Ark Of War Review: False Advertising?

Expectations vs. Reality.

Ark of War has become one of the staple MMOs in the Android and iOS market, due in part to a combination of a lack of competition, and some of the most heavy-handed advertising since the last time I tried to log into Photobucket.com. The former of which shows players a scene of an epic floating battleship war, where two ships sent floating craft after each other in an epic battle, being lead by two giant floating boats. In fact, take a look at the trailer to get a good picture of what I mean.


Looking at one of the most heavily advertised mobile game commercials of all time, it Should give you an idea of what many gamers - myself included- expected to see in this genre: A large, 3D, open world where two arks can send soldiers to meet in battle. A very game where you can watch flying spacecrafts shoot each other out of the sky.
Now contrast that trailer with what we got:



Looks very different, doesn't it?

Graphics

The 2D graphics are great in this battle. Too bad you can't actually play it.


This game looks very different, dare I say: Inferior- to the game in the commercials, and even the google play store screen shots. It's nothing short of a miracle this game hasn't been called out for this before, but maybe that's because nobody expects much from mobile gaming anymore. Don't get me wrong; the artwork that comprises the game is spectacular, even while being 2D. The hand-drawn and painted environments are top-tier. I would probably be more forgiving of the visuals if they weren't such an aggressive contrast to what was advertised. Regardless, the fact of the matter is that there was no reason for the game to be on Android. This could very easily play in a browser window on Facebook, and nothing would be lost.

Gameplay

You will spend 90% of your time tapping things on this screen.


Despite how obsessively marketed this game was, there was really not much gameplay here. It's just point and click inventory management. You balance resources, you send troops to occupy power plants or something, and that's it.

If you were looking for the epic mid-air flying space ship battle the trailers on YouTube eluded to, keep looking, chief. This ain't it. The best you're going to get out of sending a fleet of troops to attack another ship is a pre-cooked animation of a ship slowly flying toward an opponent, and flying in a circle around it once it makes contact. You don't get to see the battle until after the generic circle flying animation is complete, and even then, you have to check your in-game inbox to see the pre-recorded outcome that looks like a turn-based RPG.

This is as close to an epic battle as you're ever going to see.


there are at least 10 or more currencies in game that must be balanced between different resources, and everything is a game of point and click management. It has that in common with games like Sim City 2000 and Farmville. You will never fly a ship, or see the inside of the bridge of your own craft.
it may not seem like a problem at first, till you realize this -coupled with a series of countdown timers- is basically the whole game. you gather resources, which takes literally hours, then you make upgrades to your ship and troops, which takes even longer.
In other words, this is a great video game, if you don't like playing actual video games. There are minigames, sure, like the time-space war, where you drag ships into each-other to create bigger ships, but that just ads another currency to the game you have to manage; this time, it's the one you use to heal injured troops. the ones you send to attack resources, and other players.

Presentation



Despite having some of the best artwork in 2d games, the fact that when you send ground troops to a resource tile, or to attack another player, it shows up as a series of airships that make a circle around it while firing at it is pretty lazy, all things considered. Let me just remind you, when you send an army to attack or occupy a thing, you're not sending airships; you're sending ground troops. Even your airships, which you can train, are just hovercraft that look like gunboats. Sure, you can see a "replay" of any battle that just took place that looks a lot more like what actually happened, but that shouldn't be something we see after the fact. we should be able to see that live.

not only that, but you can also attack giant worms and dragons in this game, and you get the same set of animations. Even when you hit the replay button, you get to see what actually happened -- watching the battle as it was actually meant to take place, but the dragon or worm is missing.  Instead, you're attacking their army, and they mysteriously have a transport ship you can blow up.
So, basically, this game manages to add anything it wants, so long as it can just keep recycling the same artwork and animations for everything. I don't know about you, but this comes off as extremely lazy to me. This largely visual game expects players to just use their imaginations for elements it was too lazy to add to the game. Keep in mind that this game is on the Android and iOS market, not the Atari 2600. There is no excuse for this crap anymore. These developers could have added a worm or a dragon in place of a transport ship, at least in the replays, but I don't exactly know what I was expecting from a game that adds countdown timers in place of gameplay.

The catch

Me discussing the core problem with the game, and how it is designed to force players into paying real money for a single microtransaction.



Every free-to-play mobile game has a work, and that work is designed to get you to buy the premium currency. These types of games are never just free: there's always a catch, and that catch is unusually clever. You see, in order for you to defend your ship from being attacked, and having its resources stolen, you have two options: garrison one of your commanders, and a bunch of troops into your ship in case your ship is attacked, or, buy an 8+ hour impenetrable shield for a ridiculous amount of Gold: the game's very own premium currency. The thing is, you may think you can substitute the shield with your own garrisoned army, but consider this: The only time another player will attack your ship is if your troops or commander is inferior to theirs, which, unfortunately, is the majority of players. That means, every time you are attacked, you are virtually guaranteed to get your ass kicked. That leaves buying expensive shields as the only viable option, and after a long time of dropping the soap to other-higher level players, you will be spending a lot of damn money trying to buy the premium currency, just to buy the shield to protect your ship.

This gotcha game is clever, because its less likely people will blame the game, but rather the other players, for the scam being hoisted on them. This means that if you're at work or something, you are going to get repeatedly gang-raped by ships that are at least 5 bridge-levels higher than yours. Once you get to at least bridge level 11 with your ship, it becomes practically impossible to gather enough resources to evolve without buying force shields with real money. You can leave the game for two hours, come back, only to find all your resources gone, and your entire army dead, at least 4 times a day on any given server.

Other notes:

This is the absolute fewest notifications this game has ever sent in a 1 hour period, and it's already too many.



Ark of War is the needy one-night stand that texts you like 20 times a day. I can't even open a different game without this thing sending two or more notifications, sometimes outright lying to me about what's going on. For a game that has 11+ hour upgrade timers, and an average resource generation that takes roughly 2 hours at a time, it doesn't even make sense for this game to be bothering me that much. I've gotten less alerts from my mother in a week than this game puts out in 8 hours.

Verdict

The most heavily advertised mobile games seem to follow the same formula. All have bogus ads that lie about the game's look, all are timer-based waiting simulators with little or no actual gameplay. Among the biggest games in this pseudo genre, this game has the best presentation, if only because of the excellent artwork that comprises the entire game. Aside from that, false advertising is only exacerbated by some of the most egregious pay-to-win micro-transactions this side of a licensed EA exclusive.




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