Happy Wars Review

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Developer(s): Toylogic
Publisher(s): Microsoft
Platform(s): Xbox Live Arcade, PC
Release Date: October 10, 2012

Let me try to convince you that Happy Wars is an important game. The last several years have seen a rise in the number of video games opting to adopt the free-to-play model. Recent titles such as Blacklight: Retribution, League of Legends, FirefallTribes: Ascend, and Team Fortress 2 have all found success using free-to-play as a means to an end. League of Legends recently surpassed 32 million user accounts and has taken the competitive gaming scene by storm in Korea. Those are realities that AAA console titles can only dream of. Just to give you an idea, here’s a little factoid: Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 sold approximately 6.5 million copies. Five times as many people have played or are playing League of Legends than have played or are playing Modern Warfare 3. That, ladies and gentleman, is a big deal.
  • Free-to-play
  • Charming aesthetics
  • Online connection issues and bad matchmaking
  • Lack of strategic depth
  • Repetitive play
There is something worth noting about successful free-to-play games: They all come out on PC. Microsoft has taken note of the ridiculous amounts of money to be made in free-to-play portion of the market, and they want a piece of the pie. That is why Happy Wars is so important. Microsoft is using it as a litmus test to see if there’s a future for free-to-play games on Xbox Live. Happy Wars matters because it will likely determine how many free-to-play games you see in the Game Marketplace on Microsoft’s next console. As the first and only current-gen console game that is also free-to-play, Happy Wars presents itself as an immediately interesting prospect. Free-to-play games do not demand that I answer the question of whether or not they are worth your money; but, they do demand that I answer the question of whether or not they are worth your time. Let’s find out if Happy Wars is worth a spot on your hard drive.


Free-to-play inevitably means that micro-transactions will be the primary means for the developer and publisher to make money, and this remains the case with Happy Wars. Players can spend real-world money on Microsoft Points that they then spend on Happy Tickets, which can be used to unlock armor, weapons, and various other items that upgrade the attack damage or magic resistance of your character. It is also possible to purchase items, weapons, and armor using an in-game currency known as Happy Stars, which are obtained by playing in online matches. Thankfully, Happy Wars doesn’t fall into the trap that most free-to-play titles that are aimed at casual gamers tend to fall into when it comes to pay-to-win. Players won’t find themselves facing online opponents who are all-powerful and nigh impossible to kill because they opted to purchase some super-awesome-insta-kill magic sword that cost $20. It’s entirely possible to gain access to good weapons, armor, and other items by simply playing the game and using the in-game currency.
  
The driving design concept behind Happy Wars is very similar to a tower-defense MOBA game. The game centers around two warring factions. Each faction starts at a castle, which acts as your base. Your objective is to march across the battlefield, building towers that act as spawn beacons along the way. Eventually, the goal is to end up at your opponent’s castle gate, knock it down, and then dismantle the castle tower that awaits you inside. It’s a very straightforward formula, but one that has found success in the past.


There are three different classes that you can take into battle. Those looking for an all-brawn-no-brains approach can try the melee-focused Warrior. Those looking to roam the battlefield as a support class should go with the Cleric, who is the only class that can build the siege equipment used to gain entry to the enemy castle. Anyone who wants to deal out some damage from afar is going to want to check out the Mage, who can cast devastating area-of-effect spells and enchant ally weapons with various elemental effects. Each class has a skill tree that is leveled up throughout the course of a battle. But, don’t go looking for League of Legends depth here because you won’t find it. 

There are two character-specific skills that are mapped to the B and A buttons, and a Team Skill that is mapped to the Y button. The X button serves as your generic attack button. Each skill that is mapped to a corresponding button has three levels that you gradually gain access to during the course of a battle. The Warrior and Mage skill trees have little strategic depth to them and contain upgrades that focus on offensive capabilities. The Cleric class is the only of the three classes that has any strategic depth, as leveling gains you access to spells that will revive fallen comrades, boost the HP and AP of your allies, and build siege latters and battering rams for when you and your buddies siege the opposing force’s castle. 

  
The game offers players few modes. There is a tutorial that I highly recommend you play, if only to learn everything there is to know about how to operate a Mage on the battlefield. There is a single-player practice mode that will spawn bots in the match so that the 15v15 roster is full. There is also a single-player story mode that at times is charming but in the end proves to be mediocre and decidedly uninteresting. If anything, the story mode functions a lot like the multiplayer mode, just in a more controlled environment. Multiplayer is where the meat of Happy Wars really is. It follows the same concept that I described earlier. Matches consist of a total of 30 players that are split evenly between two teams and typically last anywhere from 8 to 12 minutes. If a roster is not full when the timer runs out and the game begins, bots take the place of real players until someone joins the match. 

Online play in Happy Wars runs very smooth, with little lag. Of the 22 matches I played, however, I lost connection to eight while in-game, and was disconnected from the lobby after finishing a match almost every play session. There are also matchmaking issues. If you actually manage to stay in a lobby after a match ends there’s a good chance that a massive number of people will disconnect, leaving only a handful of players on either team. The matchmaking doesn’t always try to fill as many spots as possible, or at least make sure that teams are well-balanced, before a match begins. For instance, after completing a match all but five players—myself included—disconnected. The matchmaking service decided it was a good idea to fill all 15 spots on the opposing team’s roster and leave the five of us who had survived the great purge on a team together with 10 bots. With a terrible player versus bot ratio, we went on to get creamed within the first two minutes and thirty seconds of the match.


Let me be clear, Happy Wars is not a bad game. It’s enjoyable to see your little cartoony characters running around the battlefield. I even found some of the character designs I came across during online play to be genuinely endearing, although it seems entirely too easy to make them look like a Nightmare Before Christmas knockoff. The game is fun, but only for a little while. It suffers from a lack of originality and is painfully typical in every way. It becomes repetitive too soon when all you really want it to do is to keep on giving. A few more game modes wouldn’t have hurt and skill trees with more depth and opportunity for strategy would have provided the game with some much needed longevity. 

That being said, Happy Wars was—in every way—a safe bet for Microsoft. It’s not a longwinded game and it’s not pretending to be. Like so many free-to-play titles aimed at casual gamers, it is meant to be played in short bursts, and that’s the best way to have the most fun with Happy Wars. It’s not the game you’ll play for five or six hours straight. It’s the game you will play when you don’t know what else to play. Will Happy Wars be a free-to-play success? That remains to be seen, as it depends entirely on how well the micro-transactions sell. But, if you have a Gold Membership on Xbox Live there is hardly a reason for you to not have Happy Wars on your hard drive.  

Final Score “Fun and Charming, but Repetitive” 6.5
Graphics
There is nothing to get excited about here. The graphics are like a less polished version of Fat Princess. They aren’t great, but they aren’t an eye sore either. They contribute immensely to the charming aesthetic of the game.
6.0
Gameplay
A lack of depth throughout the character classes and game modes make for a gameplay experience that wears out its welcome relatively fast. The game could use some more longevity.
6.0
Value
For a free-to-play title, there’s no possible way to argue that this game isn’t worth the time it will take you to download it. Even with the repetitiveness, you’re not paying for the experience. You’ll put in as much time as you want to put in and that’s that.
8.0
Sound
Much like the graphics, there’s nothing to get worked up about here. Some of the music sounds very reminiscent of some of the old Soul Calibur II music, but other than that the best thing about the sound is the epic music that plays when you activate a Team Skill.
6.0

Review by Jon Hamlin
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Jon Hamlin is a freelance game journalist living in the San Francisco Bay Area. He plays too much Mass Effect 3 multiplayer and enjoys a good glass of wine. Occasionally, he can be found commanding his legion of doom on Xbox Live as GeniusPantsPhD. Follow him on Twitter @WordsmithJon, or email him at jonshamlin@gmail.com. All Articles by Jon.             


5 comments :

  1. This game looks insane!...Great review btw.

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  2. Looks fun, will have to give it a try.

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  3. great game but i can hardly play multiplayer cause i always lose connectionso i can only do single player matchers x. X

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  4. awesome game! gotta wait a while to have fun til ya get good weapons tho.

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  5. I LOVE this game, but I am really getting sick of everyone getting kicked out lately!!! AND when playing CO-OP for League points, I will still be fighting/building, and then when it tells me too few people are playing, it deducts from my rank points! I may never get 100 pts for my next level at this rate!

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