Animal Crossing Pocket Camp is also based around microtransactions, which, as Kotaku’s Gita Jackson has written in the past, seems to run counter to the spirit of the series as a chill hangout sim. In January, Nintendo announced its next mobile game, Doctor Mario World, expected to release this summer. It will also be free-to-play with optional in-app purchases. Though it may not be as aggressively monetized in the way that some freemium games are, that underlying model for mobile games still appears to have won out over the Super Mario Run approach, at least for now.

Source: Kotaku.com

Warframe’s Take On The ‘Battle Pass’ Is A Clever, Episodic Radio Drama

Digital Extremes has overhauled the daily alert system in its free-to-play loot shooter Warframe, something that had been in place for six years, and replaced it with a battle pass system called Nightwave that weaves its reward structure into a larger story.

Nightwave is the name of a new radio station players can dial into on their spaceships. It’s run by a new character called Nora Night, who uses a pirated broadcast signal to share gossip and conspiracy theories about the rich, powerful, and dangerous. Every time players log on, she’ll have a list of daily and weekly challenges for them to complete in order to build up their reputation with her and earn Nightwave-specific rewards like crafting resources, weapon mods, and armor sets in the process. After a certain number of weeks, the entire thing resets and a new set of challenges and rewards become available, not unlike the seasonal updates already in games like Rocket League and Fortnite.

What’s extra cool about Nightwave is the way it’s subtly tucked into the rest of Warframe’s world building. Digital Extremes is treating Nightwave sort of like a radio play. There will be individual series that each run approximately 10 weeks, and inside each series will be a handful of episodes that slowly move the narrative along before resetting with a new arc.

The current series, called The Wolf of Saturn Six, focuses on a rogue Grineer criminal who managed to break out of a prison hidden deep within the planet’s gas clouds. Three other fugitives followed him, and now each has a random chance of spawning in any mission as a mini-boss. Defeat them and you build standing with Nora. Defeat the Wolf and he might drop one of the components necessary to craft the giant sledgehammer that he fights with. Nora’s daily and weekly challenges, like kill X number of enemies in Y fashion, each net 1,000, 3,000, or 5,000 standing with her, depending on the difficulty.

For every 10,000 standing, you reach a new rank going all the way up to 30, with a new prize at each tier. In addition, this first series adds a new currency called Wolf Creds which are awarded every few tiers and can be spent at Nora’s shop for other stuff like equipment mods, special skins, and new weapon blueprints. Once the series ends, all of this stuff will get replaced with a new set of loot themed around whatever the next storyline is.

It’s a lot, but also a huge improvement over the previous daily challenge system, which usually just consisted of going to a specific node on the map and repeating an old mission for a bunch of extra currency. It was mostly useless for veteran players and boring for newcomers. The new battle pass-style system not only provides a bunch of worthwhile rewards for logging on every so often to run a few missions, but also helps infuse Warframe’s universe with another level of fun intrigue.

“Greed. Brutality. Oppression. True stories, all, and the System is full of them,” Nora says at the beginning of her broadcast. “Dreamers? You listening? The System needs you performing your good deeds of the day. Nora needs it. Needs you to act. To change things. Hear the news, Dreamers. Hear it, or be it.”

Warframe has always struggled with feeling like a single, unified game with a clear overarching story, not because there isn’t one but because it’s spread out across the game in small pieces due to its fragmented structure. Who knows how the current series will wrap up or what the next one will be like, but for now, the start of Nightwave feels like a smart way to convey the mysterious mood of the game by pegging it to the incremental loot grind on which the core of it is based.

Source: Kotaku.com

Chrono Trigger’s Writer Made A Mobile JRPG That’s Not Defined By Its Microtransactions

Kotaku Game DiaryDaily thoughts from a Kotaku staffer about a game we’re playing.  

Can two of the people who helped make Chrono Trigger one of the most amazing games of all time find a balance on mobile between the nostalgic appeal of classic Japanese role-playing games and the economics of free-to-play? Based on a couple hours with Another Eden: The Cat Beyond Time and Space, the answer is: maybe.

Once upon a time, I swore off mobile JRPGs. Feeling burned by their thread-bare plotting and microtransaction-driven progression systems, I decided games like Fire Emblem Heroes were not fun, colorful time wasters—they were just plain old wastes of time. Though Another Eden is cut from a similar mold, I decided to give it a chance because it was written and directed by Masato Kato, who penned most of Chrono Trigger’s script, and has music contributed by Yasunori Mitsuda, a composer who collaborated with Kato not just on that game but Xenogears and Chrono Cross as well.

Another Eden’s opening hours do not measure up to any of those games, but compared to some other recent mobile JRPGs, like Star Ocean: Anamnesis, they’re much better. The music is prettier, there’s a greater degree of interactivity, and a sense that the story might lead somewhere vaguely fun.

When the game starts, a mysterious baby boy named Aldo and a girl named Feine are discovered in a forest by a nearby village elder. Sixteen years later, the sister is kidnapped by someone calling himself the “King of the Beats” who is intent on using the girl’s latent magical powers to commit genocide against the human race.

As Aldo, your goal is to get her back and thwart the King’s plans. It’s straightforward enough until a boss fight an hour in opens up a weird distortion in the fabric of time and space and you end up traveling 800 years into the future. That’s when things start to get very Chrono Trigger-y, complete with robots interrogating their humanity and questions about how history shapes the present. I’m still not sure whether Another Eden will shape up to be a good JRPG, rather than simply better in comparison to what else is available on mobile, but it’s off to a good start.

I’m also happy to report that Another Eden also lets you navigate the world and fight monsters in turn-based combat just like you would in any other traditional JRPG. You can run through towns filled with shops and other characters, and explore dungeons with multiple paths. These might seem like small things but for the fact that lots of other free-to-play mobile RPGs don’t have them. While the combat is certainly streamlined compared to the console games that inspired it, every character has a class and set of special abilities that make choosing attacks and selecting targets for them something worth putting some thought into. I actually button-mashed less in my first few hours with Another Eden than in Dragon Quest XI, especially once I filled my party up with characters.

Partly a gacha-style game, Another Eden lets you buy new fighters with Chronos Stones, a currency that you can either pay a bunch of money for or earn from completing in-game challenges like killing a certain number of enemy type X or progressing in the main story. These transactions take place in a dimension called the Dream Gallery, which you can access at any time except during combat. Within the first hour, I had enough stones to buy my first character. I haven’t yet found a fight that I can’t beat with my existing party simply by grinding, leveling up, and buying better gear.

It’s possible I might at some point, but so far I feel completely content to just keep playing through the game without spending any money. Unlike some free-to-play games, the horse-race of collecting all of the game’s fighters, and the strongest versions of them, feels legitimately like a side activity and not the focus of the gameplay. So far in Another Eden, the story really does seem to be the focus. I’m relieved for now, but we’ll see how long this lasts.

Source: Kotaku.com