The world of F2P might be somewhat of an untouched concept to console gamers, but the draw of a free multiplayer game continues to reel us in no matter what platform we prefer. This phenomenon was no different when ToyLogic introduced Xbox LIVE Gold members with its debut of Happy Wars, LIVE’s first heavily anticipated, free-to-play title in quite some time. Rather disappointingly, Xbox delivered free arcade games in the past. Aegis Wing and Yaris were free to Gold members yet, despite costing them nothing to play, players were not satisfied.
My experience with Happy Wars began by chance. I had just updated my Xbox dashboard to the Fall 2012 Beta program and, while searching through new features, came across the cutest thumbnail. I downloaded the Happy Wars’ Beta and immediately became enthralled in the bright world in which two cute kingdoms are at war over the most ridiculous of reasons imaginable. I had to keep playing.
I began in story mode, after breezing my way through the short tutorial, and quickly found that game play was rather simple. I pushed through as many levels as I could with my Cleric, one of the three classes available to players, and then realized that I needed to unlock more story modes to continue on. Leveling up in multiplayer would get the job done, so I set off for my first Co-Op match. Co-Op mode has players pitted against AI bots who, like your team, are attempting to seize the towers scattered throughout the land and storm the enemy castle. I was immediately thrust into the chaos and confusion of 30 tiny players brawling across dazzling wintry slopes, but after pushing the enemy bots back, we regained control of the adorable map and won our first round. We won the last two rounds as well and after acquiring some outrageously named equipment, I found that all I wanted to do was continue to level up.
After pairing up with other PMS l H2O members, I quickly decided that Happy Wars was becoming quite addicting. We likened the game play to Fat Princess with a dash of League of Legends and DOTA, all rolled into the most charming arcade brawl we had ever been in. My experience led me to join the fight as a Cleric most often, while my counterparts often headed in as Warriors or Mages. Whether you prefer close-range attacks with swords and shields, projectile magic spells from a great distance, or protecting and healing companion units from the side, Happy Wars was offering something for everyone. Our secondary attacks, rocks being thrown, walls magically appearing, and lightning strikes flashing around the map, often had the battle a bit jumbled. One of my favorite Happy Wars features, however, was our use of Team Skills.
Warriors, Mages, and Clerics have their own Team Skills, respectively, and can use them by pressing the Y button. Other members of the team can, in turn, join in the Team Skill slots that appear by pressing Y also. Based on your class, this can create overwhelming offensive attacks – tornadoes, meteor showers, lightning arrow storms – and the duration and strength of each Team Skill is dependent upon the number of teammates you have standing with you. I loved how much this encouraged teamwork or, at the very least, cooperation, which random players almost always obliged with. It is when these Team Skills are all used together, however, that Happy Wars turns into a brilliant display of visuals and sounds. While one of the Mages on your team might have a lightning arrow storm underway, you can get a meteor shower started as well. I found this completely overwhelming but, above all, ridiculously fun and hilarious. Knowing when to use Team Skills and at the right place on each map became an art. I was hooked.
For me, the most addicting thing about Happy Wars was the amount of items I was acquiring just by competing in Quick Matches and Co-Op matches. During a round, your in-game item level can peak at 5 depending on how well you are doing. After the round, you receive leveled items based on your in-game rank for that round. I gained a startling amount of Happy Stars after each round as well, redeemable at the Happy Spinner where players can spin away for armor, shields, weapons, and accessories. I found it thrilling to have so many items for a game I didn’t pay for.
Once the Beta was over, Happy Wars launched for public, Gold member release. Our inventories were wiped, and my level 30-something Cleric was reset back to level 1. While this was a bit heartbreaking, I stuck around for the release to level back up and to see what ToyLogic had in store. Unfortunately, the overwhelming amount of players bottlenecked lobbies and wait times were often excruciating. Players were getting disconnected from games just as the first round began or, worse, just as the third and final round was about to end, making them miss out on the most Happy Stars and item give-a-ways possible. Despite the criticism, however, ToyLogic declared its commitment to fixing server and connectivity problems. While the lobby wait-times can still be a bit boring, Happy Wars has always seemed worth it to me. The game is challenging, the concept is fun, and the allowance for teamwork is still apparent and essential. As ToyLogic has had their hands in titles such as Nintendo’s Super Smash Bros. Brawl for the Wii and Kid Icarus for the 3DS, I maintain a positive outlook on what they can achieve with Happy Wars, their future endeavors, and more F2P titles from Xbox LIVE.
Written by PMS Nova, member of the PMS|H2O Editorial Team. Follow her on Twitter!