A “game” that embodies everything wrong with the mobile gaming industry

I dogmatically avoid mobile games, which in most cases prey on the youngest users and those who have problems with gambling. What tactics do developers use? Microtransactions, predatory strategies, misleading customers and more.

For some time now, there have been ads at every turn for the new Lord of the Rings game that has done its job well. The passion for everything related to The Lord of the Rings has prevailed over reason and past experience with mobile games. I knelt down and installed a game that was supposed to present the Middle World in a completely “innovative” way. My expectations were low, but even so, I wasn’t prepared enough for what awaited me.

Cinema ads that don’t reflect actual in-game play are nothing new in the gaming industry. If we jump into any mobile store right now, we’ll find countless games that promise an amazing gaming experience with a cinematic trailer. 99% of these games are ignored because we are aware that they are marketing moves used by developers to disguise poorly designed games. In the case of Lord of the Rings, Rise to War (LOTR War) is one of the most high-profile franchises in history, and every user, including me, quietly hopes that the game is true to Tolkien’s story and offers something new and fresh.

The new LOTR “freemium” (a free game with microtransactions) is hardly a game at all, in any sense. The development studio NetEase Games simply borrowed the cult status of Lord of the Rings, threw in some code together, made a trailer, hired average players who lent their voices to iconic heroes, and launched the game to unsuspecting gamers.

Predatory tactics typical of mobile games

The game, as already mentioned, starts with the trailer for which they spent most of the budget. The trailer is interesting, the music takes us back to the world of elves, wizards and the sinister Sauron. In the trailer, we get a hint that this is a strategy game, which impressed me. Just who wouldn’t want to relive the legendary battles from The Lord of the Rings, such as the Battle of Minas Tirith, the Battle of Helm’s Deep and others. Since this is a mobile game that does not have the same resources and platform as a PC or console, I am prepared for slightly truncated strategic tools, but I still expect epic battles.

Once we start, we have the choice to choose which faction we will belong to. I browsed enthusiastically between Mordor, Isengard, Angmar, Rohan, thinking it would affect later play and fighting. I then chose my own ring, personalized it, and then met Gandalf. If you’re of the opinion that so far everything works decently and even interestingly, make no mistake. These are the classic tactics of the developers to “pull” you into the game: choosing the people, personalizing the ring and meeting the most famous wizard. Praise and the last glimmer of hope, however, die immediately afterwards.

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The first battle, the game counts down the seconds. I am not ready for what awaits me. The battle, if we can call it that, takes place automatically, without my input. On the screen, I see pixels reminiscent of warriors, numbers appear above them to illustrate how much damage each unit has done, and in the upper right corner, boxes with all the “resonant” events. Okay, I think this is just the beginning of a game where I get to know the layout of the graphical interface and other basic features.

I win the battle or it is won by the computer (AI) and my Ring of Power has taken a new level. The numbers game, familiar to anyone who has ever played a mobile game, begins. I don’t even know why the ring got stronger and what that means. I just watch the line fill up and get a new point that I can spend on skills.

Loot Boxes and Microtransactions

Then we come across the first form of microtransactions, the so-called “loot box”. For those unfamiliar with microtransaction terminology, it is a purchase where the player, in exchange for real money or funds within the game, gets a certain booty, be it a new hero, weapons, resources, gold or something similar. Loot boxes are unfortunately nothing new in mobile games. They have also been present in computer and console games for some time. Players are seduced by the hope that they will get the best possible payoff, although this is very unlikely. In most cases, the player will receive an average prize or the worst payoff. So the studio catches the player on a hook and forces him to try his luck again.

The game upgrades us with Faramir, who we recruit with “beer,” one of the sources we can use to convince the heroes to join our fight. We then get an “army” to attack one of the many tiles and watch the seconds count down for combat. This time, we don’t even have the privilege of silently watching the battle. Everything takes place on a map. After the battle, we see countless numbers again, giving us the feeling that we have achieved something.

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A game of numbers, city upgrades and observations

Then the “roll” takes us to a place where we need to upgrade the building if we want to continue the “story”. We click on upgrade and the wait begins. The initial stages last only a few seconds, but later this grows into minutes and hours. But no worries, you can speed up the whole process with booster objects that shorten construction time. Great, isn’t it? These items have limited quantities and are very rare, but we can of course buy them. This mechanism is present everywhere. Do you have wounded soldiers? Wait a few minutes or more and they will be like new. Is your hero tired? Wait half a day and you will be able to continue conquering the tiles.

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Do you want a new hero, maybe Frodo or any other Hobbit? Then you will need unique items to gain their respect and successfully recruit them. If only it were that simple. Each unique hero needs 30 of these items, but they only appear in loot boxes. Gambling begins. Each loot box has several different items, including weapons, equipment, resources, and among them this unique Frodo recruitment item. If you’re lucky, you’ll get the item every 13 attempts and you need 30. That means you’ll have to spend a hundred euros or more just to recruit one hero. This does not include other equipment with which you can improve warriors.

After the initial few hours, rapid progress soon stops. All of a sudden we have to wait for several hours to upgrade buildings, conquering territories is getting harder, heroes are always tired, soldiers are always injured… Is there anything else to do besides waiting? Remember that promise at the beginning that we would be able to relive the epic battles? For this purpose, we get a special book where we can take on the role of villains and heroes and play scenes from books and movies. Of course, this is not the case. On the screen, we reconquer territories, and battles take place automatically and sometimes last for several minutes. How fun.

Microtransactions: the new reality of gaming?

You endured to the end of that angry tirade. LOTR War is not the only game that works on this principle, but it is undoubtedly one of the worst derivatives of this mobile formula. Almost every other freemium game works in a similar way, but at least they give the player the opportunity to play. Star Wars Galaxy of Heroes gives the player the ability to collect heroes, upgrade them and actually use them, as well as strategic thinking. The same goes for Marvel Strike Force and all other similar mobile RPG games.

LOTR War is about clicking on various tabs, watching numbers grow, upgrading buildings, and waiting for the on-screen timer to expire. All this under the guise of the beloved Lord of the Rings franchise. The target of these tactics, however, are the youngest, who want to participate in the story of their favorite heroes, and other players who are seduced by microtransactions and the mechanism of loot boxes, which promises them rich rewards in exchange for absurd sums of money.

What is your opinion about these types of games? Have you found a mobile game that is player-friendly and doesn’t overwhelm them with various forms of microtransactions? You can also see a detailed explanation of microtransactions here.

More similar news in the Games section.


Source: Računalništvo, telefonija – Računalniške novice by racunalniske-novice.com.

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