So Close and yet So very Far Away
My Internet connection through the years has best been described as spotty. So while many people might not care, one of the things I check when looking for a game is whether or not it can be played offline. I don't mean if it has a single player component, I mean if it can be played offline since a lot of games *coughSimCity5cough* need an internet connection even for solo play. Why? Piracy I guess. I honestly don't know since all that does is hurt people who bought the game honestly since cracker groups will just strip out whatever protection is in place or find a way to make the game act like it's online and talking to the server it has to upload save files to, or get content from, or whatever.
So when I see games for android that are more involved than puzzle games and, holy crimminy, actually let you play offline I'm going to have a look. That is where the SoulCraft games come in. The review is for the second one, but since it doesn't differ too much from the first one I'm going to look at both. Are they good? Eeeeeh. Not really.
See this image? Well if you can't that's OK. Basically their big advice is 'if you're getting your head stomped in buy better gear.' Lovely, except gear costs a metric boatload of money and I have to spend everything I have on potions since my gear is lame. What's worse is I can spend thousands on a sword/armor/whatever, dump ingredients into crafting, and on selling not even get enough for a single potion.
Why not farm an area for loot drops, this is a diablo hack and slash right?
Nothing drops gear. Not the little annoying ankle biters, not special purple life bar enemies, not even bosses. In the first game every few missions you'll be given a new piece of gear for completion, but that's rare and the second game took that mechanic away.
What you get instead are little elemental widgets you can use to improve your current equipment, but the improvements are random and if you don't like them be prepared to give premium currency for a reroll. Granted in the second game you can use these as personal buffs going into an area, and that does help, but it's just so unsatisfying that's the only thing you can look forward to finding.
Wait, paid accounts get double the money free accounts get, that should solve things right?
In theory. The problem is everything is balanced for paid accounts. You want to go free? Sure, it's doable. So is walking over a bed of hot coals, but I don't recommend it.
The other perk of paying up is no ads, which it will remind you constantly of. Ads on the loading screens. Ads before the loading screens. I'm not just talking 'tap x to make the ad go away' ads. I'm talking those annoying ubscippable half minute ads. Sure you don't get video on every load screen, or even ads before every load screen. Thing is the game levels are a minute, or at best, five minutes long. Nice bite sized chunks for pick up and go play. That is a lot of potential load time though, all shoved with ads, videos, reminders you can remove the ads, begging you to rate their game. It's just too darn pushy while at the same time ramping difficulty up past what's going to be fun for people that aren't paying up far too quickly.
In fairness they do actually save your account information via facebook or google+ in addition to their own account thing if you trust neither. This is a thing Galaxy Legend failed at. I paid them money, and when I had to exchange my tablet all my account info was zeroed out in spite of them having me log in with Facebook.
It's also fairly cheap to upgrade. Just pay $2 on the first SoulCraft, or $4 on the sequel and double money with no ads. Thing is, I should get at least some enjoyment out of things without the constant nagging. I got more enjoyment and less nag from Dungeon Keeper Mobile. Let that sink in for a minute. I got nagged less by EA's timer infested game that constantly reminded me I could speed tasks up by paying money in.
This isn't even getting into the overly bombastic menu screen music you only hear maybe thirty seconds of because of the constant loading, little to no exploration, and spells that are annoyingly hard to tell if you can use them yet or not. That last one might be my fault because of poor vision, and the rest I will give something of a pass on since it is a fairly small team working on things.
The font and logo looking like blizzard ripoffs? I'm mildly surprised they haven't been sued, but eh.
Are There any Good Points?
While the story is only presented in thin slices via pre-level banter with popup IM style talking heads they actually put some effort into making sire it's there. There's just enough there to get the point across, and given space constraints it's a good compromise.
The one and only track I can think of is fairly nice. I'd like it more if it wasn't this overly bombastic thing I hear whenever the game starts, but if you're only going to bother with one music track that doesn't even play during the levels (unless there's some kind of super quiet ambient thing going on) I guess go with something memorable?
It has MOGA support! I don't own a moga, but I'd heard it works out pretty decently. Given how fiddly touch controls can be in an action-y game that's nice to have added in.
The fact the second game attempts to give you a way to get the premium currency bonuses you missed as a free player when you finally put money in is nice.
The 2d art for portraits, the title screen, shop items, and the like are very nicely done. It's a little thing but it's important that the 2d game elements look good. Keep up the work there guy. No complaints here.
Similarly the levels themselves are nice and varied. Sure they all feel a bit small, especially compared to the likes of Spacetime Studios 'legends' games, but they have color and variety. I have poor vision and I can still cleanly tell what's going on and where things are. Majorly important, so kudos.
The combat and movement is fairly fluid, with my few fumbles being more or less because I lost track of things or my gear sucks. Divorcing combat from equipment costs and the lack of gear drops and looking at it alone, I have to say this has a lot of fun potential. Personally I hate crystal defense, but I hate escort missions to begin with so take or leave it. Enemies are varied, bosses take some thinking, and it's generally easy to get about and murder things. This is important because it's the heart of your gameplay. Had this been badly done I'd not care and move on.
The PvP mechanic in the second game. I like it.
It's incredibly easy for me, Mr. Random Internet Guy, to sit here and sling mud from my tiny little blog. It's also easy to sit and offer unreasonable suggestions to an already overworked team. After all there are reasons they decided to do what they do, and I want to attempt to see where they're coming from since this isn't EA or Zynga or the like. This is a group of maybe fifteen or twenty people trying something.
That said, here is my wish list that they would look into:
* Expand the second game's vault to give you at least a partial on the money bonuses you missed as a free player. I'm not talking horde all the money you aren't getting, since I can see that being abused pretty hard. Maybe keep it to money from the story missions, or 10% of what would have been. Just something so someone switching from free to play has money to quickly upgrade to more level appropriate gear without having to sit and grind away
* Introduce a few larger levels. I'm not talking switch everything to lengthier levels, since being able to plop down for a couple minutes is nice, but I want to be able to explore and find things.
* To go with the above, give us weapon and armor drops. Maybe limit it to having to beat bosses to get, but constantly funneling people to the store when one of the genre's strengths is finding that new piece of kit.
* Auction House. Give people the option to put their old gear on the open market instead of selling for insultingly low prices. That or at the least give us back half what we played plus extra if we upgraded it.
* No idea if they're so hyperagressive with ads because they need the money or not, but trimming back so it feels less like begging would be nice.
So there you are. SoulCraft. Below is a video link for those that want to take a look at gameplay.
SoulCraft 2 - Action RPG Android GamePlay:
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