I’m still kind of going back and forth on what I think about Dark Avenger. Part of me wants to love it — any recovering WoW addict can appreciate a good round of make-the-numbers-go-higher — while the other part wants to protest some of the more… smartphoney aspects of the game Play Store giant Gamevil has implemented in the name of making a buck. In the end, I don’t think the former outweighs the latter, as much as I wish it did.
Your Basic Slasher
Any title with a medieval setting, three-quarter isometric camera, and gear-based gameplay is going to get compared to the Diablo series. Because my entire experience with the franchise started and stopped on a three-week love affair with Diablo 3, I may not be the most qualified person to speak to the similarities. That said, from my limited perspective, I can see why others would make comparisons. Alongside all the stuff mentioned up top, the game’s talk of “evil awakening” and “the depths of hell” and the like seem pretty close to the general motif the PC series follows.
What I do know is this: The game is all about the gear. As with most RPG-style games these days, your swords and shoes and cloaks are all one lucky drop away from a more powerful, cooler looking upgrade. The “cooler looking” thing is especially impressive here in my opinion. Maybe three levels into the game I found some crazy glowing swords that froze enemies in their tracks and looked awesome on top of that. If you ever played World of Warcraft in its early days, you’ll appreciate not having to wait until the level cap to avoid wearing a clownsuit.
It won’t win any awards for its visuals, but levels and character models alike rarely dip below adequate in Dark Avenger. More than a few times I found myself wincing — okay, maybe not wincing, but definitely making an eww-face — at the creatures my templar encountered. I found the weird, legless things that swarm you by crawling on their hands incredibly creepy in particular. If you don’t believe me, download the game and see for yourself, because ugh.
Kill Monsters and Time
There are, if you’ll pardon the hard scientific speak here, a buttload of ways to play Dark Avenger. The single player campaign takes you through dozens of short levels, each of which has a standard mode as well as a time trial. Infinity Tower takes a distilled approach to the standard slasher gameplay, pitting you against wave after wave of standard mobs, mid-tier baddies, and full-on bosses. Deathmatch mode puts you in one of two three-man teams and sets you to killing real life opponents. All three modes let you use the same character, as well as all the gear and currency you’ve accumulated along the way, meaning you can spend the brunt of your time in one mode without worrying about players in another outranking you when you decide to try something new.
Until You Get Bored, That Is
The problem is, no matter what you’re doing, the combat gets old pretty fast. Even with the various spells and abilities you unlock as you level, you’ll spend most of your time mashing an onscreen button, killing the wave of baddies in front of you, moving onto the next wave, mashing again… you get the point.
This is compounded by the fact that, at least in the early going, you’re restricted to a single class (the templar) despite Gamevil’s promises of three hero types in the game’s description. The other two classes, a mage and a ranger, are nowhere to be found save for a promise that the ranger is “coming soon” during the character creation screen. Since the game uses a freemium model, the less-than-honest sales copy isn’t as big a deal as it could have been; if Gamevil charged even a dime for the title, it’d be an outright shady practice. On that note, if anyone DOES know how to go about unlocking the mage, leave a comment and let me know so I feel like a little less of an idiot if it turns out he’s been there all along.
The Pox Of Freemium
At this point I think it’s safe to say the freemium model isn’t going away. I, like many gamers watching the mobile platform grow into a legitimate gaming option, have had to dismiss my initial outrage about the practice to keep myself from having a heart attack each time a developer finds a clever new way to, uh, persuade the money out of my wallet. Dark Avenger, however, takes it to a new low — at least, a new one for me — and I probably won’t play the game again past this review because of it.
In short, if you’re a gearhead, the game more-less extorts you into paying when you die. How? By taking your gear, and often your best gear, if you don’t pony up. As with most titles, the game uses two main types of currency for basic purchases like items, potions, and upgrades. Both, as always, can be purchased for real cash. When you die in the single player mode, the game gives you two options: trash two pieces of loot of its choosing or pay the piper. In a show of “mercy,” you’re not forced to cough up cash if you happen to be broke, but the game still takes away your stuff. Whatever your stance on losing your items or paying for content, it’s bound to annoy the heck out of you at some point or another.
As much as I liked some of the stuff Dark Avenger has going for it, namely the variety of gear available to win and purchase, I can’t get behind a game that twists my arm so hard when it comes to supposedly optional transactions. As a former WoW addict, the thought of trashing any loot without some compensation absolutely kills me. Giving me the option to save my stuff by way of spending monetized ingame currency makes it worse by orders of magnitude. As with Iron Man 3, which was way worse about it for a number of reasons, I’ll never get much enjoyment from a game that pulls stunts like that. You can guarantee I won’t be giving one any of my money in the foreseeable future, either. When I find a game that truly reels me in, maybe… this one isn’t it, though.