“Gather your friends and enter the ever expanding massively-multiplayer RPG world of fantasy, mystery and magic.”
Sounds good, right? That’s part of the description of Aurora Feint 3 (for the iPad) on the iTunes store. I couldn’t download it fast enough; that description was right up my ally.
And, it turns out, totally inaccurate.
Basically, Aurora Feint 3 is, at its core, a “match-3” game. You have your game board and your tiles, and you have to get 3 of the same tile in a row in order to make them disappear. In a new twist that does a great job of taking advantage of the platform, you can only move your tiles horizontally, but you can rotate the iPad and what used to be up<–>down is now left<–>right. But gravity changes too, so your tiles will fall to fill any gaps. It’s a neat play mechanic that puts a fresh spin on the match-3 genre.
When tiles disappear the ones above them start to glow, and if they then form a match via falling into now vacant spots, you’ll get a Chain. In order to do this, you need a good amount of tiles on-screen, but if the board fills up you die. Rows of tiles constantly bubble up from below, but you can pull them up faster via a 2-finger swipe if you need more material to work with. Getting Chains is key to combat (see below) so you’re constantly in a balancing act between having enough tiles to get Chains and having so many that the board fills up. It’s quite a challenge.
So what about the RPG meta-game? When you first start playing, you’re matching tiles to build up your health. Every match gives you a bit more health. After a while of this you’ll enter combat against an NPC enemy. You have no control over when this happens.
Combat starts with a fresh board of tiles. Now making matches does damage to the enemy, and Chains do bonus damage. At the same time the enemy is doing damage to you, but you never see his board. The only real direct interaction with the enemy is via his nicely drawn artwork, including his sword that will flash right before he’s about to attack. If you can make a match immediately after his sword flashes you can mitigate some of the damage he’d otherwise do to you.
If you beat your enemy you’ll get some experience, and eventually will gain levels which will give you a longer health bar. After a battle you go back to playing to gain health (healing yourself). You continue to do that until the next random battle.
And that’s the game. Oh, there’s a button that is supposed to let you call for help from friends during a battle, but no one I know is playing so…
If you die in a battle you’ll be prompted to fork over some real-life cash to keep playing. Otherwise the battle ends, and you get no experience. The enemies ramp up in difficulty pretty quickly and since you get no experience when you lose a battle it’s easy to get frustrated from losing over and over (remember, there’s no way to choose your next battle, so no way to take on easier foes in order to gain levels), making that $$ transaction look more appealing.
I can’t recommend this game. It’s free in the sense of you not having to give them cash, but not in the sense that you’re giving them your personal information for reselling. The game is also balanced to frustrate in order to get you to spend money on Continues.
It’s funny, if I’m in an arcade feeding quarters into a machine and die and am prompted to pump in a few more coins to continue, that feels ok. But on a machine I own it just feels really scammy. You might not feel the same way.
The shame of it is, the production values of Aurora Feint 3 are really good. They’ve got beautiful artwork, creepy sounds (during battle) and a very solid core puzzle-game mechanic.
This would be a wonderful $5-$10 single-player puzzle game. But between the request for your personal data, the requirement to be online all the time, and the difficulty curve designed to get you to pay out money as you play, as it stands now Aurora Feint 3 is just a missed opportunity.