Terra Battle (Mistwalk, 2014)

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Terra battle, developed by Mistwalk for iOS and Android (2014),
Or, how I tried to avoid micropayments on a free-to-play.

Terra Battle is a tile strategy JRPG. In it, you have to move your characters around the field in order to flank and attack enemy tiles. You have to bear in mind there is a rock-paper-scissors weakness system and you actually need to use it or you lose. You actually have to play methodically or you lose. Sometimes you lose just because, I’m suspecting so you will buy more lives. It really bugs me because the game is actually good but different little things render it almost unplayable. I had some sort of Stockholm syndrome and kept playing, though, because it’s good and the gameplay is original. Not the Jewels ripoffs and four or five variations on that we’re constantly seeing in mobile device marketplaces.

First bad thing, you have to play online, even in single-player mode, and I can’t really see why. Which means that I, having a tablet with no cellular data capabilities, can’t play while commuting. And second and most important, there is a lives system which means once you’re out of tries, you can’t play anymore unless you buy more lives, at 0,89 euro a pop, 54,99 for a hundred. They don’t regenerate over time like lives on Candy Crush –but there’s a stamina counter that means maybe you do have lives but still can’t play for a while because you’re out of it. There is a workaround, though, which is that if you login everyday they give you some lives each time, so I would save them up and play every few days when I had enough to try to play through a stage. I might have noticed, or maybe I am biased, that the longer you keep logging in, the fewer lives you get. Fortunately, for the last month or so there was a special event every week where they would give you five lives or so, for me more than enough to play through the day.

I’m an adult and I would pay to fully unlock this game but I know nobody in Mistwalk or a lot of other development companies care because free-to-play/freemium is much more profitable than you can imagine. It will only be over when someone invents something that’s even more profitable, and I don’t think that’s ever going to be the traditional model anymore. But I refuse to play along this kind of freemium. Why should I have to pay more if I need more tries to clear a stage? Why does anyone think it’s reasonable to pay more to beat an arcade game than, say, Diablo or Dragon Age, even if you pay little by little? (I’ll tell you why: some of my colleagues do work that’s related to pay-to-play and you’d be surprised how many people have compulsive tendencies and poor self-control).

Anyway, the fun disappeared relatively quickly. Even though there were some quirks on certain stages, like enemies that make you sleep (god, I hated those), or that leave a trace of bombs or goo that hurts you when you’re on it, that’s pretty much it. Once you’ve figured out how to approach and beat those quirks it’s pretty straightforward and monotonous.

So to sum it up, my feelings towards it are lukewarm. At first i really liked the game mechanics, but I don’t think they were exploited with a lot of variance, which kills the fun of it. Also you’ve got the two major downsides of having to play online and its free-to-play/freemium nature.

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