PT Guides: Like... Freemium? You'll Love These!17 May 2017 5
Free-to-play is here to stay. Like it or not, the micro-transactional business model is very successful and mobile gamers have grown quite used to not paying up front for games. Freemium games aren't free for all, of course, and a subset of the player base subsidizes the free play for the rest. The worst of these games are gussied up skinner boxes that intentionally target addiction. Not all freemium games work this way, of course, and what follows are several recent examples of the model done right.
Not only is Battle for Polytopia one of the best turn-based world conquering strategy games in either mobile store but it also has the best freemium model. You can play the entire game in either of its two modes—Perfection where you play thirty turns with the goal of driving up your score, or Domination where you play until only one tribe remains—for free. In-app purchases allow you to add additional tribes with which to play, most of which cost $1.
Another game of global conquest, Age of Conquest IV also features turn-based play and an excellent freemium model. The game plays like a much more compelling version of Risk where you pick an empire, build up your army, and spread outward. The gameplay is deep enough to be satisfying without being so deep as to bring on a bout of analysis paralysis. You can generally finish a single-player game within a couple hours and have the option of facing several different levels of AI ability. Multiplayer games offer a wealth of setup options and can be played real-time or as asynchronous as you like with turn time limits ranging from one minute to 7 days. The game is free with IAPs to unlock additional maps on which to play, avatars, and other modifications that are not pay-to-win. The developer continually (and I do mean continually) supports the game with very frequent updates.
One of 2016’s biggest successes, Pathfinder Adventures put the popular tabletop card game into an easy-to-enjoy digital version. The digital game, like the tabletop version before it, is meant to evoke the spirit of pen-and-paper role-playing games without the need for other humans with which to play. You assemble a party of good-old Dungeons & Dragons style adventuring types and go forth to explore, slay monsters, and collect the treasure that is your due. Pathfinder Adventures is free to play starting with a couple different characters within three scenarios. In-app purchases unlock a whole lot of additional content including adventures, characters, cards, dice, and treasure chests (essentially booster packs). Most of this premium content is also available through gold, which you earn by playing the game, so it is possible to remain a freemium customer and grind out additional content if desired. The model is very similar to that used by Hearthstone and other CCGs but pay-to-win concerns are greatly minimized by the lack of player-versus-player action.
We’re about halfway into 2017 and Typeshift has the inside track for my word game of the year. It features challenging and fun puzzles where you look to form a series of words from several rows of tiles. You have to use every letter at least one in order to complete the puzzle. Typeshift offers several different packs of puzzles, some are free and others cost a dollar or two. There’s also a daily challenge that is free. It’s a good mix that provides plenty of opportunity to try before you buy more.
Real-time strategy games are often confusing and can be overwhelming to players unfamiliar with the genre. Not so with Mildly Interesting RTS, a very minimalistic take on the genre where you control an army of orbs and use them to seize and hold more bases than your opponent in a time-limited battle. You can face off against either the AI, which is actually quite good and the developer keeps making it stronger and stronger, or another local player. The game offers ten free maps on which to play with no ads or restrictions of any kind. For $2 you can unlock the “veteran content” which is ten more maps and extra options like troop-supply limits, a haste ability, and neutral "guard-mode" troops.
Another of my favorite games of the year, Erin: The Last Aos Sí is a tactical-combat RPG that follows Erin as she travels across mythological Scotland slinging spells at beasts, faeries, and spirits. The game features a relatively unique combat timeline that staggers initiative order based on the quickness of each combatant, and the spell or attack chosen. There’s a lot of tactical crunch behind each battle and a whole lot of game to experience. Erin: The Last Aos Sí also has a great payment model. The game is free-to-try, and you can battle through the first thirteen levels before you’re asked to buy the game. If you choose to continue you can pay what you feel the game is worth, ranging from $1.99 to $14.99. This is a super respectful model that acknowledges the wide variety of player outlooks on buying mobile games.
Seen any free-to-play/freemium games that you've thought weren't actually that bad? Actually spent any monet on any of the above? Let us know in the comments!