Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Game Review - WarTune

Score +3/-14
From the website: "Featuring three unique classes, single and multi-player dungeons, PvP arenas, competitive battlegrounds, thousand-player boss battles, a robust guild system, and… farming, Wartune combines some of your favorite features from multiple game genres. Whether you consider yourself a casual gamer or a hardcore veteran, Wartune will keep you coming back for more."

The English version of WarTune is presently a partially converted version from the Chinese version by 7th Road  It is fully playable, but the conversion is far from complete. Our review and series of tips covers the 1.45 update (2012-Nov-15):

WarTune generally revolves around building up your character with stats and equipment, and like most MMO games there's a lot of gear you can get and upgrade. However, this also means that most of your time will be spent staring at your city or game interfaces rather than getting out in the game world. The game world is very limited as it is and 2.5D -- basically they are token places to look for special loot.

WarTune presently has significant complaints about certain player-versus-player systems such as their Battlegrounds team PvP where many players aren't truly participating but using an automated "Away From Keyboard" mode. Gameplay may never be changed as there has been no attempt to correct even glaring spelling mistakes after a major server update.

We played three Mages, the final one up to Level 40. Over the next few days, we'll present some tips for playing the game. For now, here are our initial impressions.
+ No shortage of things to do. Your time online can be busy for hours and at all hours of the day -- If you really want to spend that much time. If you actually like what you are doing in the game (essentially just inching your character forward to more gear and more power), then you may not mind the repetitiveness. You can even be logged in and not do anything, and your character could still be doing something (e.g., collecting Stamina points in the Altar of Ennoblement.)
- Incredible amount of time-consuming, boring, grinding. There are so many things to do each day, and the system encourages you to do almost all of them for maximum daily free stuff. However, it all takes time and none of it helps you advance in the storyline very much. If you play this game, don't expect to follow the story quickly past level 30 -- and that's not very much story at all. (On the other hand, if you keep playing such a badly designed game as WarTune, you're not really playing for the story. You're playing to make a powerful character for the Arena.)
+- Artwork is nice overall, but very limited in variety, and only special equipment shows up differently in-game.
+ Not a lot to learn and easy to learn it. You can get into the game right away.
-- Tons of grammatical and spelling mistakes that persist after weekly maintenance. Clearly no one is at home when it comes to Quality Assurance.
- Ludicrously unbalanced in various ways. For example, some of your highest daily experience point awards can come from (and I am not kidding) playing flash games like Whack-A-Mouse (mouse pops up, you hit it with a leg of ham) or QTE exercises (correctly press a sequence of arrow keys). A single short flash game can earn you more than a single player Campaign Dungeon run.
- Experience and rewards for doing inane things. For example, one of the tasks just about everyone does every day is speak in World Chat, because this advances a "Devotion" counter that gives you free stuff when you reach various point totals. Often, people don't have anything useful to say and type garbage.
- Accounts cannot be transferred to another server, or deleted. You only get one account per server. This means you must start over with a new community in a different server if you want to restart your character. This also means that at any one time, there may be hundreds of abandoned accounts on your server, and it's hard to say who's who.
- Not a lot to see. There aren't a lot of locations to visit, and once you hit level 25-30, it gets harder to gather proper resources and upgraded troops to access new maps. And new map are the only thing that changes the scenery. If you are there for the PvP arena, that's a different story. You'll probably not even care about the story except that you have to go through those motions every day to get the bonus experience, gold, and goods that come with doing more things.
-- Once access to Arena Insignias is available (by the Arena or Battlegrounds), players MUST participate or be left too far behind. Characters who quickly get sets dominate everywhere, and suddenly there is a large disparity in combat ability -- those who have the Arena Sets, and those who don't. Further, the Arena is only open to those with a minimum entry level, so newcomers who are late get crushed by those who have already gone and gotten their powerful set items. It's a system where the rich get richer faster and the poor get left further and further behind.
It's also a situation which causes people to abandon older servers and go to the newest ones, where they rush to get to the Arena to keep their head above water. And here's where the money's made: At the new server, they then spend money to accelerate levelling with "VIP" status, and quickly race to the top and stay comfortably there.
The Arena is supposed to match teams by Battle Rating, but often there aren't enough teams, and the weakest teams can easily be paired against vastly stronger ones several times. There are some strange teams that are likely "bots" (AI-controlled characters) but they don't show up enough, and are likely more of an error-catching feature where one team disappears while being matched with another (e.g., connection lost). If they had more bot teams, the situation could be somewhat remedied, but the developers are probably too busy translating content to do so.
The 1.45 update (2012-Nov-15) made things even worse by quintupling the rewards. Newcomers will get Insignias faster (5 instead of 1), but the already strong players will get them even faster by winning (15 instead of 3), allowing them to pick up whole sets as soon as they qualify by rank and level. Unless you want to entirely stay out of the Arena and Battlegrounds and keep your city on a very low level world map so your city doesn't get plundered all the time, you will want to abandon this game even before you begin. If you do want to try to be competitive, you will HAVE to do ALL the major Daily Events, on top of the regular activities to keep levelling up and buying things like Guild Skills and collecting Astrals.
-- The Battlegrounds is also notoriously badly designed. In addition to the same problem with the Arena, the Battlegrounds are also the only place where characters can fight each other for Honor Points, which are collected to attain ranks such as Private, Champion, Elite Champion, etc... Without these ranks, you cannot use the better Arena gear. This creates a culture where strong characters attack weak ones constantly, even if it means their team loses the Battleground event (collecting points by collecting crystals) overall. Many people simply show up and do nothing (go "AFK" or Away From Keyboard). They stay in the starting area and can't be attacked, but don't participate either. Even if their team loses, they still get 30 Arena Insignias and some Honor Points just for showing up (the winning team gets 80 and more Honor). It's less effort than having to defend yourself against grossly overpowered opponents. The Battlegrounds are divided into a level 30-39 arena and a level 40+ arena, but even with a 10 level span, the difference between characters with sets and those without is already too high.
The 1.45 update made things worse by reducing the speed of characters with carts, which makes it more useless for weak characters to do anything other than AFK, since they are now more vulnerable to being chased by characters who care only about Honor Points and fighting. They introduced a calculation that gives more Honor when defeating stronger opponents, but that is a scenario unlikely to occur anyway when there are weaker ones to be farmed.
-- Guild Wars. The 1.45 patch introduced Guild Wars, and top guilds can haul literally hundreds -- there were reports of over 800 Insignias and Honor -- for a win. The rich just get richer and the rift between strong and weak players keeps growing wider. They could have mitigated this Monty Haul effect (which pencil-and-paper roleplaying game companies and players realized over 30 years ago) by reducing the rewards and overlapping the event with, say, BattleGrounds. By overlapping the event, they can pull overpowered players from the BattleGrounds and put them in a different arena (Guild Wars) where they could possibly be better matched. Further, they can swap one type of insignia and Honor reward with another slightly more rewarding one. Instead, the developers chose to make all events available to everyone, with the result that even a huge 800+ reward was not enough incentive for people to quit BattleGrounds where they dominated anyway, for a measly 30-80 Insignia and maybe 10%-20% of the honor gain IF they almost exclusively fought for Honor.

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