Mobile Games Update

It’s funny to me that despite my protests about mobile games in years past — things like they aren’t real games and none of them are worth the time investment — I play them more than console or PC games these days. It’s true, there was a time when the majority of mobile games were time wasters in a bad way, either due to huge time gating mechanics or pay walls and I guess the same can be said about the entire free to play industry so there’s that. You’ll know that my mind has been changed more recently though, as I have been blogging about one title in particular for a couple of years now. Others have come and gone, but I usually at least share my thoughts about said titles each time I play a new one, or give updates on the long running staples. The last time I did an update like this was about six months ago, so I thought it would be interesting to see what’s changed on my phone, and what’s happened with the games I’m still playing.

Currently Installed:

Clash Royale
SEGA Heroes
Pokemon Go

So we have the usual suspects here, but also a game I didn’t think I’d ever write about outside of the “it’s a passing fad” commentary I’ve made in the past.

Clash Royale has seen a few big updates since the last time I went over what was on my phone. Shortly after that time the new trophy road system was implemented. Just a little over a month ago we also saw pass royale become a thing. I have to say I think the new trophy road system is better than the old ladder, as I do enjoy getting a slew of unlocked prizes each time the season resets, rather than just dropping a bunch of trophies for nothing. They did reward a chest but it was never as good as all of these rewards have been. Then as we take the trek back up we get more unlocks as well. It has felt good during the few months we have had it. Ditto pass royale. For $5 you get some creature comforts, but as you progress you get more unlocks than you used to at the end of any season. I do feel like I always fall behind with unlocking the tiers and have to do some grinding from time to time to earn crowns, but hell that used to be all we did during clan wars, just grind out as many trophies as you could — that got old fast. They are gamifying what used to bother us, to a point where it no longer bothers us. I think Supercell has done a great job with the game and I hope it continues to be awesome.

SEGA Heroes has also seen some updates that added in some cool features. One thing that was always really annoying was when doing your challenges (these reset daily for the most part) for any of the levels in which you earned a 3-star rating you could later “loot” without having to actually do the fight over again. You can do the same on campaign levels, by the way. Anyhow, you can now “quick loot” the whole set of levels on each challenge if you’ve already completed them all. It’s very nice for convenience sake. Boss battles were introduced recently as well, and some new currencies introduced. You can spend one type to summon a boss and the other type to fight against it. Bosses have a ton of health bars, so if the whole guild attacks repeatedly, you should be able to take it down. If not, they disappear after a set time and you’ll be rewarded for what hurt you did put on it. It’s an okay system but due to the fights being timed, they also opted to limit the speed at which you play. See there are game speed settings, and most people play on the faster speed so they don’t have to sit through the drawn out animations. In the boss fights you can’t adjust the speed so it’s painfully slow. Otherwise a fine idea. New characters are being added all the time, recently from the games Shenmue, Altered Beast and even Valkyria Chronicles. I’m still enjoying it, but at account level 65 and working on the blue stars on my main team, progress has slowed to a crawl.

As I said above, I’m surprised to be writing about this at all, but yes I have Pokemon Go installed on my phone right now. I can pretty much guarantee this would have never happened were it not for my woman, but it has happened nonetheless. Apparently she had it installed since back in ’16 when it released, most likely due to prodding from the boy. Whatever the case, she started playing it again a couple of months ago, and prodded me to install so that she could send me gifts. I agreed and pretty much only logged on when she would bug me to accept my gifts so that I could be sent more. The bug may have caught me a bit more at this point though, as I have been catching Pokemon more often (mostly while sitting at home, or when we are out doing errands) and now find myself with the app open while we are driving around trying to get pokestops and catch more critters. It’s still a game that frustrates me due to being janky sometimes, and I don’t like the fact that they essentially force you to pay for storage space but maybe I should be using my items faster? I don’t know exactly, and I don’t know shit about Pokemon except for the more popular characters. So yeah, I’m not truly invested but I have participated more actively as of late.

Previously Installed:

Langrisser
Warriors of Waterdeep
AFK Arena
Dr. Mario World

So in that last Mobile check in post, I had spoken of Langrisser still being installed on my phone. It lasted for a while longer but I just never came back around to it so it was thrown on the burn pile. It seemed fine as I expressed in the linked post, but I just don’t play games that are too involved on my phone — I’d rather be able to play for five to ten minutes and feel like I did all I needed to do for that day.

I also rather enjoyed Warriors of Waterdeep but I just couldn’t keep up with the requirements to stay relevant. I eventually started to see that the play pattern wouldn’t change any more and lost interest. It was fun while it lasted though.

Ditto AFK Arena. It was fun to play for a few weeks but it was clear that it would be a play pattern that I wasn’t going to enjoy indefinitely. I’ve already essentially got a couple games that do this thing for me really well already, and despite thinking I’ll find another to add to the list I haven’t found a solid third game just yet.

Lastly, Dr. Mario World which is still a fairly new release and could possibly change into something I’d enjoy more, just didn’t do it for me as much as I wanted it to. I’d still take a bare bones Tetris game over this though, so that hurts its prospects. I don’t know why Nintendo have such great success with their first party IPs on their own systems but can’t seem to get this mobile thing going. Whatever the case, I have my doubts about any of their games being addictive to me personally.

And that’s all there is to touch on. Any good mobile game recommendations, given what I’ve written above? I’m always open to trying something new, but there’s no guarantee it will stick!

Thoughts on Battle Pass Value

Battle Passes are not really a new thing, however they have become more commonplace, particularly with games that are labeled as “free to play.” First, we should define what a “battle pass” is, in loose terminology at least. Some games will call this a subscription option, some will have some other sort of lore based name for it, but overall it ends up being a thing that coincides with a “season” of a game (lengths of which are determined by that game’s developer) and provides a way to earn more in-game loot for that particular title. For example, you’ll pay somewhere in the ballpark of $9.99-19.99 for access to a progression system that rewards various fluff items for the game. If you don’t pay the fee, you’ll still be able to unlock rewards by playing the game, but if you pay the fee, you’ll essentially get double the rewards (give or take).

My earliest experience with a system like this was with the MOBA SMITE. They had a system of adventures and things where if you paid a nominal fee, you’d get greater access to skins, loading screens, music themes, podiums and other fluff items that gave you that customized look that was far greater than those who were playing the game without spending any money. This has become the norm in games that are free to play — the company needs a way to monetize their game despite giving the base experience away for free. Skins and things that are not “pay to win” are generally favored over items that are only available for cash and adjust the power level of said customer who paid money over those who play for free  — thought it could be argued that this is the way it should be due to our capitalist nature as a country, but I digress.

In more recent years, I’ve actually participated in this sort of program with multiple titles. The newest game to introduce this sort of system was Apex Legends, where their battle pass opens up a slew of customization options that simply aren’t available when playing for free. To be fair, the game is pretty generous when it comes to currency needed to unlock new characters, along with crafting materials to make skins for characters and weapons. Where the exclusivity kicks in is with the loading screen and music theme customizations. Also, emotes that are only usable while dropping into the game. Some of the skins are “exclusive” as well, but I assume those will be craftable at some point. Whatever the case, there is a value proposition here that you’ll have to figure out for yourself. Do you see yourself wanting cool skins for your characters and guns? Are you tired of the normal theme music and want something else? Or can you deal with the fact that some people who are paying customers are getting something that you, the freeloader, is not getting as well? Honestly, it’s not that big of a deal to me. When a company is providing ethical (read: not pay to win) cosmetics in a cash shop to monetize the game I don’t have a problem with it. I also don’t have a problem throwing a few bucks at a game that I’ve gotten enjoyment out of, because companies would go under completely if no one paid for anything while playing their free to play game.

Another company that recently added this sort of system to their game was Supercell with Clash Royale. I wrote about their system called “Pass Royale” back when it first launched, and having run through that whole first season I can say that the rewards were well worth it for the $5 investment that was asked. I went ahead and paid the $5 again to play the second season with increased rewards as well. In this title, there have always been daily “crown chests” that required you to earn 10 crowns by any means necessary to unlock a chest with random rewards. That system still exists with the new Pass Royale, but if you are a paying customer, you’ll get essentially double the rewards. Instead of one legendary chest you’ll get two. You’ll also get “exclusive” emotes and tower skins, some of which were introduced solely to support this system. It still feels worth it in a game that you play regularly. I’d advise against purchase if you think you won’t play a game much throughout the course of it’s “season.”

And that’s what it comes down to. A personal assessment of whether or not you think the benefits are worth the cost. In nearly 100% of cases, these are free to play games that we are talking about, so it’s likely that you can still enjoy playing these games without spending a dime. You will be rewarded for spending money, but in most cases you won’t really benefit from these season passes unless you are regularly playing a game. This is due to the fact that most of these pass systems require you to play to unlock rewards, so I wouldn’t recommend paying unless its a game that you play regularly. In my case, I play Clash Royale daily so it was a no-brainer, especially for only $5. When it came to Apex Legends, I was more hesitant because I didn’t know if I’d make enough progress to meet a positive value, but my girlfriend ended up buying it for me and as such I have been playing almost daily just to make sure I get her money’s worth.

The choice is yours when it comes to purchasing these passes. I just thought I’d throw my experience out there in hopes that it helps someone make a decision. Happy gaming, all!

State of the Game: Filler

I remember when I first started this column and it was initially created as a way for me to cram a bunch of small details into a larger post and get something published. At the time I wasn’t blogging as regularly as I would have liked, and part of that was due to playing many games at once and not feeling like I had enough to say about each on individually. As such, this became a weekly series that would be devoted to those Playstation Plus freebies and other games that I was playing that didn’t have much lasting appeal but I still wanted to throw down some thoughts. Or, I’d discuss progress from larger games I was playing, or throw in news about games I regularly played that had new patches or things of that nature. In the following years this turned into less of a weekly post and just a catch all for when I didn’t have much else to say. Lately it’s been even more sporadic, to the point where sometimes I think there’s no point in keeping it going, but I still need a catch all post format and this has worked so I’m going to continue to use it. It’s been about three months since the last SotG post, and this edition I have updates on games I’ve been playing in recent weeks that I’ve touched on in the past.

Apex Legends:

I wrote some fond thoughts about Apex Legends when it released, but you’ll probably note that I haven’t talked about it since. Part of this was due to the fact that I was getting a case of Battle Royale fatigue — since the genre started to take off in popularity, everyone was throwing their hat into the ring and I tried many iterations of the concept. Some I enjoyed more than others, and Apex Legends is definitely one of the better versions of this style. The other reason I haven’t talked about it is because I stopped playing for a while. A few of my friends play along with my son and I primarily played with them but the slow pace of content updates made the game stale after a while. Even the introduction of seasons and a battle pass system wasn’t exciting to me, and my stats prove that I didn’t play a single game during that first season. We did see the release of a couple of guns and the new character Octane during that time, but earning the in-game currency to unlock new champions is painfully slow, and they run you about $10 to unlock individually. I’d gladly plop down $30-40 if you’d give me all of the characters unlocked along with all future releases but I don’t really want to spend the money otherwise.

Nonetheless, season two launched recently and another new character, Wattson, was introduced. The arena was also changed up, with the large creatures that were off in the distance are now on the island, and some structures have been destroyed. Otherwise not much has changed, and yet I’ve been having fun playing it. One motivator is the battle pass, despite the fact that I haven’t paid for it. Everyone can participate for free, and new daily and weekly quests give you points towards your battle pass level. You’ll get free rewards just for playing, and though they aren’t amazing it’s better than nothing (or just the apex packs like before). If you want to drop the cash, the battle pass will get you a ton of extra value in the form or cosmetics ranging from character skins to different music and loading screens. We’ve seen all of this sort of monetization before, but it actually seems worth it in some ways. Unfortunately just unlocking the battle pass doesn’t do a whole lot for you, unless you’ve leveled up enough to get a large chunk of the rewards. I don’t see myself maxing out to get all of the super cool loot, so I’m still on the fence about spending the money. We’ll see where I am towards the end of the season to see if it’s justifiable. I can’t speak to other platforms, but the game still seems very much alive and well on the Playstation.

Clash Royale:

Clash Royale is still my go-to mobile game and I don’t see that changing. It’s been over two years, and I can’t say I’ve been playing anything that long anymore. I maxed out my ladder deck a while ago, and most of the cards have at least one star level as well. The new battle pass system, Pass Royale is going strong, and I’ve unlocked 10 levels, but you can essentially grind them out as you play. I like the fact that they streamlined quests as well, where you are not limited to a particular game mode to complete them. For instance, before there were quests that said “play 30 buildings in 1v1 battles” and you would only get updates while playing the ladder — not in 2v2, challenges or clan wars. Now that same quest reads “play 30 buildings” without the limitation, and it’s a nice way to clear quests faster. I’ve been working on leveling up my cards that weren’t a part of my ladder deck, and so far each deck I play has almost all of its cards at level 12 or maximum. I have a queue of cards that are ready to upgrade, a couple of them to maximum level but gold income is slow going. I should have a 2nd max level deck within a couple of months. I’ve been as high as Master 2 since the rework to matchmaking, and have been at that sort of level for the past couple of seasons. The guild has been floating at high gold/low legendary, but we can’t seem to keep afloat in the higher tier. Our core group was promoted to Elder recently and we seem to be the ones gaining ground, but some of the stragglers have kept us from staying in the top league. I’m sure that will continue to be the norm for a while but as the core gets stronger we just might be able to keep it going.

SEGA Heroes:

My 2nd favorite mobile game and one I’ve been playing for nearly a year, this game has a ton of progression that is slow going as well. Currently my account is level 63 (I have no idea what the maximum is), and my main team of heroes are all level 60, with Sonic being level 63 (they are capped at your account level). They are also all at 2 blue stars, which means I put a shit ton of cards into their progression. My focus as of late is farming skill upgrades (they all have their three skills at level 8) and trying to upgrade them further. The reagents needed to upgrade their levels are getting ridiculous, hence why Sonic is the only one above level 60. They also introduced some guild related progression, in that we have events that happen regularly where your individual progress helps the guild as well, so at the end of the event you’ll get your own solo rewards along with guild rewards. There are also boss battles that anyone in the guild can initiate, but they are timed events so you might not get to participate if you don’t notice or aren’t online when it happens. We have yet to down a boss, but you still get rewards if you participate. It seems okay but I can think of a few improvements to the system.

Void Bastards and Amid Evil:

I wrote about Void Bastards and Amid Evil recently after I picked them up during the Steam Sale. Since, I’ve put a few hours into each title and I’m still very pleased with the purchases. I’ve cleared the first world in Amid Evil and made some progress in the second. There really isn’t much to report there, it’s a straight forward game but it’s still a cool retro styled game that I highly recommend. I’ve got even more positive things to say about Void Bastards, it’s quickly become one of my favorite Rogue-lites of all time. The game play loop is similar each time but there is just enough variety for it to not get boring. I have opened up a bunch of different items and equipment that have made runs last much longer, and I’ve learned the general strategy of getting through the nebulas quickly. You don’t have to dock at every port, you can skip things and only loot ships when you need food or fuel (or a key item you’ve been looking for). You do need some of the upgrades to items and things before you can really get to this point though. Once here, you can get to the next story related items you need quite fast, and from there it’s on to the next thing. Currently trying to get together the pieces for the HR Computer, this coming after completing the ID Badge. It’s been a blast on both accounts.

Horizon Chase Turbo:

The other free game this month besides the one I already wrote about, Horizon Chase Turbo is a strange game that melds retro with modern aesthetics. I can’t quite place what game it reminds me most of… probably something on the NES or Sega Genesis, but whatever the case it feels like games I’ve played in the past, but boy does it run a hell of a lot faster than those games did. It’s 2D sprite graphics but they run fast and it’s hard to keep up with the twisting tracks coming ahead — particularly when there are hills and valleys. It is however quite a bit of fun! I’ve enjoyed clearing the first few areas of the game and testing out the other game modes. I’d recommend trying it if you need a game to jump in and play for a few minutes here and there, the races don’t last too long and they are enjoyable.

Crash Team Racing:

Speaking of racing games, I’ve also been putting my way through the CTR Remake. I’ve cleared the first couple of worlds along with some of the side events and have also toyed with playing online a bit. Like many games of this era, CTR has added a big content patch that brings a battle pass like system to the game. There are daily and weekly tasks that are earned just by playing the game in any of its modes, but playing online seems to get you more points faster. Leveling up your pass level brings rewards like skins and whatnot, but again there is no RMT here — everything that was added can be earned just by playing the game, and it doesn’t appear that they are planning on any further monetization. They even added several new tracks, something that didn’t happen with the original and something that gives me hope that this game will be playable for much longer than the original. New tracks keep things fresh and tasks keep you feeling like there’s always something to do. This is the model I like to see and wish more companies went this route instead of bleeding their customers.

That’s all I have for this round-up… Hope everyone else is having as much fun as I am!

Pass Royale

Another new and rather large update has been implemented in Clash Royale, and it brought with it some interesting changes. The first and most obvious portion of the update is called Pass Royale, and it essentially breaks down to being a new subscription option. You can look at it as sort of the battle pass idea we’ve seen in many free to play titles in recent years too. I’m comparing it to a subscription because it is attached to a season number, and that season will obviously reset at some point, and I’d assume you’ll have to pay again. The fee is only $5, so it’s reasonable compared to some of the battle passes out there, and it seems to be more reasonable to complete as well. Battle passes in other games usually require playing a shit ton of games more than you usually would to get the full value, but this pass has tiers that are unlocked at the same rate as crown chests, which is something I try to keep up on daily anyway. For normal players, you just get the crown chest, but pass holders will get additional rewards, including new emotes and skins. These are supposed to be exclusive to the pass, so you won’t be able to buy them indirectly like you’ve been able to do with emotes in the past.

A new legendary card was added, this time we get the Fisherman who is reminiscent of a combination of Scorpion from Mortal Kombat and Nautilus from League of Legends. The Fisherman carries with him a big anchor, and when he gets into range of enemies, he pulls them to him with it. Conversely, if he gets within range of a building first, he’ll use the same anchor to pull himself to it. He’s weak to air cards, but he’s looking pretty strong otherwise. My favorite interaction so far is pulling a golem to you into the other lane so my opponent’s split push didn’t work out so well.  The new emotes available have to do with the Fisherman, and the tower skin is sort of related. The Legendary arena has been reimagined as a boat as well.

Beyond getting access to these new emotes and skins, the pass gives you a gold tinted name in clan chat, allows you to queue chests for opening, and unlimited free retries for challenges. You’ll also be able to use a strike on crown chests through all of the tiers, so perhaps you’ll get better value out of the normal chests, but it’s still all random. I’m getting to a point where many times I open up cards I already have maxed out and end up with star points + gold instead, which is probably better to be honest.

Overall I think the pass is good value for the price. It’s not giving us things that are overpowered or pay to win, so I’m on board. I don’t really care about the emotes and skins, but the other perks are nice and extra rewards help max out cards faster so I’m all for that. Here’s a video version of the update if you’re too lazy to read the above linked patch notes.

P.S. Happy Independence Day if you’re in the States! MURICA!

Clash Royale: Trophy Road

The next big update to Clash Royale arrived earlier this month. The April update brought with it a new spell card — Earthquake — and general changes as usual. The big portion of the update is the way the ladder now works, and how matchmaking has changed a bit in the process. Dubbed “Trophy Road,” the new ladder is pretty much the same as the old ladder, except now you get rewards along the way while pushing through each arena. For those of us already past 4000 trophies (aka where the ladder actually starts) we were able to follow the trophy road from arena one all the way up, and collect a ton of rewards. I ended up with a bunch of extra gold, trade tokens and unlocked the new spell card just by collecting all of the goodies.

It seems that now when you get a win in a ladder match, you’ll still earn roughly 30 trophies and move up in rank. However, losses are mitigated quite well (net loss ~15 trophies), and it seems my entire clan has elevated to higher levels than they had before. I had previously made it to Challenger III, but I’m already a full 100 trophies beyond my prior best, and I think I might actually be able to push up into Master before the reset. Whatever the case, after the reset, we lose 75% of our trophies above 4000, so I’m likely back in Challenger I if I don’t push further in the next couple of weeks. We won’t get season reward chests anymore either, but do get to unlock the trophy road rewards again after the reset.

Speaking of the ladder, my ladder deck is nearly maxed out. I currently only need two more Electro Wizards to have all 8 cards at max level. As you can see I’ve also put some star points into a few cards, and I’m not too far off from being able to do so again. I still love this deck and it hasn’t changed in quite some time, but I do get bored playing it all of the time. The reason it works is because Hog and Loon are effective ways to take buildings down, but they are both vulnerable so I’ve included answers to the worst threats. The deck still struggles sometimes against 3 Musketeers and Golem decks, but usually ekes out wins regardless. It works well in other game modes as well, along with clan wars, but because I don’t have to worry about putting gold into it anymore I’ve started playing around with other options.

I’ve been trying to find a good Pekka, Royal Giant, or Mega Knight deck, and have experimented with them all. I have a Golem deck that is solid and another deck I’m going to share shortly, but I really wanted to make one of these other decks work. As such, I have a few experimental builds but I straight up copied this RG deck from my clan leader and it actually works pretty damn well, despite also including Pekka in the deck. Bonus, he’s used some of the same cards as I have, so I already have some max level cards, along with being close to maxing out RG itself. I’m not sure it will replace my ladder deck anytime soon, but it’s fun to toy around with.

Here’s a deck that I’ve created myself. I picked up the “Giant Double Prince” idea from from the classic deck battles, but then decided to run a deck around Goblin Giant instead. I pretty much chose cards I wasn’t using but still found strong. It is a little weak against air swarms, but you can combo things like Ice Wiz and Zap to take them out. It works well against other meta decks as well, but I’m still mainly playing it in 2v2 battles. I like it, just need to get some card levels before it’s really going to be any use to me. Now that I’m not focusing everything on one deck anymore, I have the time to test and grow.

Just thought I’d share some thoughts on the new update. The game is still going strong!