I want to like this game. I really do.
I don’t normally tear scathingly into games like I’m about to do, but this one has pissed me off just enough to warrant it. It is that flagrant.
The game is actually fairly fun, at first blush. I played it for a couple hours straight when I first downloaded it. It’s simple stuff - buy and place buildings and shops, assign pones to shops to obtain more coins. You can play (admittedly fun little) minigames with the pones to get them experience points, which allows them to take on jobs at the more expensive shops (which actually works backwards, as you can make more money grinding the less expensive shops constantly). Once you’ve got coins, you can buy more pones, or more buildings, or more shops.
Of course that’s not everything, but it’s the general gist of it. There’s also gemstones as currency, which you either find rarely (6% chance) from the rare cameo pone, and hearts, which you can only get when a friend visits your town and drops off a chest. You’ll also find magic items, which are used to feed bugs to make them disappear (they’ll occupy 2x2 spaces that aren’t filled, and in general are a pain), and the same magic items also activate plot gates. There’s also rocks, evil trees and other junk you remove by paying coins. It’s a very coin-heavy game. You’ll spend a lot of time just grinding for coins.
The story is barebones, but that’s okay. It’s essentially the same story as the pilot episode, just turned into a game. You’ve got a whole bunch of missions to do, mostly involving buying buildings, removing junk, obtaining pones, and other stuff. You can skip certain missions or parts of missions by paying gems. Some pones cost hearts. Some pones cost gems. Lots of gems. Lots and lots of gems.
This is where the problem lies.
Notice something wrong here?
The problems with the MLP iOS game ultimately stem from the freemium model it uses. The game itself is entirely free to download and play, and when you begin things are fairly easygoing, dare I say a lot of fun. But this quickly becomes a chore when you realize how unreasonable some of these prices are.
This isn’t even going into the pones that cost coins and not gems. Applejack, the third main character you can obtain, costs a little over 10000 coins. This is actually reasonable. What’s the next main character you can buy? Rarity, for 90 gems. This is also somewhat reasonable, as ninety gems is a very low, non-offensive payment of ten dollars. Fluttershy? About 40000-some coins. Somewhat unsettlingly high, but still reasonable since it just facilitates grinding a bunch. Rainbow Dash? 500 gems. How much do five hundred gems cost? Fifty dollars. And you need to collect Rainbow Dash to complete the game, not even mentioning all the other, non-main characters that you have to buy with gems to complete story missions - and you have to complete the game to unlock fan-favorite Luna. As said up in that /mlp/ screencap, you’ll have to spend over two hundred dollars to beat the game. Or, if you take advantage of the daily bonuses (five straight days of playing nets you three gems), you can just play every day for, oh, just fifteen years.
If the game were a true MMO, or a FPS with a microtransaction shop, or anything other than a dinky little iOS time-killer, that might have been a reasonable price to pay. Lots of people spend tons of cash on TF2 and WoW. 200+ dollars isn’t that bad for a game that delivers a very large amount of good quality content. By contrast, it would be much more reasonable to pay, say, only five or ten dollars at the most to be able to complete an iOS game. The iOS versions of Final Fantasy I and II cost me ten dollars at the most. Two ports of high-quality PSP games of two entries into one of the biggest RPG franchises of all time cost me ten goddamn dollars. Who the fuck is Gameloft kidding, asking for over two hundred bucks to spend on their stuff?
This game isn’t cut from the kind of cloth it needed to be cut from, and sadly that ends up sucking the enjoyment right out of playing it. What good does grinding coins and playing minigames with your pones do when you won’t be able to make any progress without spending way too much money? Why bother trying to wait the gem count out when that’ll just cause more parasprites and removable junk items to fill up all the empty spaces in your town?
I don’t know whether this obscene cash requirement was deliberate on Gameloft’s part or whether it was the result of a really badly planned “difficulty” curve, but ultimately the egg is entirely on Gameloft’s face with this one.
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