Monday, June 4, 2012

PC Game Review: Moon Breakers

Moon Breakers is the new free to play game from IMBA Entertainment.  Moon Breakers is a space dog fighting game where two teams of players (large teams too, I've seen 40 players in one game) fly one of 4 classes of ships out of their carriers to battle for the limited resources of the moon between them.  There are three game types, seek and destroy (death match), carrier destruction, and capture the flag (CTF).  Of these game types, only CTF fails.  Moon Breakers is available on steam, and also in your browser, which may explain the lack of options in the game.

That was my first issue with the game:  not enough options.  You can set volume, and rebind keys, but if you want to change screen resolution, or go to full screen mode, tough noogies.  This was apparently made as a browser game first, and a pc game with steam play available second.  This is bad for a few reasons.  First anytime you give a gamer (and particularly a PC gamer) less control, the more they will resent you, the developer, for it.  Gamers want to be able to control their experience, or maximize it actually.  Less control means more chance for a sub par experience for a gamer, and they will be more likely to not play the game, and not spend money on it.  Too few options also gives the impression that the developers didn't care.  They didn't take the time to add in a few options that are common in almost all games, makes them seem apathetic, again possibly offending the gamer.  Don't offend the gamer, they are your source of income as a developer, and gamers are a fickle bunch, give them an inch, and they'll take a mile.

Game Play

The game play is still good though, and also oddly addictive.  From the first time I got catapulted out of my carrier I craved the experience of blasting other players out of their fighters.  There is something about dog fighting that, for me at least, is more exhilarating when you win than shooters, or strategy games.  Many of the encounters with other players takes the form of a game of chicken, where both of you are flying at top speed right at each other, guns blazing, both of you trying to get the timing of your rockets right, and if you end up the winner, the feeling of flying your screaming fighter through the cloud of smoke they leave behind is awesome.  It's even better if they are in a higher class fighter than your were.

The game feels good with a mouse and keyboard, most controls are responsive, and do what they should.  I would like to see the rolling improved, but it is not a major issue.  What could make it better is if they could have given the game controller compatibility.  You can get more control with a controller, with the joysticks, than with a mouse and keyboard.  The game play would have felt that much better, and IMBA may have been able to attract more gamers to their game that way.

Going back to the game modes that I mentioned before, there is a reason why CTF falls on its face in this game.  It reverts back to the carrier destruction game mode.  There are so many turrets on the carriers that it is necessary to coordinate bombing runs on the carriers to take them out so your fast fighters can even get through the hail of bullets.  As the bombers are taking out the turrets, the carriers are taking damage, and the team that cripples the enemy's carrier first, gets access to their flag first, and then gets the advantage in the game.  Most of the time the CTF mode is vetoed by the players for a more fun game mode.

Business Model

Here is where the major issue with Moon Breakers is.  Yes it is free to play, but it leans...well, pretty much is, pay to win.  There are two resources that a player can get in Moon Breakers, Cred, which comes from playing, and HE-3, which players can buy.  Players can unlock new ships with HE-3, or cred, but they can only upgrade the ships with cred.  This is where the boosts come.  Players can buy boosts with HE-3 to get cred faster, and not just a little faster, fifteen times faster.  Generally, I can get 3000 cred if a win a game that I have played all the way through, that's 45,000 cred if I had the 15x boost.  Some of the ships are in the multi-million cred price range, meaning that if I don't buy creds, it's going to be a long time before I can unlock new ships, never mind upgrading them.  Those who pay get a distinct advantage over those who don't, and that destroys the purpose of the free to play model.  It is supposed to create an environment where players can try the game, and then when they like it, buy things to improve their experience, not give them an artificial edge over the other players.  And HE-3 is expensive, enough so that if I wanted to impulse buy some of it, the price would keep me from doing that.  Your price cannot be too high for impulse buys.

Bottom Line

Try Moon Breakers. It's visuals are also family friendly.  There is nothing scary or inappropriate, parents will need to be careful of the other people in the game, they can type whatever they want.  I like the game play, I'll usually play a few games a day, and do fairly well.  I can get past the options issue, but I don't like it.  What I cannot get past is the business model.  I will not be spending money on this game until they change the business model.  I just won't support a pay to win game in this way.  Because of these issues I give Moon Breakers 1 and 2/3 Triforces.


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