Saturday, 23 April 2016

Mobile Game Review: Freeblade

Another mobile game has finally made it over to Android and given the release of the latest boxed game Renegade (soon to be reviewed separately) this seemed like an excellent time to review it. Now of course this has been out on IOS for an age so this might be old news to some, but on the off chance that like me you shun Apple products and haven’t got round to trying it, let’s try Freeblade.

Well, the first thing to note is that Freeblade does live up to its name. It is free to download, however in my experience this normally means that there are a plethora of add-ons and paywalls within the game and sure enough the app description does list in app purchases. It’s not a small game and eats up a fair bit of memory at 125mb (but still only a fifth of SpaceWolf) and once you jump into it you will understand why. It’s pretty resource intensive and your device will heat up in no time and if you are using an older model I would expect you will experience some lag in play. It will also swiftly consume your battery. Of course like all games it will try to get you to connect to Googleplay or Facebook (more on this a little later) though you can skip this, it also seems to use data having used about 5 MB in two hours of gameplay. Though it will still run whilst not connected or with low signal various parts of the game do not seem to work with no connection, like upgrading your gear.

The game itself looks great. Decent presentation and graphics and it looks spot on and authentic properly putting you in the moment. You start with a tutorial with a fully tooled up Knight as you repel a Chaos incursion on your world, defending your Knightly House till the last. The movement of the Knight is automatic so effectively what you have is an on rails shooter. All you have to do is use the touch screen to shoot the enemy with various gestures.

The controls themselves are ok. You touch and drag to shoot the primary weapon which will overheat after continued use, tap the screen twice for missiles and use two fingers and drag and release for your heavy weapon. Both your heavy weapon and rockets have to reload so you will need to alternate gestures in order to blast your way to victory. Melee combat can be initiated with enemy walkers by hitting a prompt as they lumber towards and you you can hit them with ranged weapons before hitting the red prompt to charge. If you miss it you will be countercharged and take damage. Once combat is initiated you have a timing prompt with a sliding bar. Hit the sweet spot and you will do a critical hit. The bar seems to vary dependent on the foe you are facing and the speed varies a bit too, miss and you'll be hit in return. Over all its pretty manageable, you might struggle a little on a small screen phone. I have a HTC M8 and found it a tiny bit cumbersome at times to line up a heavy shot on a vehicle and occasionally misfired. Overall though not too bad.

Once the tutorial ends the Dark Angels pick you and your mangled Knight up and whisk you of to their battlebarge, Fist of Caliban, here your knight is stripped back to basics and you are reborn as a Freeblade. You will now have to earn your weapons all over again. You can also paint your knight albeit with a very limited palette as much of the colours and emblems are locked. You can bypass these locks if you use the games currency, gold. Once you have your knight painted you can get stuck into the campaign, the missions start relatively easy as the game introduces you to the various ways that it will try to get you to spend real money.

After a couple of missions you will need to forge some new weaponry. The Forge is a good way to get rid of obsolete loot that have earned. Chuck a few weak items in and see if you can get something special back out, the better the loot the better your chances. You can also scrap the items for Ore which is used for the Forge and for upgrades to existing kit. So you throw in your old stuff pay the Ore and the forging process begins. But it takes time. Of course you can skip that time by spending gold. Of course you can. Even if you don’t the game will let you skip the time anyway for the first couple of missions like a drug pusher giving you your first hit free.

As the game progresses you will be forced to upgrade your kit to compete, this takes resources but is at least immediate. If your knight falls in battle you will need a token to resume from a checkpoint and not lose any loot you have collected. If you run out of revive tokens you can always buy more! Need more Gold? You can buy it using a credit card! Or you can earn it by downloading OTHER apps (not 40k ones – we are talking cretinous farming and puzzle games here) and playing them, or making in app purchases in them. I soon started to run out of patience with the amount of selling this game was doing, it was worse than an overzealous GW staff member. 

Before long the game will give you the option to start the mission with blessings (extra experience or rare loot drop chance or armour) you can either buy these with gold or watch a 30 sec vid/advert(watch your data if you don’t have all you can eat!) to get a free blessing. Doing this every time you start a mission that is not much longer than the ad in question is infuriating and I soon stopped.

It’s relentless.

As the game goes on and you level up you’ll pick up some basic loot which the game will force you to use your ore to upgrade and do it’s damnedest to get you to exhaust your gold to skip the timers. The game will get more tricky as you progress of course. You get a void shield which will require you to tap prompts on screen to activate or you will take massive damage. In chapter three (as far as i have got as i have hit the paywall and need to go back and replay missions) you will need to tap incoming projectiles to destroy them, it’s actually pretty hard on a phone. Miss and your knight takes massive damage, goes down and you’ll have to choose whether to use a precious revive token (only bother if you have picked up a coloured loot box is my advice)

On top of this, over the course of the missions your knight will naturally take damage and become less resilient meaning you have to repair it. You can wait for it to repair or skip the timer, what is required? GOLD of course! Or you repair 10% at a time by watching yet more adverts. I’m sighing while writing this you know....

So, how do you get resources? Well, you will pick up some for successful mission completion and getting maximum score (mainly Ore) you will get a small bit of gold another paint option and more health upon leveling up. You can also play the events (seems to be PvP) which I tried but just got my knight wrecked in short order as I went up against higher level machines. There are Patrols (one off missions) and these will get you a bit of gold but are locked behind time gates after you complete so you cannot farm them. You can also perform salvage drops to get items. You are very unlikely to get the good items on the first drop but you can always pay gold to remove the timer till the drop resets so you can try again!

The game will also try to get you to connect to Facebook so it can push itself to your friends, it will reward you 10 gold if you do but let me assure you 10 gold is NOTHING compared to what you will need. The game demands gold at every turn, it is absolutely non stop and it tears all the fun and soul out of the game. It is the VERY definition of free to play but pay to win. You are stuck grinding the same mission (though to be fair each mission has a sub mission attached to it – either destroy a set number of targets, complete in shortest time, assassinate a unit type) in order to progress, level your knight and try to slog it through the next mission. You can only forge one item at a time, unless you pay gold. You have limited palette to paint with and emblems to use. Unless you pay gold. Limited revive tokens, unless you pay gold, you need gold to skip timers, gold to Upgrade if you run out of Ore. The game is always trying to get a buck out of you and is determined to make your game experience inferior unless you do.

 It’s a shame as when it is running and gunning it is FUN. Authentic with decent presentation graphics customisation options and the gameplay itself is simple but engaging. There is also plenty of meat to the game with different modes and upgrades and although so far it is all Orks apart from the tutorial i assume that chaos will rear its head again before long. But it is all undermined by the singleminded and cynical attempts to get you to part with real cash. And it just kills the game. I understand that the company has to make money. But they wont get it out of me like this. Marvel Puzzle quest did though, that was clever, endlessly throwing characters and powers at you but then charging you for the resources to upgrade your slots to store them. It was fiendishly subtle and REWARDING you to make you spend money. I probably spent about 30 quid over the time i played it (well over a year)and possibly would have spent more had my game save not been lost (still a bit bitter about that). This game PUNISHES you to get you to spend money, and its very obvious, along with it’s ‘the first one is free; philosophy it is little more than a drug pusher and the very worst kind of Freemium game. Freeblade might be free but it is at the price of its very soul.

For the Emperor!

· Looks great

· Customise your knight

· Authentic

· Good presentation

· Decent gameplay. Action packed.

Burn Heretic!

· Hammers battery and processor

· Relentless and cynical pushing of in app purchases and paywalls/timers

· Controls can be tricky on a small screen

6/10: A decent if simple touch screen rail shooter buried under a mountain of timers and paywalls and incessant attempts to get your money


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