The Free to Player #3: World of Tanks

This month’s free to player we will be reviewing World of Tanks.  World of Tanks is considered to be an eSports game and often appears at many mass games tournaments.

The free to player is dedicated to reviewing free to play client based titles.  There is an admission that anyone reviewing a free to play title must first admit…. you can’t review one of these in a single bulk session.  These games are designed to be played over a year and thus must be given some time to be reviewed properly.

There are a few rules to this review:

  1. Game Must be Played for 30 Days before a Review is Done
  2. Game must be Played Minimum 30 Minutes a Day
  3. Effort Must be Made to Play All Facets of the Game
  4. No Purchases Allowed

Following these rules we get a unique free to play experience and at the end of this it will be either a thumbs up or thumbs down to this game.

Have You Ever…

I think the big catch phrase for any game development might start “have you ever…” fill in the blank with what you offer.  If the answer is no, you really have to work hard to make this fun.

So let’s try it out.  “Have you ever wanted to drive a tank in a war.”

Most people’s answer: no.

The reason for this is quite simple, the era of tank duels was quite short lived.  How short lived?  Well tanks first showed their ability in World War 1 in which armored vehicles were fitted with large weapons and machine guns.  These were generally used by commanders.

Most units still had cavalry and as thousands and thousands of horses were dying and breeders were not able to meet the demand horses were slowly being replaced with tanks.

By the time World War 2 came around tanks were all the rage.  Specifically the campaigns in North Africa, Italy, Russia, and Germany became more about who had a larger tank count and less about almost any other factor.

Holy mother of user interface
Holy mother of user interface

In the Pacific however things were raging differently.  Japan was seen to have the modern army, America copied it.  The Battle of the Pacific became more about infantry securing islands and air forces securing the air.

The fact that Japan was the “modern warfare” showed decades later as every major battle was decided by who had more planes and infantry and less about who had more tanks.

So who exactly are the people who are interested in tank battles?  Well as it would seem it is a person who very specifically was interested in the European theater of battle during World War 2.  Even more specifically these people might be fans of tank commanders like Rommel, Patton, and Montgomery.

Having operated a tank for a day I have a very basic understanding of how it works.  The drive drives.  The gunsman aims and shoots.  The tank commander spots and directs movement and fire.  Often there is a fourth or fifth person in the tank loading ammunition or manning an external flak or anti-infantry turret.

In this game all of these various people get combined into… you.

Really there are only a few movies that feature tank crews in action.  Kelly’s Heroes and Sahara are among them.  I can most recently remember the newer Repo Man had a tank battle cameo.

Gameplay

To aim you move your mouse to a location.  This guides the turret to move to this location.  A second retical indicates where the turret actually is.  Upon hovering the turret retical to a target, the target will light up red. This means you have a guaranteed shot.

Different guns have different ranges.  Faster guns will have shorter ranges, longer reload guns will have long ranges.  Maps will supply opportunity for both styles in which the smaller gun can flank for very fast kills while the longer gun can pick people off from a very far distance.

Dammit got stuck in a tank trap.... 5 yards from my starting point
Dammit got stuck in a tank trap…. 5 yards from my starting point

The controls are WASD, forward left, back, right.  Just like in a real tank the controls will invert as you go backwards.  This will no doubt confuse people who are used to driving a car.

You will start off at a load out screen in which you can pick a tank.  You can choose a better tank by paying for it with real or earned money.

After that you load up a random game and are added into a battle with random players on a random map.

Tech and Tank Buying

The main revenue model of this game is to sell premium tanks and premium tank upgrades.  To better explain this there are three currencies.

The first currency is experience.  Experience is used on research and will unlock new tanks and upgrades for you to unlock.

The second currency is silver.  Silver is used to purchase upgrades and purchase new tanks.

The third currency is gold.  Gold is also used to purchase upgrades and purchase new tanks.

Wait a minute.

Something’s fishy here!

Yes there are certain tanks and upgrades only purchasable with real money.

As an example you can get 50% damage for $0, 75% damage for $20,000 and 100% damage for 200 gold.  This is all accomplished by going to the tank recruitment screen.

For premium purchase you can do double damage!
For premium purchase you can do double damage!

This means that the game is *shock* pay to win.  I will say that the advantages given only really effect the top 5% of players.  With the randoms I play against (who are mostly free players) not having these upgrades doesn’t make too big of a difference.

On top of that you can convert about 20-30 days worth of playing into a couple of real money dollars to get some of these upgrades, so you can technically still purchase all of this stuff.  It’s really based around the inconvenience model in which after so long of waiting to get something you’ll just spend $2-3 and buy it anyway.

The game imbalanced caused by money is pretty sickening.  You can take 14 shots at a guy and reduce his health from 100% to 85% and have him turn around and kill you in one shot.

This is the equivalent of (in a normal MMO) a level 50 player killing a level 10 player.  This distinction of course is only unlockable with money.

Strategy

The game is going to be very slow paced.  Basically all tanks die pretty easily.  They can take 4-5 hits.  With 16 players in the team it means one moment of being exposed could result in an instant death.

To this extent a player of this game has to be patient and only attack when the opportunity is present for a kill and only move when it is safe to do so.

The game requires mass strategy from players in which they attack from various flanks.  Much like in real life tanks when hit from the sides take considerable more damage from a frontal attack.

You would think this would mean quickly glinding by tanks and lighting them up is a viable strategy… but it’s not.

Slow tedious moves no action for you
Slow tedious moves no action for you

This is a slow game of sniping and resembles closer to the strategy of a first person shooter than that of a war game.

Of course unlike in a first person shooter everything just moves so much slower.

Since I like playing the faster lighter tanks I provide scouting information and flank opponents as they are trying to fire at my team mates.  One unique feature about fast vehicles is they can battering ram targets on the side for insanely high damage… that is if you can get that close.

As well sometimes I’ll use the fast light vehicles as skirmishing units being able to almost be everything quickly moving around the battlefield only engaging in win fights.

AFK and Friendly Fire

The format of the game means grinding vicious amounts of income so that you can earn money to purchase new vehicles.  So to this extent people can just AFK through a game and get a tremendous amount of dough for no effort.  This happens more often than not.

A person can pretend to be “strategic” and sit at home base defending home base.  They get caught when they do not respond.  I’ve gotten up to 5 kills in a game because I’ve just been picking off AFK players.

It more or less ruins the game and most games seem to be decided based on who has less AFK players.

The game really just supports AFKing.  If you die you have 15 minutes with nothing to do.  If you live you might also have 15 minutes of nothing to do.  If you park your vehicle somewhere it’s unlikely the enemy will try and approach it in risk of dying.

I often found myself loading up a video on Netflix to watch in between deaths.

You can’t just leave the battle because ammunition and repairs cost money… which if you leave you will be out cash.  You need cash to acquire new tanks and upgrades… so you don’t want that.

The maps need some sort of progression.  Since each map is capture the flag or elimination there is no reason to grab a point, you might as well just kill everyone.  If there was a very potent and powerful advantage or reward given to capture wins you might see more motivated players.

This game also has friendly fire.  You can target a player, fire at them a bunch of times and kill them.  By team killing (TKing) you get a -1 by your name.  However this won’t stop people from padding their damage without killing you.

Grinding

World of Tanks has a lot of tanks.  There are eight tiers of tanks.  Each tier has about 16 tanks, so yeah that’s a lot of freaking tanks.

The biggest challenge of the game is grinding from Tier 1 to Tier 8.  And I do mean GRIND.  You will need to play hundreds of games to get to tier 8.

In my one month of play I was only ever able to get to tier 5.  That seems relatively sad.

In some free to play models you can get to the end faster… but not this one.  In this game you have to hard grind out your tank and then you pay for the bonus damage.

After the first few games in a row you start to realize it’s a lot of the same thing.  You queue into a game in which you have 3 different tiers.  If your’e on the bottom tier you either hide and never engage or die immediately.  If you’re in the middle tier you hide and sometimes engage and die relatively fast.  And if you are the top tier you fight the entire time and take a lot more hits to kill.

It’s a long process that could use some streamlining to zoom people to tier 8 faster.  But of course once you hit Tier 8… there really isn’t any end game.  You’ve been doing everything you are “leveling to” the entire time.

And the Verdict Is….

I HATE IT I HATE IT I HATE IT I HATE IT I HATE IT…. I can’t stop playing it.

Much like first person shooters which as a genre I don’t enjoy that much… I can’t stop playing them.

There’s some addictive quality to this game and I’m not exactly sure what it is.  Every time I finished a match I would keep telling myself “okay just one more.”

Then I’d leave and be like.. man I want to play World of Tanks again.

After I peel myself away from this game for some time I’ll be able to figure out what exactly makes it addicting.

Addicting is not the same thing as fun.  I find many aspects of World of Warcraft (of which this game is named after) fun.  The ones that I play however are the addicting ones.

I just didn’t find it a very good game.  It didn’t have a lot of depth or variation to it.  You just played the same map modes over and over again.

At no point did I feel like I was going anywhere.  Spending 15 days to grind out a tank valued at $2 hardly seems worth my time.

At the end of the day there are free to play models that make the whole experience feel seamless like that of Team Fortress 2.  Then you have your World of Tank games in which the difference is absolutely baffling.

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The Free to Player #2: Dragon Nest

This months free to player will be Dragon Nest.  This game is produced by Nexon and is a free to play beat’em’up fantasy MMORPG.  Remember Nexon?  They gave us MAPLE STORY!  So these games are worth billions of dollars and with this money, this is the game they made.

The free to player is dedicated to reviewing free to play client based titles.  There is an admission that anyone reviewing a free to play title must first admit…. you can’t review one of these in a single bulk session.  These games are designed to be played over a year and thus must be given some time to be reviewed properly.

There are a few rules to this review:

  1. Game Must be Played for 30 Days before a Review is Done
  2. Game must be Played Minimum 30 Minutes a Day
  3. Effort Must be Made to Play All Facets of the Game
  4. No Purchases Allowed

Following these rules we get a unique free to play experience and at the end of this it will be either a thumbs up or thumbs down to this game.

The format of this review will be far less formaty than most of my reviews and it will be positive and negative aspects of the game illustrated in a nice orderly chaotic way.

Character Creator

You can’t have a MMORPG (pronounced meh more peh geh) without having some elements of customizing your character.

The first stage in this is selecting a class.  Upon entering your server you will get to choose from five unlabeled classes, all little girls… all likely to make you feel like a pedophile for playing this game.  Each class is unique and has a distinct play style.  I’d know that if I actually played them but honestly with the time needed to play this game I was happy with the class I chose, The Tinkerer.

This little girl runs around with a giant gun and a giant wrench.  The wrench is about 3x the size of her body.

I thought this class was cool so I picked it.

Upon going into customization I could choose eye color, hair color, skin color, and starting clothes.

Height and weight are common customizations for games that do not fit well in
to this game.  This is largely because Nexon’s trying to maintain the little girl aspect of this game so heavily.

Overall creating a character was pretty abysmal and I was unable to build my angelic super model I make in every game.
fantasy1

I should however note that character creation was fast and you were scooted into the game very quickly.  There is a trade off here.  If you want customizable personal identities (which most do) it’s not there.  If you hate games that hold you back from actually doing something as long as humanly possible…. well there’s a problem.

The next tier of customization will not come until around Level 10 when you get to pick from one of two sub-classes.  Generally these are role specific so one might be YOU TAKE DAMAGE while another might be YOU HEAL REAL GROOD.

Combat

The combat in the game is third person shooter with an MMO UI.  Simply put left click is shoot, right click is secondary attack and 1-9 are special moves.

This style works surprisingly well and is very fun.  You can also use a dodge move by hitting shift.  The dodge has a cooldown since it is an active ability.

Abilities are upgraded manually through “Special Points” that are earned upon leveling up.

As a ranged class this plays very easy.  I will say that it doesn’t play as easily as a standard MMO and as far as MMOs go this will represent one of the more challenging ones to actually control.

The combat also opens up a lot of avenues for gamers who actually hate that MMORPG style (like myself).

If you were to compare the style of play to something it might be DC Universe Online… you know those guys who innovated gaming and got no credit for it?  Yeah the active dodge no autoattack often gets credited to TERA or Guild Wars 2 but in reality it was done years ago by DC Universe Online.

A big difference that sets it apart is the fixed animations.  These annoy me to all hell.  If you’re being attacked and you’re doing a particularly long animation… you will be in trouble pretty easily.  It’s not so bad for classes like mine that juggle people around… but it sucks when you are the one getting juggled.

There are also a lot of boss mechanics that are timed.  If your fixed animation is happening while this happens you will get hit.  It can be pretty brutal when these timed position based attacks can wipe out 1/3 of your health.

Another potential problem comes in the UI/HUD…. oh wait that category is next!

UI/HUD

I think above all else the UI of this game is completely awful.

This has a lot to do with the combat style.  Since left click is attack and right click is melee attack you’re not free to click on menus and options as easily as you would in almost every other MMORPG out there.

The end result is a lot of those nice hot keys you would use are allocated to well… everything.  Just about every single key on the keyboard is binded to something leaving you very little customization.

This only really has an impact on the game because you get 9 skill slots like most games and you have to be able to stretch your finger all the way over to the 9 key.  Even getting to the 6 key is tough.  It’s tough because you need to be almost constantly moving to manually dodge stuff.

Worst yet you will have about 20 moves to use in the game… and you use all of them pretty often.  You have to hit a tab key to change up the menu and quickly select an ability.  If you have bad lag you will not use the right ability at the right time and you’ll of course… be in trouble.

You can customize the hotkeys but honestly there is no point.  The hotkeys you’d want to use (F1-F4) are unbindable and the ones you don’t care about will just be clunky and worthles.

Even getting around some of the menus feels like a waste of time and there’s so much that just isn’t spelled out all that well… like the Reputations system… also known as the “making friends with NPCs system.”

Story

Story to MMORPGs is like badgers to badger hounds.  Yeah you can put them together… but the end result won’t be good.

Dragon Nest has a fairly large emphasis on story.  When you select a quest instead of getting a giant blurb of text you have an actual conversation with a person.  Now unlike something like SWTOR, you only have a single chat option.  This means the dialogue is only set up to pace the dialogue because… as research shows… people have problems leading beyond two sentences without skipping to the end.

Story?  What?  Why?
Story? What? Why?

Every so many quests you will get a big video having dialogue and revealing even more elements of the story.

So what is the story?

Well in the future things aren’t going so well.  A cult has caused chaos throughout the land and brought on the end of the world.  You are sent back in time and as you do as you so you de-age.  This explains why such a young person is such a knowledgeable and experienced person.

The game continues from this starting point as you enter the past trying to save the future.

The quests come in a few forms, PvP (we’ll talk about this later), repeatable quests, story quests, side quests, and dungeon quests.

Repeatable quests often involve killing 200-300 things in an arena type setup and can be done ad infinitum for tokens that can be used for getting gear and items.

Story quests drive the flow of the game and will be cinematic in nature.

The side quests often have you repeat dungeons from story quests.  They will increase your friendships with individuals and offer supplemental exp.  Think of friendships as like reputation grinding.

The dungeon quests can only be done one at a time and have you go in and collect or kill as objectives.

Instancing and Worlds

I think one of my gripes about MMORPG development is the difference between instanced games and open world games.

If you go to the general MMORPG community the feeling is that every game has to be a giant open world sandbox adventure, any attempt to tunnel you into anything is bad.

If you go to the single player community they generally favor games that are less obtuse and generally favor games that will lead you to the end.

So for MMOs the end result is either creating an open world game with quests leading you around or instanced games with high amounts of customization.

Dragon Nest is full of beautiful surprises... if you look up
Dragon Nest is full of beautiful surprises… if you look up

These two options have left me hating most MMORPGs.  I really enjoy both instanced games and open world sandbox games.  I find neither unattractive…. but I don’t really enjoy combining these two elements.

And neither do Nexon in Dragon Nest. Dragon Nest is a game with low amounts of customization and you are being instanced through dungeons with no variation.  This makes for a great one time play of each dungeon… which is mostly what you will do.

There are some problems with it of course.  Your hand is REALLY held and jumping off of any heights is stopped, so a lot of times if you move off the beaten path you will have to just walk around back on the beaten path instead of just jumping from a 1 meter altitude to the end.

I think the instancing overall works in favor of the game though  as there is no wasted time.

Honestly in games with high amounts of variety people just min/max the exact same builds and gear sets anyway…. you know who you are.

Difficulty Settings

Upon entering a dungeon there are four difficulty settings.  There is a fifth which I have no idea how to unlock, I suspect you must be at max level for this.

Novice is painstakingly easy.  You run in and everything dies.

Normal takes about 1.5x longer to complete and enemies have more health.

Hard takes about 2x longer to complete and enemies have even more health.

Extreme takes about 4x longer to complete and have even even more health.

Abyss rating transforms a single player style dungeon into a traditional MMORPG dungeon designed for a group.  Every so many checkpoints you will run into a boss.  The loot drops are higher and challenge slightly higher.  Also note the end boss for this dungeon…. there’ll be two of them!

Difficulty doesn’t seem to matter too much as far as actual difficulty (except Abyss), it just seems to make things go longer.  This has a lot to do with the fact that you can dodge all attacks and my Tinkerer seems to have the ability to area of effect knock people down quite frequently.

The difficulty almost looks like it is designed to make levels go on longer for better loot.  After doing one of each I always went on extreme difficulty every single time  so I could get the better loot.  The downside was I always had to wait 5 levels to use my gear.

I suspect this 5 levels later mechanic is designed around the hope that I keep playing…  I fell for it.

I will say however that difficulties should actually change the dungeons somehow.  The basic format should be done but at least the dungeon bosses should have added abilities to deal with.

Overall I felt it was very hard to do poorly… even at higher difficulties.

Jump In and Play

A master level dungeon took me about 30 minutes to complete each time.  Lower difficulties were taking me about 5-10 minutes.

The game is fully instanced and because of this it allows for people to just jump into the game and play.  I can happily have a 30-minute play session because leveling is all about this casual experience.

Even the matchmaking system is pretty “jump in and play.”  I decided to try and “team” for a quest and immediately found a party of 3 (out of 4) and we went and crushed through a dungeon in minutes.

The friendship system puts an interesting twist on the reputation system
The friendship system puts an interesting twist on the reputation system

After we completed the quest we could stay as a group and continue on a similar progression line, or we could with relative ease break up and go form or join new parties.

The game is not tailored to being social with people so much as it is with small casual experiences.

The instancing of the game really works in favor of this.

Mentoring

A lot of times when things pop up, I just ignore them.  In this game I should have not ignored so much stuff.  There is a lot of tutorial information that comes to you and unfortunately there’s really not a good way to differentiate it from the story.  Most people praise story/tutorial integration but honestly it felt like I should have been pulled to the side and said “HERE’S HOW STUFF DOES NOW WE’RE FORCING YOU TO DO IT TO CONTINUE.”

Most of the tutorial information was optional specifically because people who want to make another character could skip it.

Mentoring was a welcome change and is something that is becoming more and more common in MMORPGs.

If you’ve ever played an MMORPG you’ve probably noticed there are people who make and run “leveling guilds.”  These guilds are designed around the philosophy of leveling people up with the inevitable promise of doing end-game content.  Of course these guilds rarely ever do end game content and usually the people who stick around are doing more casual friendly stuff like PvP and non-raid dungeon grinds.

These people without any reward help people level up and teach them everything they know about the game.  One thing that people noted that as end game became easier and more people moved to end game content… less people were helping each other.  People began to see things in terms of rewards.

So now you have instituted helping people rewards.  Basically you recruit a person as your student and you have no PWR costs when entering dungeons.  As well you have no repair costs.  As well after each level your student gets you will receive a Level 50 item via random chest via mail.  The student on the other hand gets someone running them through everything and helping explain the game to them.

This gives an incentive to be both a student and a mentor to everyone.  It also incentivizes getting people leveled up fast.  This makes sense for their profit model as well because generally people who hit level cap are spending money on things like bag space.

While being a student I moved up 8 levels in under an hour.  This would have normally taken me 10 hours.

PvP

I don’t think you can talk about a Nexon game without talking about player versus player.  We’ll talk about what effect cash shop items have on this later… it is a Nexon game after all.

You can queue for PvP from anywhere, however there is a specific “Arena World” available for people who are going to be very arena-focused.

There are various modes.  The first you’ll be introduced to is non-stop action.  Anyone can jump into this live battlefield at any time and compete in a free for all environment.

Another game mode is “Rounds.”  In Rounds the captain of a team selects which team mate will go forward.  The other team does the same.  Theoretically all 2-4 players should get a chance at playing, in reality you can just push your best player forward every single time… which is what happens more often than not.

FFA is just what it says, free for all fighting.  You can jump into an existing game and play.  You will get points for kills.  Being a class with high AoE does a lot of good in this type of fight.

Stormy Arena is similar to rounds with some differences.  All matchups are randomly decided.  If a player loses they turn to a ghost.  All players must be transformed into ghosts on the other team.  So they keep making random matchups until one team is all ghosts.

And that’s really all anyone ever seems to play.  There are other game modes… but you nor anyone will ever play them.

Crafting

The crafting in this game is very basic, so I won’t spend much time talking about it.

The first tier of crafting is ‘enhancing.’  You put a piece of equipment in an enhancement slot at the repair guy and you hit the enhancement button.  Sometimes this just costs gold.  Sometimes it also costs some materials.  After getting a +6 enhancement you can risk destroying the piece of equipment on a failure.  I learned this the hard way…. as I went 10 levels without a chest peice.

The second tier of crafting is emblem crafting.  Emblems give you a modification on an ability.  You can have up to 8 emblems at max level.  These are simple things like adding a stun on an effect or a snare on another.  These become essential and scary in PvP.  Many people seemingly prefer stun reduction ones, for good reason.

The third tier of crafting is gear crafting.  You go to a repair guy and an entire book of gear will become available to you.  This crafted gear is vastly superior to non-crafted gear in almost every way.  However each of these costs so many items that you never really get to do this… unless you buy more bag space.  All the items are easy to get…. I just sold them all as I got them so I had enough bag space to gather more stuff in the next dungeon.

Loose Ends

The guild system has a very low population cap.  It needs to be leveled in order to get more members.

The game features a number of “high score” type mini-games.  My favorite of these is survival in which you must protect a Goddess Statue from being destroyed while trying to destroy massive numbers of creatures.  The record is like 13 minutes… I’ve survived for 3 minutes.

The characters are actually very well put together.  My favorite of these is May.  May is a very clingy girl who is looking (so desperately) for a boyfriend.  She sends you on 500000 quests in order to boost her own sway among men and jeopardize the competition.

I’m honestly surprised that Nexon (Korean) had such a great translating team able to put all of this not only into English language but into such great context and syntax.  99% of free to play MMORPGs are not going to have as good of stories as this.  I sat down and actually enjoyed getting to know these characters.

The cash store is fairly forgiving.  Unlike most Nexon games in which you must use the cash shop for the game to be playable, this one just doesn’t have that.  There is some gear in there but it’s not the best stuff and is kind of mediocre.  For the most part the cash shop is convenience stuff like bag space.  After about 20 dungeons of having a full bag and having to empty it every single time you’ll probably purchase bag space.

The cash shop items all cost about $2.  This means for them to get a first order sale price you’d have to buy like 20 items.  I didn’t see any signs of raid passes or anything like that in there.

Another thing is you have an opportunity to earn some in-game currency via the auction house.  Gold can be traded for in-game currency from other players and gold can be traded for items on the auction house.  This essentially means that you can profit from this game.  However you’re not going to be making a six figures salary off this game.  Similar to games like Age of Empires Online and EVE Online this gives you a chance for hardcore players to earn their item’s shop purchases instead of paying for them.

Alternatively it can also be used to help guys who have been playing for a long time get something for free.

The game is slightly incomplete.  It’s not as incomplete as say Dragon Soul was but you can see a few placeholders.  The most obvious is when you go to the talent selection screen and there’s supposed to be small videos explaining what the talent is used for… and it’s not there.

Many people ask how many people are playing a game.  During peak hours on a Friday night the game had 4500 players who were playing through Steam.  How much of a representation that is of the total population is hard to say.  Most free to play games with 10,000 active members generally have about 1,000,000 players total.  Kind of odd I know but it goes to show how a small group of patrons keep these games alive.

I’ll also say the game is a bit pornographic.  Maybe that is a crude word… but it is.  A Steam member decided to take this photo.  It’s of a character named Irene in her Christmas event attire.  The skirt doesn’t actually cover her rear end and in fact you can see undergarments (at the right angle).  You have to be a pervert to see this… but that’s the point.

You’re going to feel like a bit of a pervert playing this game sometimes and that definitely sucks.

As a final thought what is missing from this review of a brand new MMORPG?  End game content.  Unfortunately after 30 days of playing 30 minutes a day I was only able to hit Level 30.  Had I been playing 1.5 hours a day for 30 days I would have level capped.  However because of playing within the rules I was really unable to see what end game was about.  Unlike most games that have a 10-12 hour leveling experience in order to drive you to that end game content, this one gives you a full and fresh leveling experience.

Verdict

Dragon Nest is not your average Korean MMO.  It has all of it’s advantages and none of it’s disadvantages.

The game is very clearly for a very specific crowd, casuals.  The dungeon lengths are just long enough for a person to play for a short amount of time every day.  The crafting system is short and sweet.  There are tones of mini-games that do not demand of your time.  The gear is progressive and not complicated.

If you are a casual player, you’ll no doubt love this game.  You’ll enjoy your time leveling and when you hit level cap there will be some things to do with small groups and you can help your fellow man level.

If you’re more hardcore you’ll level cap relatively quickly and find all of the end game stuff you do is the same end game stuff you do in other MMOs.

With TERA going free to play soon it’s a hard sell for a hardcore player.

But if you’re casual thumbs up.

If you’re a hardcore, thumbs down.

The Free to Player #1: Team Fortress 2

Hello all and welcome this new year to a new section of my website, The Free to Player.

In this new series we have an admission, you can’t review a free to play game… not morally at least.

A decent quality review mainly talks about the quality of the game in comparison of the price tag.

For this reason often times inferior games get higher ratings.

A free to play game played as a free to play experience cannot be given a proper review in a short term.  It has to be played for a while.  So I figured I would start off with an older game that went free to play, Team Fortress 2.

Once a month I will have a different free to play game and I’ll look at it as a free experience.  It will not follow any proper format of any sorts and at the end of the day you’ll get a thumbs up or thumbs down to the game.

As some rules for myself said game must be played for 30 days straight.

It must be played for minimum 30 minutes a day.

There must be an earnest effort to play the game.

Finally I must make no effort to purchase anything, it is a totally free to play experience.

Orientation

Team Fortress 2 uses the very old very classic Team Fortress format that was setup by a mod developer with the idea that people would be connecting via dialup modems to various servers.

The free to play game brings a quick play mode in which you can search for the best possible games of various game types.  It also allows you to play some co-op against robot players

Upon entering a game you first have the option of watching a video explaining how the game works out.

On top of that after you die you can watch other players play and see how they play a particular class.  It can be helpful to see what load outs work well together and which ones do not.

Upon popping in you enter a lobby in which you can select one of the classes in the game.

You select a character and boom you’re right into the action.  Since all of the character’s are character archetypes their roles are easy to figure out.  On top of this all roles are split into Defensive, Offensive and Support.

The number of gameplay modes are numerous and can keep you interested.

The queue for joining servers and the amount of additional crap you’ll have to download is insane.  This is of course because most of the games are on privately based servers and make matchmaking a little bit of a nightmare.

Just starting up the game requires “Validation” very quickly after looting some items and even getting to a server is a 2 minute wait time.  Sometimes you get lucky and they’re playing standard maps.  Other times you’re playing something very custom that requires you to download a lot of MP3 sound effects.

The Profit Model

Discussing the profit model is important in realizing how the game has limitations.

Each character in the game is equipped with a few item’s slots including Hat, Primary Weapon, Secondary Weapon, Melee Weapon, and two additional non-combat item slots.

So when you go to the store you can buy packs that range from $20-$100.  You can buy item’s individually with item’s ranging from $5-30. Additionally you can go to the Steam Community Market and buy item’s from other players.  Using this method Valve takes a 15% cut from every purchase.

This also offers a method for you to make money and purchase items without spending money.  I earned a hat in game and sold it for $3.  I was able to use this money to purchase a really good weapon.

Hats are aesthetic only and oddly the most popular part of the game. This model works out well because it takes a long time to earn items.  I spent a four hour session and only earned three items.  A four hour day for me would give me about $200.

So for someone like me it actually makes a lot of sense to spend money here… of course I won’t because I’m cheap.

Speaking of cheap one of the most common things to gain are packages.  Packages can be unlocked using keys which you have to purchase from Steam.  This gambling method of earning money is one of the most common marketing tricks in the world.

By offering the best item’s randomly via opening these boxes it makes people feel like they have to spend money.  This doesn’t stop people from opening up 40 boxes at $2 a key (that’s $80).

Balance

A big sell for free to play games is whether or not the game is only balanced buy the size of your wallet.

Simply put, if you do not spend money are you at a serious disadvantage. We can think of a disadvantage in many ways but the only one we are really concerned with is potency… that is how much damage you deal.

In Team Fortress 2 the game is heavily imbalanced in terms of items…. but they’re not the ones in the shop.

The most potent weapons in the game are the ones that are picked up through playing.  The item’s in the shop are not the best and are merely starter weapons.  The hats are purely aesthetic.

The game’s balance problems come in that a person can randomly pick up a Katana Sword for a Demo and rock people with the Demo, whereas a person could spend endless hours and get useless junk.

It’s a severe weakness in the game which infuriated me until I got some top hat that I was able to sell for $3.

I think the biggest thing that will hold newer players back as far as balance goes is the fact that there are so many people who have played this game for so long and so well.

Customization

One of the things that is huge in Team Fortress 2 is customization of the class archetypes.

On top of the ability to swap out weapons to fit your play style there are hats. This is the part of the game that sort of bothers me… and well everyone.  Valve’s first attempt to transition into free to play was through the development of aesthetic hats that make you look like a tool.

It was this very odd way for people to show off their money and it’s left a foul taste to the point where everyone makes the obvious hat joke.

There is no individual progression and there is no RPG elements.  Because of this the play value of the game is insanely casual.  You might be able to play for 15-30 minutes at a time. The main problem is that because the customization options are a result of almost total randomness your incentive to continue playing can only be based around the gameplay and not some sort of hook.

Gameplay

As one of the founding members of the old modern first person shooter the controls for Team Fortress 2 are pretty simple.

There is also a high amount of variety in the weapons.  Some weapons will have a zoom in feature that will give you better aim, others do not. Some weapons have a secondary attack, others do not.

Melee weapons are all sort of a  goofie and unlike it’s sister Counter-Strike… melee hits are not one hits.  They are of course one-hits if you attack from behind… but that’s something else.

The main gameplay weaknesses come with The Engineer and the Medic who are not particularly exciting to play…. and no amount of customization will change this.

It’s because the job of your medic on the field will not change based on the gun, the core gameplay will always be running around and healing people.  On top of that it is not exactly something particularly hard to do, you literally hold your button on someone and when they are healed up you can “Uber Charge” them by continuing to just heal  them up.

The engineer has roughly the same problem.  It appears to me the engineer is the class for the person who doesn’t want to shoot themselves.  They run around the battlefield placing teleporters, turrets and health distribution.  Then they run around the map picking up packages of building supplies so they can upgrade all of this stuff.

Then people destroy them, rinse and repeat.

I also hate how the engineer will get so many kills by people literally running into their turret and getting one-hitted.

Unlike the medic the engineer can pull out a shotgun or pistol and do some damage, but obviously not as much as anyone else.

It’s a similar problem to what World of Warcraft originally had.  In the original WoW business model they had a bunch of support classes that really didn’t function all that well by themselves.  WoW fixed that by making every class awesome instead of having it be team oriented.

Yes the weakness of Team Fortress 2’s gameplay is that in the team element people are going to be forced to play roles they would otherwise not want to play. On the upside they are all interchangeable positions so you can pass the buck off to someone else.

Mann vs Machine

This is a new gameplay mode that Valve created for the game.  It is basically a team survival game.

The big change this creates is a co-op mode that does not involve killing people.

I found this new gameplay mode to be very boring and honestly, poorly implemented.  Basically the problem has to do with matchmaking.

Instead of having some sort of system to match people with people of similar skill you can choose to go from Beginner to Expert.  Of course if you actually want a game you will choose all games available.

The end result is you go to a game you cannot really beat with random people who just don’t get stuff.  Honestly in most of my matchups I just got people who were AFK and not contributing.

I was able to get to Round 3 on Expert and that was the end for me.

It felt like the game could use more balancing around making all of the classes useful.  Snipers, scouts, medics, and spies seemed to be relatively useless.  Worst yet everyone sort of just picked the same class.

Most people go to these just to farm the Mann Co Supply Crates which contain valuable hats and weaponry.  The fact that people can now sell items on the market has actually created a lot of AFKing in hopes of randomly getting item drops.

Overall this Mann vs Machine co-op is very poorly implemented and without friends… it’s just not worth doing.

Other Stuffs

Speaking of friends… there isn’t really much room to make friends and socialize in this game.  The only real communication you get is people trading weapons with each other… which of course is business and not friendship.

It’s more or less how the game is setup.  Beyond hitting T and talking there is really no place to talk to people.  There is no in-game messaging system that would allow you to talk to people outside of the game, without adding them to Steam.

Worst yet is the VOIP in the game.

The VOIP is really odd and out of place.  Sometimes you can hear what your opponents are saying and sneakily get to their target and kill them.  Other times it’s just some dude holding his talk key down as he listens to Toxic by Britney Spears.

It’s really quite random and out of place.

VOIP just calls for trolling and abuse.  Considering that Valve created an anti-abuse policy for DoTa 2 I don’t exactly understand why they would have it in this game still.

The game also has the Steam Workshop which will allow you to create statless items (for aesthetics) and maps.  I believe creation of hats is strictly forbidden.

Verdict

After playing the free to play version of Team Fortress 2 for a month I can say that this game does in fact get a THUMBS UP from me.

thumbsup

The format for earning rewards is not heavily hampered by balance issues like so many free to play games and this one is hot to serve.

Just don’t play the medic or engineer and you’ll enjoy the game.

Thanks for reading the first ever Free To Player review.  The game I’ll be playing for the next month will be Dragon Nest, an Action MMORPG from Nexon.  If anyone has suggestions for the game after that I’m always taking submissions.