Free-to-play has become somewhat of a dirty word. It’s typically synonymous with poor business practices and games structured around unjust microtransactions. But every once in a while, a developer gets it right. Amazon Game Studios’ latest Android title, Saber’s Edge, is a perfect example of how this business model can benefit both publishers and consumers. You don’t have to spend a dime to fully enjoy what Saber’s Edge has to offer, but if you’re really desperate to speed things up and want to acquire extra in-game coin, the game store offers a selection of differently priced coin and gem bundles.
In Saber’s Edge, you play a sky pirate seeking fortune across a vast world of floating islands. Its gameplay is a unique mix between Candy Crush and traditional turn-based RPGs. The game is designed for on-the-road gaming with each floating island presenting a small skirmish battle. But much like Candy Crush, Saber’s Edge’s stupendously addictive gameplay is impossible to put down. The “just one more” mentality sets in quickly, and you find yourself obsessing over the game’s deep and strategic mechanics.
"Amazon Game Studios’ latest Android title, Saber’s Edge, is a perfect example of how this business model can benefit both publishers and consumers."
The goal is to recruit crew members, conquer islands, gain riches and acquire powerful weapons. The screen is split between an action board and a spectator window. Actions are performed by tying at least three rows of matching icons. The more pieces are connected, the greater the effect. Pieces can be tied in any direction, as long as they’re next to each other horizontally, vertically or diagonally. Character placement is just as important. If one of your pirates is far from the enemy, short-range actions become unusable and you have to rely on long-range attacks (if available) or build a defensive shield. Players can move their pirates across the character grid, but each repositioning costs an action point. This requires careful planning, as there are a limited number of action points per turn.
Combos can further boost offensive and defensive actions. Certain icons positioned at the edge of the board mark combo opportunities with a glowing arrow. Using combo rows flips the board to other crew members enhancing their actions. Combos are particularly useful as they don’t cost additional action points. The constantly changing action board is also filled with randomly generated treasure icons, like extra coins, extra health, extra moves, or extra treasure chests that can be accessed at the end of each battle. To obtain treasure icons, players have to keep using actions stacked underneath the collectible icon until it reaches the bottom of the board. This is easier said than done. Since moves are limited, it’s tough to effectively use actions that are both combat efficient and clear the path for treasure icons.
"Much like Candy Crush, Saber’s Edge’s stupendously addictive gameplay is impossible to put down."
As your crew grows, so do the enemies on the opposing grid. A four on four battle can last a long time, especially if you’re skipping in-game purchases that provide aid. This is where Saber’s Edge really shines. Gamers who just want to blast through the battles can easily speed things up by buying potions to resurrect their downed pirates, but those who want to continue challenging themselves can keep playing for free indefinitely. Even the toughest battles can be overcome with wits, and a bit of grinding.
Saber’s Edge is a great looking game. It may not be a technical masterpiece by any means, but the overall art direction impresses. Characters and environments are beautifully designed, and the battle scenes radiate with energy. The Pirates of the Caribbean inspired soundtrack is a treat as well. It’s just a shame that there isn’t any voice acting to complement the quirky cast.
Amazon Game Studios delivers yet another fantastic title, and they’re one of the few developers who get the free-to-play formula right. They’ve tackled an oversaturated genre, yet they’ve delivered something fresh and exciting. But beware, much like Candy Crush, Saber’s Edge is dangerously addictive. There are few mobile games that can hold my attention for more than a few minutes at a time, but Saber’s Edge is hard to turn away from.
Review by: Tin Salamunic | Reviewed on: Fire HDX 8.9