Sunday, September 28, 2014

Snappy Gores - Happy Wars Review

   (Note: This review is over the Steam version. The Xbox version has been around longer and may have more stuff.)

   Happy Wars is a cartoony action-strategy game developed by Toylogic and available on Steam and XBLA (Xbox Live Arcade). More action than strategy since 15 vs 15 takes some getting used to, but it's so cute you may just dismiss the strategy part of the game altogether for a while.

If you can hardly tell what's going on, then you're playing Happy Wars.
   There is only one game mode, in which you take control of towers in a linear path to your opponent's castle in an effort to take control of it as well. It's a casual game and kid-friendly, so most of your time will be spent repeatedly stabbing people rather than devising some kind of master plan. However, it does have a bit more depth than it appears to on the surface. Keep reading to find out.

   Gameplay: Fun
   Happy Wars is very simple. Pick a class, join a mass of fighters, and try to outplay the enemy mass. As you fight and control objectives, your classes will level up and gain access to up to nine randomly-chosen skills, three of them being a special type called "Team Skills". When activating Team Skills, your character will stand still and circles will appear on the ground next to them. If other players join you and stand inside the circles, you can launch a devastating group attack or buff. Used correctly, the Team Skills win games on their own, but they require your team to have some degree of cooperation.
   Because of the scope of the game most skills, Team Skills, and structures revolve around taking down multiple enemies at once. This can make the game somewhat shocking to play at first, since kills are frequent and entire teams can be wiped near-instantly. At the same time, if that isn't fun to play then I don't know what is.

   Classes: Well Made
   There are currently three classes in the Steam version of the game: Warrior, Mage, and Cleric. Outside of skills, equipment and looks are fully customizable to make your class easily-distinguishable from everyone else.

I'll be your doctor today...
   The classes are pretty self-explanatory for the most part. Warriors focus primarily on killing everything and are best equipped to win one-on-one fights. Mages focus on buffing allies, destroying structures the other classes can't reach, and are the only class equipped with Team Skills capable of clearing the field. Clerics focus on healing and reviving, but are also the only class that can build special structures such as the ballistas and battering rams.
   All of them have a clear place on the field, while also allowing players to use them exclusively. Even if you never want to play any other class than Warrior, nothing forces you to switch and if you're good you will stay relevant every game. Cooperation between players is more important than cooperation between classes.

   Pay-to-Win Status: Negative
   Some things are questionable, such as Happy Cards which let you get good items using Tickets (cash), but overall everything is obtainable. Lower rank players can buy equipment of higher ranks, but they can't actually equip them because of the weight limit per rank.

Luck leveled up! What does that even mean?

   Aside from that, Tickets can still be gained in small amounts from Missions, so becoming really powerful is only a matter of time.

   Controls: Takes Some Getting Used To
   Movement and attack controls are fine, just WASD and mouse clicks. The problem is the controls for skills. Even though you can have nine skills available, only three of them can be selected at one time for use with the 1-3 keys. To select different skills, you have to hold Shift and mouse over the skill you want. This can be clunky if you want to access a higher or lower tier skill quickly, and some skills require you to hold the button down. I can't hold a number key down without taking a finger off my movement controls, which is awkward for a particular spin-to-win ability.

   Castles: So Tough
   Eventually, after taking the rest of the towers, you will happen upon the enemy's castle. Castle gates are closed as long as an enemy is near it, and it is heavily fortified with ballistas on all sides, aside from the enemy soldiers repeatedly pouring out of it. The fastest way to take it out is to have mages focus on the ballistas, and get clerics to build ladders (which let you get over the wall and into the castle), and the battering ram (which can take down the gate quickly).
   Of course, that would require cooperation. Because the castle is so hard to take down, what tends to happen more often is that the losing team just turtles in their castle until time runs out. The only reason I say this is bad is because this can make some matches drag on a lot longer than they should, though it makes pelting the losing team with rocks afterwards more fun.

Next time, lose FASTER!
   Equipment: Hard to Gauge
   The gear on this game makes for some pretty good character customization, but the upgrade numbers can get pretty high. Better gear is heavier, and your weight limit only goes up with increases in player rank but there aren't enough players on the game to guarantee being matched with people of your own level. That said, it's also tough to really know how much damage that extra 500 Attack translates into.

   Final Score: 3.5 out of 5

   Despite it's shortcomings and some network issues, it's a pretty fun game. Even if you have trouble with multiplayer, you can still play the game single player with Skirmish or a short Story Mode (though the AI loses pretty easily). You can find a lot of enjoyment in crushing other players, and even more if your team is able to let loose a lot of Team Skills. Meteors won't let you down.

   Extra Things to Know
   - Only canned chat. You can't speak freely.
   - You can switch classes when you die
   - Each class can have three different loadouts
   - Maps vary a lot from each other, but the objective remains the same
   - Spawn Stronger lets you expend tickets or stars for a hefty buff that lasts throughout the game.

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