Age of Empires Castle Siege on Windows and iOS

Age of Empires Castle Siege Review

Microsoft Studios continues their experimentation in different business models and applications with Age of Empires Castle Siege, the latest entry into the AoE franchise.

This time around, Age of Empires has been adapted to fit what I have coined the ‘time waster’ model. Essentially it’s a full game, but actions are gated behind time sinks. Building a barracks will take just a few minutes, but upgrading that barracks to be able to build your next units may take 10 hours. Gathering resources plays a huge part in time waster games, and that mechanic is ever-present in Castle Siege. Have you played games like Clash of Clans, Star Wars Commander or similar games? If yes then you already know how to play Age of Empire Castle Siege.

Your Kingdom Can’t Run on an Empty Stomach

ResourcesGameplay is centered around building up your kingdom whether it be Briton, Teutonic Knight, or any of the other popular civilizations. To do so, you need three things: Apples, Wood, and Stone. Acquiring these three resources is done with buildings that generate the resource over time then storing them in another building. Each of these buildings (generators and storage) can be upgraded to generate faster and store more.  It’s simple and easy to manage in Castle Siege. [Read more…]

Agar.io for iOS

Agar.io for iOS

Have you ever played the incredibly addictive Agar.io? I thought it was just a browser game until I logged into the app store yesterday and saw that it was the #1 free game.

Agar.io AppAgar.io is simple. You move your little cell/dot/bubble/thing around what looks like a piece of graph paper and absorb little baubles and other players who are smaller than you. It reminds me of those games I used to play where I was a fish and I could grow by eating smaller fish until I was eventually the biggest fish in the sea.

In Agar.io the goal is much the game: Grow. Eventually you’ll grow so large that you can barely move and you just sit there as a fat mass absorbing anything that makes the mistake of coming too close to you. What I like about Agar.io (and hate… or love to hate) are the splitting mechanics. You can eject part of your mass in the direction you are moving thus catching others who are running or out of your reach. Moving too slow? Eject your mass onto someone else and assimilate them into your blob or simply split into multiple pieces to move faster.

Something to watch out for are the jaggedy green circles. Run into one of those when you are too big and you’ll split yourself into a ton of little pieces and be swept up by someone like me who like to lurk around them waiting for prey.

A really fun/funny feature to play with is the nickname system. There are dozens of names you can use that will make your blob/dot/thing take on an image. Most major countries are represented along with memes (Doge), major sites (Reddit), and even EA. I chuckled when I saw the irony that was a massive EA blob floating around absorbing everything in its path.

Agar.io on iOS is 100% online. You play with others. It’s actually such a simple and ‘pure’ gameplay experience that it lends itself beautifully to touch controls and mobile implementation. It runs phenomenally. I pretty sure there isn’t even sound. My only two complaints are that you can get some annoying ads between rounds (when you die and have to restart), and sometimes there are little lag hiccups which will cause you to fly right into EA a waiting juggernaut.

Download it and give it a try. It’s free, fun, and addicting (at least for a while).

Fallout 4 & Fallout Shelter

Fallout 4

I watched Bethesda’s E3 Showcase last night to see whether or not I would want to be interested in Fallout 4. I will happily admit that I have never been into the Fallout series. Each new Fallout game I look to see if something unique or interesting presents itself, and then decide whether or not I’m going to finally jump on-board.

My reason for disliking Fallout has never too focused around the game mechanics. I think the open-world setting is pretty good. The conversation options are lacking, but the stories (as loose as they can be) are decent. What I really dislike is the post-apocalyptic world. I don’t like the brownish orangish grayish tint on everything. I don’t like wastelands or modern/post-modern weapons and gadgets when they’re combined with a wasteland environment and motif. That’s all on me, and entirely subjective.

Watching the video during the E3 Showcase, I will admit the world looked a little bit better… although still that post-apoc wasteland. There does seem to be a little more color infused into the world. I was digging that. Right when I was starting to think, “Hey this doesn’t look so bad,” I saw what probably would keep me away: The wacky/zany craziness of wearing ridiculous outfits and using downright unforgivably stupid weapons. I think I saw a bazooka shoot teddybears that made enemy’s heads explode. I’m done.

Fallout 4 Pip-Boy EditionGraev already Pre-ordered at Best Buy, and I got one of their available pre-orders of Fallout 4: Pip-Boy Edition on Amazon. It comes with a Pip-Boy that will hold your phone and several other “collector’s edition” items. Bethesda is going all out and creating an app to accompany the game. I don’t know if I’ll end up getting it or not, but I have the pre-order reserved and Amazon won’t charge me until it ships. Might as well hold on and make my decision later.

The biggest news of the night was that Fallout 4 will be available on November 10 of this year (2015) which is crazy fast.

Fallout Shelter

Bethesda also announced that right after the show a new game would be available for iOS and Andoird: Fallout Shelter. It’s one of those time wasting games where you build stations to collect resources and keep people happy. It’s Freemium, so you can download and wait for things or spend real money on lunch boxes which contain cards that will give your shelter benefits.

Fallout Shelter

I’ve just started playing and find it enjoyable enough to log in once or twice a day during breaks at work to check on my shelter, but it’s nothing I’ll spend money on just yet. I’ll write up more formal tidbits about the game later this week or next.

In-App Purchases

In-App Purchases

I’m playing a lot of mobile games these days now that I have an iPhone 6 Plus. Playing on the iPhone 6 Plus screen is way more fun than the iPhone 4. I can actually see stuff and my fingers aren’t blocking 40% of the screen. I’m not really a “mobile gamer” though, so I’m not inclined to spend more than $0.99 on an app, and even then I won’t buy ones that aren’t on a huge sale and critically acclaimed – Terraria for $0.99 today, for example.

The apps I tend to play are “freemium” which means they have In-App purchases (IAP). The IAP are generally the same type of thing you’d expect from a F2P game like League of Legends, or something a little more insidious like the type of model found in a F2P MMO. The worst of the lot are the IAPs tied to the “waiting game.” Freemium apps are notorious for being timer games where the main gameplay element is actually just waiting for time to pass. Token, Pearls, Doodads, or whatever the in-game currency for that particular app can be earned in-game at a tauntingly slow pace (only there to make put you in pain) or bought from the store. Spend the premium currency and the timers speed up.

Mobile games, the games meant to be ‘on the go and quick’ end up being slow and tedious upkeep games. It’s this weird juxtaposition of time and convenience, and that’s what makes mobile gamers the perfect prey for this type of business model. In order to keep a game that should be quick and convenient actually quick and convenient, money has to be spent.

IAPs have become a license to make bad design decisions or in many games entirely bad games. Games that would be AMAZING — even better than so many PC/Console games — are destroyed by IAPs having to dictate design direction. It’s sad because had the game simply been sold for $5 or $10 or heck even $20 I would have happily bought the game rather than feel like I have to be nickeled and dimed (many times to extreme sums of $$$) just to find the level of enjoyment I could have by paying the initial cost.

I truly believe we are entering an era where mobile devices are capable of providing as-good or better gaming experiences. For that to happen these games can not continue to exist predominantly as IAP waiting games.

Albion Online Alpha

Albion Online is a F2P sandbox MMO currently in alpha.  We received keys to participate in the alpha test that began this evening which ended up being so much fun that I had to jump on here and share my thoughts.  I would have had this post up yesterday evening shortly after playing, but my poor little laptop BSOD’d and I lost the whole thing. :(

Albion Online UI

UO meets Action RPG

Think of Ultima Online + a little bit of action RPG and you’ll start to form the foundation of Albion Online.  Played from an isometric perspective, Albion Online offers a completely sandbox experience on any device.  I was shocked to see that you can play cross-platform on iOS, Android devices, PC, etc.

 

Building

Players in Albion are able to build structures out in the world.  From what I can tell, there appear to be pre-designated spots close to the main city.  I haven’t explored far (the world is pretty dang big) enough to see if it opens up to more of a ‘place anywhere’ mechanic.  You can place storage buildings to help you store all of your heavy resources (there is a carry capacity), crafting stations, buildings to decorate, etc.  Like UO, you are safe in your building unless you built in the guild warfare areas.

Gathering and Skills

Albion Online Skills

This is about 5% of the skill menu

From the moment I started playing I realized how much time I could lose to this game.  The very first thing I had to do was gather wood, stone, and hides to craft myself some basic tools and armor.  I recommend making a shield and adding the Shield Wall spell — great survivability!  After crafting my tools I realized that everything in-game seems to be driven by the skill menu.  This skill menu is MASSIVE and makes Path of Exile look tame. [Read more…]