Chivalry: Medieval Warfare Review

photo-full
/ by FelixGarcia

Publisher: Torn Banner Studios
Developer: Torn Banner Studios
Release Date: October 16, 2012
Platform: Windows


Chivalry is a game about one-on-one combat that is of unprecedented quality for a primarily first-person game. The great timing-based fighting works incredibly well with but one caveat that I cannot bring myself to name a game that has better first-person melee combat. However, despite its excellent design, it is myopic. Since it is multiplayer-only except for a tutorial and some bots, the combat doesn’t quite fit the scope in which it is implemented.

Video and Audio Design

This game looks good. You might say it’s great when you find out that it’s an independent title and is only $25. Developed using Unreal, it has unrealized potential, but the details are pleasing, and the maps have enough variety to please artistically. Armor and weapon designs are high-quality and reflect the classes very well. There will be no confusion as to what type of enemy is on the battlefield, even at a fair distance. I would even argue it nearly has the effectiveness of Team Fortress 2’s silhouette-based class differentiation, though each class is almost identical in size and shape. This is true success in the creation of a class-based multiplayer game.

The audio design is very high quality, the clash and bash of the battlefield sounding excellent, giving the impression of distance or closeness very well. The grunts and voice work are also fairly well-done, though the parts in the tutorial were kind of bad, even for trying to be funny. The most important goal, having enough feedback, is achieved. There is everything here for a player to be happy about the audio.

Combat

The combat is, as stated earlier, superb. It is all based on timing, being able to learn how your opponent works and fake them out or give a kick at the right moment to throw them off and get an attack in. What makes this timing even more important is the fact that the animations for attacking and defending take time to occur. Blocking at the right time means more than waiting for them to attack, but to anticipate if they will cancel their attack or follow-through. A canceled attack means a wasted parry, which means you cannot parry again quite so soon. This is also tied to the fact that you have a limited amount of stamina, so exchanging blows must be taken at a certain pace. A too-enthusiastic offense could result in the inability to put up a good defense.

So, as you have probably noted, there is a lot to fighting someone in Chivalry. However, the fact that the game is multiplayer kind of ruins pretty much any measure of elegance the combat system might have. It becomes about taking advantage of players already in combat. Forget that there is a damage bonus to attacks that strike the head, a penalty for those that strike the feet, that there are things like stamina to prevent hacking and slashing, slower and faster weapons, and that different attacks have different levels of damage and time to animate. It is absolute chaos during multiplayer, and breaking even with a foe only spells either your or his doom when a third element joins the fray, depending on whether he is you or your foe’s ally or neither, if you’re in free-for-all mode. Of course, there is the likelihood of people who simply are bad or good at the basic combat elements, which will determine who dies or lives in these large-scale frays.

In the end, you have a jumbled mess where skill takes a backseat to coincidence and opportunism. And to add to the problem, friendly “fire” occurs too often with the wide arcs of sword swings which make up your basic attack. Forming up a defense formation is quite difficult when your ally is swinging willy-nilly or your primary attack is the only one with which you can string a small combo. In fact, the combo attack, which is a wide horizontal swing from right to left and, if the attack button is pressed again in the middle of this attack, back from left to right, is a commonly-used and extremely deadly attack that, while slow, is very effective at taking out allies and enemies.

As you can see, though the combat system is great, there are issues with it in action. These are all design issues, though, and are difficult to fix, unlike my biggest issue with the combat: moving the camera moves your weapon. If you start a swing, it animates with weight and momentum as long as you keep the camera still. If you move the camera, you can move that sword wherever you can look and as fast as you can look, which means that people physically dodging your attacks can only put distance between themselves and your weapon, not sidestep you. Also, if your attack misses someone running perpendicular to yourself, you can quickly move the mouse to point at the enemy and hurt them anyway, making all the weight behind the attack nonexistent. This can be fixed by forcing camera movement to be slowed during an attack, but it is easily filed as an exploit that should be patched.

Modes of Play

There are six maps and three modes: free-for-all, capture the flag, and objective-based game modes. The first can be played on any map, really, but there is a map modeled after a gladiatorial arena made for this game type. CTF is played on a specific map. The objective-based modes each have a map specific to them. One of these modes has a player on one team eventually crowned king and targeted as the ultimate goal, though the king gets a boost to his abilities as compensation. The regenerating health is not at all a detriment to the fun or design of the combat. It is necessary to keep on going.

My personal experience has been that free-for-all is a mess. It highlights nearly all the flaws of the game’s design, with rarely a moment for the mostly-great combat. This doesn’t change the fact that it can be very fun. Killing a bundle of enemies in a row is extremely satisfying. This mode is also a great way to experiment with strategy, what little there is, and weapons since you can rack up a bunch of kills and, with those kills, try out new weapons, Counter Strike style. Really, there’s nothing new here as it seems to fit the same role as in any other game.

Team deathmatch is similarly messy, but has more organization due to deaths being permanent in a match and it takes a number of matches to cement a win for a team.
The other game modes are more interesting as they seem to be what Chivalry was made for. They are generally a sequence of objectives one team is supposed to accomplish and the other team stop. This generally results in bottlenecks since some objectives are more difficult to achieve than others and strong teamwork is required to hold or assault a point. These make for the best game types since you get the respawning of free-for-all and the team play of team deathmatch to get a nice long match with little objectives to feel like there is something besides killing enemies to do. It ends up being quite confusing, however, since the general chaos at an objective is likely to see you killed by an enemy as much as an ally. The maps are great, generally lacking in choke points but also making some objectives easy or overly-difficult to defend or assault. Overall there is good fun to be had and a measure of strategy and skill involved in these objective-based modes.

Conclusion

I am quite happy with the game, but the flaws in design and handful of bugs (being able to move the camera quickly in the middle of an attack, needing to have the Steam beta, and not being able to click on anything while the server list populates lest the game crash [now fixed]) really detract from the potential of this game. The foundation is great, and Chivalry is at its core a game about timing-based first-person melee combat, but the rest of the game built around it is flawed, though fun. Though this means I cannot give it an enthusiastic recommendation, I recommend it nonetheless. It’s cost is about worth its content. Specifically, it’s worth it for people who have always wanted a decent first-person melee experience, but not necessarily for any other gamer.

Pros:

+$25
+Great one-on-one combat
+Fun game modes
+Something new and different

Cons:

-Multiplayer doesn’t suit the combat
-Game modes don’t give you enough feedback (e.g. no timers)
-Bugs

Final Score: 7/10

Mass Effect Retrospective: Part 1

/ by FelixGarcia

Mass Effect

Transitioning from Traditional to Modern Mechanics: ME1 to ME2

by Felix Garcia


A PC Perspective

Of all the franchises in existence, few have had as much controversy, public attention, and as great a following as the Mass Effect series and fewer still deserve it. The combination of gameplay, storytelling, music, and artistry behind the series is colossal and oft times brilliant. It is also, in many cases, a great example of experimentation and frustration. The game has many aspects to it that stretch beyond the realm of gaming, and rightfully so, but I’ll leave it to others to discuss that. For now, we are going to look at the series’ accomplishments and failures as a video game franchise. Of course, this will inevitably lead to a discussion of its merits as a delivery mechanism for music, visuals, design, story, and fun, and all that they imply.

I Like My Games with a GUI Center:

Let’s start with my favorite subject to bitch about concerning video games and the world in general: interfaces. Both ME1 and ME2 have their issues with their interfaces, but I cannot stress how badly they messed up ME2 after a decent, though not quite good, UI in ME1. Sure, ME1 had its little issues: health bars that didn’t reflect values, one-dimensional inventory, spacing problems, etc. But at least it was consistent in its mediocrity. The UI in ME2 is simply bad. Navigation is difficult, scrolling is not supported, stats are more opaque, minimal key binding, buttons are not consistent, etc. That last one is my biggest peeve: try and navigate the planets on the galaxy map and you’ll notice that buttons do different things depending where you are in the map. Scanning a planet? Escape stops that. Oh, so escape will probably zoom me out of the planet view, like in ME1, right? Nope, it just quits the galaxy map altogether. WTF? OK, let’s go back, scan a planet, and notice that there’s a back arrow button with no way of pressing it or an indication that the escape key stops it. But you have to click on the back arrow button to zoom out when you aren’t scanning. Perhaps they thought this would save people time when exiting the galaxy map. Fine, I understand that. Sometimes I just want to stop looking at planets and go talk to my crew because I forgot to advance one of the relationships I wanted to. But don’t make one button do two different things in essentially the same view. Consistency and feedback are absolutes in UI, especially with buttons like the escape key.

HUD

The interface was clearly designed around console input, but that isn’t justification. It should no longer come as a surprise to see an interface designed with the PC gamer in mind when a game is ported to the platform. It should simply be a checkbox that gets ticked when going through the process. It’s not like Bioware started as a developer that made games for consoles, either. That said, a developer should be lauded for making a PC-friendly UI as much as any should for releasing a less buggy game. A poor UI is a bug, simply put. I’m going to stop here before this becomes a rant since there are so many elsewhere.

UI

As you can see, there is nothing indicating what to press to go back one step in this screenshot.

See here and here for a breakdown of the 360 UI, though the guy seems to know something about design, most of his complaints for the first game and praise for the second are nonexistent on PC. In fact, his assessment of character development in the second game is sadly misguided. Also, see this forum post for more issues with the UI. These guys know what’s going on.

Out of Control:

The next big thing I’d like to touch on is the games’ controls and their relation to input. Controls should never get in the way of a player attempting to play a game. A part of playing on the PC is the total customization of controls that we have become accustomed to until recent years. Unfortunately, Bioware decided to doubly screw PC gamers on those points. First, and most importantly, the default controls in ME2 get in the player’s way. Second, there is no way to fix this in the options. Of course, one could modify the configuration file, which is not that big of a deal, but my intention in playing these games is to approach it as it was intended. This meant playing the game on Normal with minimal changes to the options (e.g. maxing out the graphics settings). The primary method they used to get in the way of a gamer trying to play is to map three functions to a single button. This could be advantageous in certain ways: configuring a button to do something different in different modes of play, for example. However, this method of helping the user was completely absent. Instead, it does three different things in various often-overlapping contexts in the primary mode of play. What three functions did they bind together? Sprinting, going into cover, and interaction. These were separate in ME1, one of them even being completely automatic and unmappable as such, an advantage I’ll speak of in the next section.

Fighting the Combat:

I never knew the walls of the future would be so sticky or everyone’s aim so incredibly poor. Or special operations-level soldiers to not know what is going on 99% of the time. I’ll state the obvious first: the combat is much-improved in ME2 over ME1. It’s just a much better game because of the greater freedom given to the player when shooting the bad guys. It also gave an opportunity to the team to increase the difficulty. In ME1, the game was laughably easy on normal. Aiming was assisted, certain weapons and skills were overpowered, and the enemies were stupid. What balanced things out was your allies were stupid as well, which often resulted in your death. The only way for them to be effective was to direct their every action. It got better (and easier) as you progressed because the aforementioned factors that made the game easy came to a head. This is all contributed to making the combat feel distant, disconnected, and more “strategic” than involved. I’m sure that is why they switched to a system that fixed all these issues.

Cover

It makes me wonder what those walls are coated with that they are so sticky.

ME2 took all the combat from ME1, made it control tighter, let your aim do the talking, fleshed out group combat mechanics, and vastly improved the AI. Your pals actually shoot the bad guys instead of stand around or get in your way. The bad guys advance on your position and use cover like you would expect. Skills were toned down and the weapons simplified and diversified. Directing your allies felt great and was fluid, their mapping to individual keys being a good move to using it more often and in real time. It felt like a good third-person shooter, which ME1 did not at all feel like. However, this doesn’t mean it was flawless. Despite not being up to par with other third-person shooters due to the fact that the game was still an RPG first, the biggest issue was the cover mechanic. Since sprinting, going into cover, and using items were all tied to a single button, you often found yourself suddenly stuck to a wall, facing the enemy, instead of sprinting towards them or to another form of cover. The distance from a wall where you could still press the button to go into cover was far too large to make any sense. Running past a wall was a danger, attempting to run from out of cover was a sure way to die, and picking up items near walls was a chore. Things just don’t work out with these specific actions mapped to one button. Oh, and what button do you press to remove yourself from cover? Not the one that put you there, oh no, it’s the melee button. It can’t even be remapped to another button; it has to be whatever you used for melee. Now, this obviously presents the problem of not being able to melee from cover (e.g. to attack an enemy coming around a corner) and that it just makes no sense. My distaste for this was reflected throughout my time with the game. It’s atrocious and a limitation that should never have been an issue for the PC, which has a plethora of buttons on a keyboard that can be comfortably mapped to all three functions as separate actions. The decision to map three very different actions to one button violates some of the basic principles of interaction design. This alone caused me to consider that ME2 was a disappointment compared to ME1.

Finding a Voice:

It’s not all bad in ME2, however. I found that the writing really took off with the second installment of the series. The first was a self-contained space opera rivaling any film in the original Star Wars trilogy. It was a race against the forces of evil that were summarily defeated with a measure of morality along the way. Good and bad times were had; it was an adventure, simply put. The second game darkened considerably and the writing rose to new heights. There is more subtlety here, more implication and comedy. The characters increased in detail, not only visually, but in their characterization. And new characters brought a fair amount of interesting tales to be heard and experienced. Mordin Solus is easily my favorite character in the game, with Zaeed taking a close second. The loyalty missions of both (and others, but primarily these two) put forward intriguing questions and difficult decisions. It really reflected the grayness of the game as a whole, a concept in opposition to the overly-popular idea that Mass Effect is a series about black-and-white choices. Often there is no good option, only what you believe to be the best one. It is this ambiguity that really makes me hate the Paragon/Renegade system because it does nothing but detract from the experience of playing a role. I don’t want affirmation that my actions were “good” or “bad.” I dislike receiving Renegade points in a conversation where I was being perfectly reasonable and kind and feeling like I did something wrong. The gamer is taken out of the role and made to feel as though he didn’t accomplish something correctly. The point should be, as was said many times leading up to the release of the first game, that there is no “good” or “bad,” just different ways of getting things done.

In any case, the writing was substantially better in ME2, nicely balancing out its critical flaws in the combat. The lore in both are admirable, with ME2 expanding on ME1 and taking the entire series to new heights of detail and depth. It is a very nicely-built universe that is, to me, the Star Wars and Star Trek of the modern day.

Seeing Stars:

Visually, both are impressive, with ME2 besting ME1 by virtue of being released later. That said, the technical merits of the graphics will not be discussed here, as they are boring and did not impact my impression of the game. I will only say this: they make Unreal Engine 3 look better than most others do. The style of the games is, to me, as interesting as it is almost cheesy. At once you have the cool impression of the body armor and weapon designs and the sense that this all feels like someone’s too-hopeful vision of the future. Things are far too clean, from the people and their dress to the halls and hulls of space craft and stations. But there are times when things get gritty, like in ME2 on Tuchanka. The ruins of that planet resonate within and haunt you, the violence of the Krogans reflected and clear parallels being drawn to mankind.

Citadel

The artistry of the heavenly bodies in both ME1 and ME2 are really a treat. The beauty of nebulas, stars, various planets, and the pristine emptiness of space between them make for a calming and visually satisfying time in the galaxy map.

Nebula

Then you have the alien designs, which range from the clichéd Asari with their female features and general sexiness to the Hanar, who are designed without the standard human-base appearance we are used to in film, television, and other games. It is clear that care went into their designs based on their history, nature, and home planets. The games’ artistry is detailed and beautiful.

Races

This is What the Future Sounds Like:

Few games have music that is as subtle as it is in the Mass Effect games. The quality of both is quite high, and it would be difficult for me to pass judgment as to which is better. Instead, I will talk about the influence music has on the tone of both ME1 and ME2 and attempt to dissect the sounds and structures within. Thankfully, Sam Hulick, one of the composers on all three games, did an AMA on reddit not too long ago, so I’ll be using that as a reference.

First, the emotion of the music is fairly intense, despite the entire soundtrack being generally ambient or laid-back. There are moments of grandeur in the music, namely the glorious moment in ME1 where Commander Shepard rises from the debris, injured but alive (“From the Wreckage”). Sam Hulick has noted inspiration from Ray Lynch, an artist who uses synths and acoustic instruments to weave a beautiful melody, and Jerry Goldsmith, a noted film score writer. Mr. Hulick made extensive use of the “Moog Modular” VST plugin for ME1 and ME2. These come together to make some really great stuff, my favorite of which is likely the “Main Theme” from ME1. It is representative of much of the music in the entire soundtrack. The drums have a military influence, the synths feel ominous and threatening, and the strings and brass are simply epic. It is appropriate for a game about the saving the galaxy. Then there’s “Vigil,” which is so unique and emotional, I don’t know if I could find any game with better music on the main menu or so subtly placed when wandering around your ship. It really gives the feeling of being small in the vastness of space.

One thing I noted in the ME1 soundtrack is the tendency to start quiet and simple and have small swells of volume and complexity, always returning to the underlying track or simply raising to a climax at the end, depending on the scene it is rendering. It is very pleasing to the ear and appropriate for the game.

The soundtrack of ME2 was decidedly more epic and hard-hitting. It was darker, heavier. “The Normandy Attacked” is a great example of this. Sure, it is a dark moment, but the urgency and danger is greater than anything in the first game. It is also far more like a film soundtrack than one for a game. “Legion” is also a good example of the darkness and cinematic quality of ME2’s soundtrack. You have that same urgency and danger reflected in the music that simply wasn’t there in ME1.

More to Say:

There’s a lot more to be said about the series as a whole, and that will come with part 2 of this article, which has less to do about the differences between the second and third games, as there are few, and more to do with more of my thoughts on why these games are so great that the mistakes really stand out.

Receiver: A Fantastic FPS Experiment

/ by FelixGarcia

Receiver

Developer: Wolfire Games
Platform: PC


Receiver is a first-person shooter, but not like any you have played before. The detail in handling your weapon and inventory is unprecedented, nearly matching reality in a way that is not at all annoying once you get the hang of the controls, which are fully customizable on the keyboard (no support for the various buttons on your mouse besides left- and right-click, unfortunately). It stands to reason I found out about this game while browsing 4chan’s weapons board (/k/). Below is the video that was posted.

The first thing that struck me about the video, besides the details of the game, was that these guys know their game design. The reasoning for running not simply being “Hold Shift to Sprint” mechanic we all know from other FPS titles was rock-solid and the implementation as intended. I definitely felt like I was actively running when tapping the ‘W’ key. The second thing that really impressed me was that this game was built in seven (7) days. No joke.

Mechanics

The game also has another element that I wonder was intentional or not: a sense of survival and fear. While I wouldn’t classify this game as “survival horror,” it does take some great cues from that genre like scarcity, creepy lighting, and powerful enemies. Your equipment consists of one gun (Colt M1911A1), a varying amount of magazines and bullets for it, and a tape player. You die if you get hit once and the enemies are difficult to kill if you don’t handle them properly. When you die, that’s it, a new level is generated and your equipment reset. The goal is to grab all 11 tapes in the game in one life. There are bullets and tapes scattered throughout the randomly generated levels, though they do glow a bit so you shouldn’t miss them if you look somewhat carefully.

Yes, the game is dark. The above image shows that you must “holster” your gun in order to load bullets into a magazine individually. The video explains all this very well, though.

The controls are what I take some issue with, especially since you cannot remap them to the mouse. The safety, for instance, seems rather pointless since it will likely only do more harm than good (as opposed to reality). If your gun won’t fire despite loading it with a magazine full of bullets, check your safety. I can see it being an interesting addition in a more fully developed game, though. Performance issues are likely to be found, so I suggest starting on the default “Good” graphics quality setting and lowering it if you don’t see any stuttering or pausing (the kind of pause you might get in Minecraft as it generates more world).

Hopes

If anything, Wolfire has a lot on their plate with the development of Overgrowth, which is looking pretty sweet and is one of my most anticipated games. However, I would love to see them expand on this and perhaps look into something like the Hydra motion controls from Razer and Sixense for an extra sense of immersion (though that may be asking much). There are a number of bugs and a distinct lack of optimization, but it still plays well and is truly like nothing else we’ve seen in the FPS genre.

Here’s a link to purchase the game directly from the developers. It’s $5 and absolutely worth every penny. I hope you enjoy it as much as I!

Receiver @ Wolfire Games

Coffee Wars: Queequeg’s and Pequod’s

/ by FelixGarcia

Epic Battle!

Coffee Wars: Queequeg’s and Pequod’s

by Felix Garcia

Note: This tongue-in-cheek article was written as part of the Wacky Week theme. Try not to take it too seriously. To see all the wacky articles for this week’s theme, check out the hub.


One of the more interesting and illuminating, not to mention oddly emphatic, aspects of Deus Ex: Invisible War (a game panned by critics despite being genuinely fun) was the coffee rivalry between coffee shops Queequeeg’s and Pequod’s. Now, a bit of Googling will tell you that there must be some relation between the two considering they are both sourced from Moby Dick: Queequeeg is the chief harpooner on the ship Pequod.

You notice throughout the game these coffee shops, and the competition between them. People have their preferences and, sure, you can have yours (me? I hate coffee). You notice the different qualities of each coffee shop in each city: Pequod’s is upscale, Queequeg’s is blue-collar. Though this scenario seems fairly normal and can be noted as a nice way that the developers breathed life into the game world (much like they did with NG Resonance, but more on that in a bit), it quite quickly is shown to be a something more.

“That’s arson.”

In the Pequod’s coffee shop in Upper Seattle, the first area that isn’t a tutorial level, you are propositioned by the manager to burn the supplies of competitor Queequeg’s coffee beans. Your character notes quite perceptively: “That’s arson.” The reason? His expenses in the upper [class] region of Seattle are higher and, as such, he needs to work constantly. He notes that Queequeg’s manager is likely to be “loafing around at home” since he doesn’t need to work as much. Needless to say, this is a bit extreme. It’s not like he’ll be getting his competitor’s customers (Lower Seattle hoodlums) after taking out his competitor’s supply of coffee beans. This is pure bitterness at work born from the competition between these two coffee shops. Coffee shops, my dear readers. I don’t know anyone that dedicated to their job that isn’t a soldier.

NG Resonance is a spoiled brat, but her manager is cool.

Farce

Later, in Cairo, you encounter NG Resonance, a pop singer also present throughout the game in various clubs as a jukebox hologram that only plays her music. She also acts as a useful/creepy sort of Big Brother-esque entity. The real artist behind NG Resonance is an industrial group known as kidneythieves, which I found appropriate enough for the game. Anyway, you can act on Pequod’s or Queequeg’s behalf and bribe NG’s manager to endorse the brand, another step in inciting competition and another step towards the truth, a concept Deus Ex plays with as series.

Truth.

In Trier, Germany, the next stop after Cairo, you have one final mission related to this coffee war: a Queequeg’s manager’s lawsuit against Pequod’s for false advertising was dismissed and he wants to know why. He’ll reward you for breaking into the evidence room of the local law-enforcement agency and finding out; “What I’d pay to know what’s really going on….” That’s a question I ask myself every day, brother.

Truth

So, being a completionist, JC goes and investigates to find the truth. It is discovered that both Queequeg’s and Pequod’s are owned by the same company! Well, that puts the past involvement with both shops into perspective. You’ve encountered a man so frustrated with his job he was willing to hire someone to commit arson, another willing to bribe an endorsement out of NG’s manager to increase profits for his company, and a final one who is not given information as to why his lawsuit was dropped due to corporate interference. This is something not unknown to us in the real world:

Illusion

We are very much used to having choice. So much so that we don’t realize that it can be a fabrication as companies merge and turn into near-monopolies. The actions of the managers of both Queequeg’s and Pequod’s are both strange and sad. It’s strange because those actions are so extreme and sad because they are so futile. All you end up doing is getting the parent company more attention and more money, no matter which shop you side with. All you have left is the option to suggest that Trier’s Queequeg’s manager expose the truth to the media, which is either incredibly bold or just as futile as any other action.

This leaves us with one last important question: Pequod’s or Queequeg’s?

Tribes: Ascend Review

/ by FelixGarcia

Tribes: Ascend

Publisher: Hi-Rez Studios
Developer: Hi-Rez Studios
Release Date: April 12, 2012
System: PC


Cries of “Shazbot!” and “Woohoo!” fill my ears  as I ski at a blistering speed of 200KM/H down the slope of a hill on a contested planet in my medium-sized powered armor. There are blue and green streaks across the sky, bodies both crimson and gunmetal flying in either the controlled path afforded by a jetpack or the chaotic spiraling of a dead man. Yup, it’s an average match in Tribes: Ascend, a fast-paced multiplayer-only free-to-play FPS. This is a game of speed, skill, and strategy employed in synergy.

It has been my favorite FPS of the last six or so months, which saw me playing during closed and open betas to now, a few days after launch. It is a free-to-play title but not pay-to-win, as is most potential players’ fear. There are items that can be unlocked with cash, but they can also be unlocked with experience, which is quite necessary to survive since experience is the only way to level up your arms and armor. Though experience is acquired primarily by spending time playing matches, there is bonus XP to be had if you do well. This provides a good balance for people who don’t have time but have money and vice versa.

All the classes and all their weapons can be handled in a training mode, offering a “try before you buy” experience not often found in many other free-to-play titles. It is best if one uses the training mode not only to hone your skills, but also find out what class suits you best, as you will want to spend at least a bit of money in order to get one or two unlocks that fit your playing style. My personal recommendation rests with the Spinfusor of the Soldier class. It is the game’s signature weapon and likely the most satisfying to score a kill in midair with.

As for weapon balance, well, it does need a bit of work. Arguably, one can do very well with the default loadout for each class (though only three classes are unlocked to start), but it requires skill that many don’t desire to hone, which means this game is likely to be a turn off for many. There will not only be people better than you starting out, but people who make it seem effortless to destroy you time and again. Here again I will sing the praises of training mode, which will at the very least help you not be too much of a noob on the field. Do the ski training at least once; it’ll become second nature after a while. The ski challenge is fun if you want to really test your skills. The other two modes are for help with aim and, as I said earlier, trying out all the weapons.

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