Tobold's Blog
Monday, February 22, 2016
Even nicer Pay2Win

Sometimes I feel that I started my exploration of Pay2Win games at the deep end with League of Angels, which makes you pay in order to not lose your position. My second attempt, Dungeon Boss, was already a lot nicer, as you basically competed against yourself. But now I have been trying another game a reader recommended, Gems of War, and it turns out to be even nicer.

Gems of War is a game based very much on the Puzzle Quest series of games, but with a collectible card aspect. The match-3 gameplay is a lot more interesting than the combat systems of the other two games I mentioned, as it involves player skill. Thus potentially more longevity. And the collection system is the nicest Pay2Win you could imagine: Buying "keys" to open chests with random cards quickly isn't about a gaining power any more, but rather about new content, getting more different options of cards to play with. This is helped by getting more and more team slots while leveling, so you can play around with different options without always disbanding your old builds.

What all three Pay2Win games have in common is a VIP system. Basically the game sums up all the money you spent on it (displaying it as points, not as money, as that would probably hurt), and gives you a VIP level in function of that money spent. And the VIP level gives you various free daily goodies, for example glory keys in Gems of War. A typical case of "the rich getting richer": If you don't spend money you won't open all that many glory chests, but if you do spend money, you are given free keys for them every day.

Gems of War has a solution to the problem of random cards risking to give you the same card in multiple copies: Once you have 6 of the same card, you can sacrifice 5 of them and turn the remaining card into a higher rarity version. The next level costs 10 cards to sacrifice, and so on. If you end up with the highest possible rarity, you can still sacrifice cards for souls, which are used to level up other cards. Of course money is a much faster way to high rarity level cards.

What I like about Gems of War is that all the money you spend results in something permanent, or even like the VIP status in a gift that keeps on giving. There is no system of energy or stamina or something which runs out and asks you to spend money if you want to play more right now. All purchases go towards more cards, stronger cards, or the power of your kingdoms (which also result in gold and tribute every day). Playing Gems of War completely for free appears difficult to me, as even with good cards this is by no means a trivially easy game. But Gems of War certainly is a game where you could spend a fixed amount of money once, preferably at the start (some of the starting pack offers are really nice), and then keep enjoying the game without further spending.

I think I like that system.

Let me throw a comparative system together out of something we're both already familiar with to see if I understand the basic concept:

Let's say WoW was free to play, but you got no Garrison. You can buy the Garrison and the buildings and upgrades, and your Garrison has an interface that shows you how many "G-points" you're in it for, and allows you to freely trade buildings back and forth so long as you don't exceed your G-point amount.

With no Garrison, you can still craft and bank through the community buildings in town (You would need some way to get a small amount of daily cooldown craft materials.)

There's nothing in your Garrison you can't get if you don't have one, it's just a LOT easier.

Is that basically right?
Glad you like it.

I feel like I should point out that there's a version on the Xbone which is a very, very, very old build where you had to actually pay the in-game currency to play ANY match - PVP or PVE - and currency was awarded more sparsely. Also, there was no Ascension mechanic or Kingdom levelling through gold. I have that one running as well, and have noticed that their latest updates are hinting at the crafting/upgrade system which I assume is the Ascension mechanic.

Steam/iOS versions have crossplay - the xbone version does not.
Nice game, I like it so far. I just find it a bit too slow between loading times and "story" sessions.
Seems a fun little game, with a reasonable amount of deck-building strategy. (The board seems a bit restrictive for Match-3 geniuses to really make hay, though I guess skill at that must help some.) I would suspect you can make a reasonable deck for free with patience.
This is maybe my second or (maximum) time in my mobile-gaming life where I actually spent some money on a free game. Totally worth it, the game is fun, engaging and extremely rewarding. Plus it can be played on PC too (using BlueStacks android emulator) which makes it 2x better.

Thanks Tobold, nice suggestion. Loved it.
P.s. It's on Steam too, didn't know about that.
I've been playing quite a lot over the past couple of days. Cleared the first city and the first two challenges at legendary. So far I don't see any need to spend money, though I may buy something as quid pro quo if I keep playing.
[I should say, I cleared the city and the five steps of each challenge up to 'legendary'... I've been playing at normal difficulty and I know there are higher diffculties, but I haven't tried those.]
Still playing, still addictive. The Steam version is the best one, in my opinion: bigger and much, much faster. I strongly suggest it.
Indeed, it's fun, and they throw so much stuff at you that there's no need to pay. But there's a big thing lacking in the shape of player interaction. Guild chat is minimal, and you don't get to compete directly against other players, so after a while the enjoyment of building a good team palls. Maybe some time they will introduce a direct match-up mode. The AI could move if the player fails to move with a short time limit, which would mitigate some of the disadvantages of such a mode, I think.

Actually, I think nearly all PvP strategy games should work like this. Even chess, so long as the AI is tuned to be weaker than humans in the particular league. But none of them seem to! Is there something I'm missing?

For the record, my current team is Spirit Staff, Elwyn, Blast Cannon and Dwarf Lord. What are others running?
@ Gerry

- Atlanta (level 8)
- Me (level 38) + Avenging Falchion
- Sparkgrinder (level 7)
- Luther (level 7) or Summoner (level 9) or Dark Master (level 7)

6 towns unlocked (5 cleared 100%). I do some PvP/challenges too from time to time.

Summoner and Dark Master are pretty fun to play when Atlanta gets killed as you get free summons which can gimp the enemy.
I have only 3 towns cleared, but I did a lot of PvP. I also like the Treasure Hunt mini-game.

Elwyn is L5, and I just put the others up to L10, as they benefit more from it. My level is about 34 I think. Elwyn is very flexible, but his main job is to pump himself and the Blast Cannon.

I love when the AI plays Summoner, as the Ghouls are so weak you can just leave skulls on the board and build up mana, while he has to waste turns on the skulls. But as a human player, you can no doubt get more out of them, and the Thralls look interesting.
Dammit, I've reached a point where earning souls takes way too long. My cards are level 8-10 and upgrading just one level eats too many souls. I guess I've reached the paywall... Unless I play tons of PvP.

On a side note, that's not PvP. It's PvE with player-built armies (controlled by the game). Still nice but a true PvP could be even better.
Yeah, the only real PvP element is choosing a defence team, and even then a lot of it is about picking one the computer will use reasonably well.

Luckily I do enjoy PvP, and spending the glory on treasure hunt maps nets even more souls. There's also the option to disenchant units for five souls each. But if you want to try lots of cards, best to leave them at Level 5 until you're certain you will use them a lot, I think.
It's one of those games that leave me in two minds about the pay to play model.

In my case, it's a good free game and there's no real reason to pay.

If you have lots of money and are impatient to make battles a little easier, it's probably a fine trade, and I guess you're supporting the sort of games you like.

But if you aren't swimming in cash, and you somehow mistake or psychologically substitute improving your units for succeeding in life - it's ready to take everything you've got at the click of a button.

These FTP games hack our instincts to become better and stronger, and to gain the respect of our peers. And with the increased evisceration of the social aspects of games, it adds insult to injury by becoming more and more false.

The game is extremely expensive, if you follow that route. You either play for foree OR spend a lot of cash, in my opinion. Few dollars here and there will not really "boost" you. Leveling past 8 is expensive as hell and the amount of needed souls/diamonds/wings is just insane.

I'ts been a nice ride anyway, I loved it :)
I have a couple levelled to max. The souls do come, if you're patient. Spinning glory into treasure hunts does help, if you want to try that route.
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