Red or Blue? I’ll Gladly Go To War With You! – Happy Wars Review For Xbox 360
This game was reviewed on the Xbox 360.
Taking to the battlefield is the title Happy Wars, Xbox Live’s first free-to-play game. With its 30-player online battles and cutesy aesthetics, is this free title truly priceless or does the dreaded pay-to-win sub-genre bear its ugly head once more?
While Happy Wars is mainly a multiplayer game, it does sport a single player campaign and storyline told across several small missions. Our story follows the Light and Dark kingdoms, two rivaling groups who just can’t see eye to eye on anything. The two factions engage in all-out war over any trivial matter, like what the best band is, who the prettiest model is, who shot first: Han Solo or Greedo – no matter is too small to be settled on the battlefield. One day, the king of the Dark Kingdom visits the Light King in an attempt to settle their most recent debate. However, the discussion is futile and it appears violence will ensue. Before the next war has a chance to come to fruition, the Light King’s daughter appears to investigate the commotion. Stricken by love, the Dark King decides to hold off combat and kidnaps her to be his bride. Riddled with sorrow, the Light King tasks the Knights of the Order of Light with rescuing the princess from the Dark Kingdom. Each mission and tale within Happy Wars is adorably ridiculous in an over-the-top fashion, which fits the game perfectly.
As mentioned earlier, Happy Wars is mainly an online affair – so much so that chapters for the Campaign are unlocked by leveling up in multiplayer. The basic premise is actually fairly simple: Two teams of 15 players take to a cartoony battlefield in the name of victory and whatever side of the argument they’re rooting for. Each team is given a castle containing a large tower, and the end goal is to invade the enemy’s fortress and to destroy their monument – while simultaneously protecting your own. Throughout the area, there are pedestals where gamers can build smaller towers to gain points, a great commodity for advancing your position on the map. To help keep battles from dragging on, once the15-minute time limit is up, the team with the most towers under their control is the winner. Should the numbers be even, then there is a tiebreaker; the first side to take any tower, big or small, takes the prize. Overall, it’s a very simple concept that any gamer – from the most elite strategist to those still restricted by a bedtime – should be able to pick up on in their first round..
Thankfully, Happy Wars has many ways to tackle these objectives, thereby making this an enjoyable game for all. Although levels are fairly linear in their placement of towers, there are several branching paths and strategies that players can utilize. For example, while the bulk of both armies fight for control of the centre of the field, small strike teams can take alternative, smaller paths around to either flank the enemy force or get in a shot at their foe’s castle. As well, several emplaced weapons such as cannons and basilicas can be built along different routes on the map or on castle walls, to help a defending team entrench themselves to prevent adversary advancement.
As for raiding the enemy palace, there are a few options as well. Most obvious would be storming the protective gate, smashing it down, and walking right in the front door. Of course, this makes you easy prey for ballistas and area of effect skills; but since the gate cannot be repaired, it’s also a steady way to slowly chip at defenses. However, if you wish to speed up the process, a battering ram can be built to smash through the structure in considerably less time. Alternatively, if players favour sneakier tactics, then ladders can be built at different places along the castle walls. These can be used to scale the building and destroy the barricades that line the ramparts – which are much easier to break than the door. If you’re feeling really devious though, you can always wait for an enemy to accidentally open the door for you, just don’t be unfair and have your double-agent friend on the other team cheat for you!
Of course, Happy Wars owes a lot of its variety to its character classes, of which there are three: Warrior, Cleric, and Mage. The Warrior class is your usual sword and shield tank, able to deal plenty of raw damage in melee combat while blocking enemy assaults. Most of their skills take the form of close-quarter attacks, like spinning wildly with a sword outstretched or jumping in for a powerful smash. Warriors are the vanguards of Happy Wars, making up the front lines to either protect the other classes or do serious damage to enemy players or resources.
Clerics, on the other hand, are better suited for healing and defense rather than actual attack. Their main powers focus on buffing friendly players with speed/armor, healing/resurrecting injured players, or summoning the materials needed to build the emplaced weapons and other objects. Although these abilities make the Cleric an important part of any strategy, they lack overall attack power since they sport zero offensive skills. However, they do come equipped with shields and maces, giving them a fair defense.
As you may have guessed, Mages are masters of the arcane, able to summon powerful elemental spells to deal ranged or indirect damage. Such spells include powerful strikes of lightning, deployable wind traps to send unsuspecting foes flying, and chilling blizzards to freeze enemies in their tracks. Unlike the other two classes, mages come without shields and wield only staffs. To make up for this lack of defense they have been given the ability to enchant themselves and allies with different elemental properties, as well as being able to use a magical shot attack which has various forms dependent upon the enchantment (or lack thereof).
Usage of each of the three classes is key in attempting to seize victory. Furthermore, what’s really incredible is the balance between them. Not one class overpowers the other, and each has a specific purpose that only it can truly fulfill. The tremendous care in keeping each class fair is obvious from the get-go, and it’s a welcoming surprise that they’re this unbiased at launch.
Aside from their basic skills, each class is able to take part in powerful Team Skills – which require assistance from at least one other teammate to unleash. These skills vary from class to class: Warriors can rally allies to boost their attack power, health, or launch a massive charge; Clerics can heal or resurrect any nearby ally, boost defense, or teleport to nearby towers; and Mages can call down powerful meteor storms and tornadoes. The amount of allies needed is specific to the skill; but if used at the right moment, they can change the state of the battle drastically.
Another large part of Happy Wars is item selection and customization. Players are able to change the hair style/colour, skin tone, eye shape/colour, and mouth of each of their three classes, shaping them as they see fit. Also, every character can change out their weapons, head gear, armor, shields, and even equip themselves with special items like a lion’s tail or a turtle shell. Every gear piece has not only its own aesthetic flair, but stats and special buffs as well. Furthermore, your gear can be upgraded by paying Happy Stars (the in-game currency won through matches) to make them even stronger or switch certain buffs between items. Whether you’re looking for a certain look or specific starts (or both), there is no shortage of styles for players to mess with.
The question on most readers’ minds though is sure to be “what are the premium options, and what do my dollars buy me?” Well, they buy you Happy Tickets. These golden cards have two purposes: to acquire special enhancements while in a round and to buy/enhance items. If you die in a round, you will have the option to spend some of your Happy Tickets to buff up your character before respawning. These augments can be in the form of shorter revival times, strengthening boosts, or lowering skill recharge times. While this might sound terribly unfair, these upgrades only last for a couple minutes and would cost a considerable amount to use every match. Players using these paid-power-ups will have a slight advantage, but skilled and clever players can still trump them in an average game.
As for items, Happy Tickets can be used in place of Happy Stars to upgrade a weapon, buy items from the cash shop, or spend on Happy Cards (which award two random standard items and one premium one). The objects purchased from the cash shop and won in Happy Cards are a fair deal more powerful than their standard counter-parts, making them a wise purchase. Once again, seems a little unfair that money buys power, right? Well, there is a way for gamers to get in on premium items for free: the Happy Spinner. This roulette takes Happy Stars instead of Tickets and awards the gamer with one item: the chance to unlock a premium (albeit a very small one). While it is easier to pay for an advantage, your dollars definitely do not guarantee success.
Moving on, in terms of visuals, Happy Wars is a brilliant display of concept and quality. The title has a cutesy appearance which designs characters in a somewhat chibi fashion (slightly larger heads on smaller bodies wielding oversized weapons) that can appeal to young and old players alike. Environments range from undersea coral reefs to dry dusty deserts; even more areas will be unlocked after launch. The visual fanatics will also be happy to know that each round is free of any dreaded texture pop, tearing, or other visual anomalies. Overall, Happy Wars is a beautiful arcade title to look at and will win over gamers of all ages.
When the battle ends and the victor is decided, gamers everywhere will see Happy Wars as a fantastic title. Smooth and well-conceived character design is augmented by gameplay that is massively varied and considerably well-balanced, making it a must-have title. Even the premium content has been handled exceptionally well, offering a small advantage to those with the in-game money, but never truly ensuring victory. Whether you’re a hardcore multiplayer gamer set on taking down your enemies or a casual player just looking for some cute fun, this is one game you don’t want to miss out on. And remember, it’s free! What do you have to lose by giving it a shot?
Final Score: 5.0 / 5.0
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