Free to play games (F2P) are always a tough genre. They flood app stores and marketplaces endlessly and are hugely popular on mobile platforms. Some, like Clash of Clans, are gems while others are so ridden and rife with pay to win set ups and blocked content that it renders them unplayable. That being said I judge these kind of games not only on the merits of their game play but on three other factors that I have learned can make or break a good free to play game. Keep these factors in mind because I’ll use them in my reviews of free to play games in the future. Those factors are:
- Speed: How quickly it can be played in a short time? Most of us play our mobile games while on the bus, or waiting for something to occur. So how quickly they can enjoy various aspects is important
- Ads: If its F2P there are going to be Ads. I am looking at how those Ads impact the flow of game play. Do they pop every so often, are they continuous etc.
- Freemium: How free is the game. Some games lock you out of content unless you pay for more, others are pay to win. So I will be judging it on those merits as well but this will be judged more so on how intrusive it is. Some free to play games offer great content for a little money.
So with that out of the way lets move on towards the good stuff.
I want to thank Tony, a fellow writer here at DHTG for letting you and me know that WH40K: Freeblade had made the jump to the Android. I’ve been eyeing the game for a while but, with no means to play it, I had to bide my time. Now thanks to him I’ve been able to dive in to Pixel Toy’s take on the 40k universe and I am quite pleased with what I have found.
First and foremost I want to go over to Tony and let him give you details on what exactly a Freeblade is within the Warhammer 40k universe:
The story of the game is simple. After a devastating attack on your house you are the last Imperial Knight and its up to you to lay waste to your enemies. Warhammer 40k lore is thick so I won’t even begin to go into the details. If you want to know more about the depths of the lore check it out here. Now onto the review!
Graphics and Customization
The graphics are impressive and on par with some current gen console games at least when it’s running off my Samsung S7 edge phone. It does require you to have Android 4.0.3 or greater but it should run on the older models fairly well. You can watch the wear and tear of your Knight as you stomp through the cities, factories, and forests. The weapons have weight to them and the destruction is real even if you cannot tear the entire environment apart.
Customizing your Knight to your tastes feels bottomless and draws upon the endless paint schemes Games Workshop has to it’s name. Some have to be bought with gold, which is trickled along in game or purchased with real world money, and others are bought with ore which is a pure in game currency. Check out the video I captured below.
As you can see there are a ton of options. The game is never tiring to look at and I’m still noticing nice little touches here and there throughout the game.
On top of that it scratches the loot collectors itch right down to the color coded boxes you get during missions and after. It’s the Rock, Paper, Scissors, Spock of the game world but if it isn’t broke don’t fix it. White is meh, green is good, blue is better, purple makes you happy and orange places you on the pedestal of awesomeness that states you have found the rarest of the rare!
It comes steadily too and while you won’t see too many variations to your trusty tank sized chain sword you will notice minor changes to the Knight itself with each new piece you equip and variations to your main heavy weapon as well. The loot grab alone keeps me playing.
Then there is the Forge which lets you reprocess old gear into newer pieces or upgrade your current favorite piece of gear. They truly have made a deep game out of a mobile package. As time goes by you will unlock quick supply drops that have the potential to give even more gear and various loot, along with daily quests and more all while being able to upgrade this items with the in-game currency of ore.
While graphics can draw you in the game play is what will keep you coming back and the game play in Freeblade is solid. Mobile games often struggle with a fine line of user interaction. Some offer simple touch based game play and relay on the graphics to carry it through while you stare at the pretty animations and yet others will bog you down with complex mechanics that for you to pay more attention to what you are doing with your fingers than on the game itself. Pixel Toys has managed to find the happy medium and they did it by removing your ability to “control” your Knight.
Once you’ve decked out your Knight in all the shiny bits its time to get out and kick the crap out of Orks and Chaos Marines. The Knight moves on its own and Pixel Toy does a great job of pointing you in the direction you need to be looking. The enemies flood on screen in waves and die in pieces under the withering fire of your guns. Everything on screen dies a beautiful death and the difficulty scales at an acceptable fashion that does not make you feel cheated each time you fall. The controls themselves are great with one minor issue.
To fire your main gun you hold down your finger and drag it over your enemies until they explode into meaty bits while making sure not to over heat the gun. A back mounted missile launcher acts as a good screen clearer in most instants and its just a double tap away once you’ve equipped it. Tap on the blue shield to adjust your ion shields and block a rocket, it’s all very smooth. The only problem child is your heavy weapon. You hold down two buttons to aim it and while it functions well most of the time I’ve released a few premature rounds into the concrete instead of my enemies. As that is the only complaint about game play I have, it gets a BB-8 thumbs up.
And melee combat is a thing of simplicity and beauty that truly shows you the weight of your Imperial Knight. Animations are the same throughout with some minor variation depending on the type of big bad you are fighting but they never get boring and the timing game is perfect. If you miss you pay for it, as you should when fighting a giant robot, because the small guys don’t threaten you to much. You can see it in the gameplay video I’ve included below at about the one minute mark.
I don’t think I’ll ever get tired of watching my Knight stomp by his enemies beaten shell.
As you progress in the main game you open a number of other activities that enhance the game play further. Daily events allow you to compete against other players for prizes and some even allow you to test out a legendary level Knight which makes you giddy for the things to come. Patrols have various mission types and the only fault in them is sometime they do not clearly show you the objective. I failed one mission because I did not see the little red ring around the generators I needed to blow up but that is a minor frustration.
On top of that you will get access to supply drops which can be used to gain various supplies and the usual fare of payable content, such as special supply crates that provide in game currency, better gear and the like.
The Three Points:
I saved these for last because while they make an impact on the game they are not always a deal breaker.
Speed: Pixel Toys has done a great job of making the game playable in bite sized chunks. I’ve been able to run a mission while taking a brief break at work or while I’m waiting at the Doctors office and yet it’s engaging enough to play for longer game play. Unlike some games that limit you to energy your Knight is limited by it’s internal integrity and it took about half an hour to an hour before I had to wait to play.
Speed rating: 10 out of 10
Ads: If it’s free to play you will have to deal with Ads but once again Pixel Toys has proven it knows how to place them. Every once in a while they will cover the screen with a bundle app but the rest of the time it’s up for you to see the Ads spread throughout the game. Ads are introduced as a way to get free boosters for the live (such as more XP, or better gear quality chance) and run about a minute. I found myself doing it when I had time because it was not an inconvenience. They are also used to let you get additional supply drops, repair your mech’s internal structure to a certain degree, and so on. It’s all very well done and never in your face.
Ads Rating: 10 out of 10
Freemium: Here is where I feel Pixel toys shows innovation but tip toes on the line of “pay to win” without crossing it. The standard currency for the game is ore, as I said, and the special currency which can be bought with real money is gold. You get a small amount of gold at the start of the game and every once in a while you will get a little more for leveling up and special events. On top of that once you make an in-app purchase with real money (not gold) you gain a loyalty rank which grants you some minor bonuses at loyalty level 1. At level 3 however you have a +20% chance to receive higher quality items and your structural repair speed is increased by 50%. Neither of these are deal breakers but it does lean in minor favor of those who buy for the game. You can also buy value packs that give you enhanced gear which could give the edge over the competition in daily events because your gear is better than the free to play player.
The innovation comes in the way they offer players to get gold. We often see in the wild internet places where you can gain prizes or real money by filling out surveys, downloading items, and so on and it shows up here. By downloading particular apps or taking surveys you can get varying amounts of gold. For example I downloaded an app and about a day later was rewarded about 60 gold in the process. This does not reinvent the wheel but for those who want to use in game gold to speed up processes, deploy salvage team, or buy some nifty paint schemes they have a chance to do that with a little patience.
Freemium Rating: 6 out of 10
I have enjoyed my time with Freeblade immensely and Pixel Toys has done a fantastic job of bringing the 40k universe to life in the form of these massive mechs. My complaints are minor and they never ruin the fun and the fact that the premium content does not outright break the game make it even better. Developers should look to Pixel Toys format for free to play mobile games. The ads are there but unobtrusive, I can play the game quickly but enjoy it for longer lengths of time. The missions are varied enough to never get boring and the controls are deep but easy to grasp with only one minor issue with how heavy weapons are used.
Warhammer 40k is out on Android now and iPhone and I encourage everyone who wants to tear through the Warhammer 40k universe to give it a try.
Overall Rating: 8.5 out of 10