The following post contains personal screenshots from the game, “Power Rangers: Legacy Wars”.
Hey, look, a licensed video game. Those have never been absolutely terrible. Well, to be fair, this time it’s a video game tie-in related to a media property of debatable artistic merit that is now in the spotlight as of this writing thanks to a recent multi-million dollar movie. I’m referring of course to, “Power Rangers”, a series produced by the infamous Haim Saban that splices action sequences from the Japanese “Super Sentai” series with English-language scenes featuring high school students, bullies, life lessons and…that’s kinda it. I’m no bewildered consumer, here, for I have obsessed over the, “Power Rangers” TV show during my childhood. I was eager to see what new monster they will fight, what the hell the Green Ranger was up to, what life lesson I could recite to my parents so I could pretend I wasn’t wasting my time on nonsense when I should be studying, and…that’s also kinda it. So years later, here’s, “Power Rangers: Legacy Wars”, a mobile game for iOS and Android that has a bit of strategy by way of a, “Rock, Paper, Scissors” combat system combined with real-time, 2D fighting game mechanic where you move left to right but cannot jump. Combine this with a system where you are given awards and bonuses as you fight other players and progress through different level, and you have…the digital equivalent of a hamster feeder with a, “Power Rangers” sticker on it. A hamster feeder that will tempt you with stuff to pay real money for and a very slow trip down a memory lane featuring, “Power Rangers” characters. But there is some merit to this. Kinda.
The first thing one has to understand about, “Power Rangers: Legacy Wars” is that there are limitations in what you can actually do customization-wise, and you can either power through them by playing the game a lot, or by buying a lot of stuff. Par for the course for a new video game release in this day and age: you get a game and you’re trapped into a digital microcosm of dystopian late capitalism sans narration by Adam Curtis. But unlike EA’s infamous mobile remake/reboot of, “Dungeon Keeper”, this is a title that tries to have some meat to its mechanics. While in broad strokes the game has a, “Rock, Paper, Scissors” gamplay style, where regular attacks can be cancelled out by simple blocks, blocks can be decimated by special attacks, and special attacks can be outdone by faster regular attacks and/or simple dodging, there is a surprising amount of variety between characters that really utilize the real-time aspect.
For example, the game has you start out with one of the Power Rangers from the 2017-released movie, Jason with his overly busy suit that looks like someone got murdered in a cherry Jolly Rancher processor, who has heavy hitting attacks along with regular attacks for the majority of his moveset. As you play against another character, like Billy, you notice a few things: Jason is bruiser, but is quite slow in comparison to Billy, who is weaker but faster and has more blocking moves in his moveset. This seems unbalanced, but there is a central charge mechanic that involves waiting until you have enough energy to pull off certain moves before the other player does, so you can’t just perform the same move over and over, otherwise you will get hit due to delayed reaction. You can even actively dodge certain attacks with well-timed movements to the left or right (though as with many smartphone games, you better be careful not to have smudgy/dirty fingers or a bad screen, or you’re screwed). You can also have assist characters during battle, which if timed right can turn the tide of the game but also are beholden to the, “Rock, Paper, Scissors” ruling and even have unique moves/reaction times of their own. Combine this with online multiplayer and constant updates/balances as of this writing, you have a surprisingly simple but deep (for a mobile game) title that is sure to keep your attention.
That is, until you remember that this is a, “Free-to-play” video game release, and in this particular case there are a lot of problems with how it draws you in and keeps you playing. Normally, when you win fights, you are awarded with packs that you can unlock for more in-game credits, some boosts for your characters and in a few occasions a new character. You can either just play a lot of matches and win enough credits and packs (which you can either tap on to wait for a counter to tick by so you can unlock them), or you can use the some of the other rarer credits you get from your fights called Power Crystals to unlock packs instantly. So, time spent playing the game, plus two different types of currency to unlock different stuff with. Sounds straightforward, right? Well…that is all just a gateway for the game to nickel and dime you for mere alleviation of wait times and lack of content. And here is where the game starts to feel suffocating.
Now you’re probably thinking, “Well, just don’t buy the things! You can play as much as you want for free!” Well, you can and you can’t. The game limits you how many awards you can get with arbitrary load times and limited slots. You can keep playing and grinding for more in-game credits, sure, but what are the chances that you are missing out on an unlock pack that actually has stuff you want because all of your other slot have been filled AND blocked off by time limits? The game doesn’t outright force you to pay just to play more, but tradeoffs like what I just mentioned sucks fun out of your offerings. And if you’re thinking, “Well, I’m willing to pay for it, I don’t see the problem”, take a good, long look at the screenshot below listing the pricing for the Power Crystals.
Yeah. Ninety-Nine U.S. Dollars and Ninety-Nine cents for a huge supply of an alternative, digital, not real currency. For a game on a device that you will likely replace within a year or two due to faltering system performance and/or seemingly shinier features of a newer device. This right here is the biggest problem with this title: the game is a barely-concealed digital storefront for itself, nudging you to spend a few dollars, and a few dollars more, for the sake of taking care of some mere inconveniences purposefully made by the game itself. If one has to be technical, the game isn’t outright forcing you to buy this. No one is pointing a gun to your head and saying that you have to spend a quarter of your bi-weekly paycheck on extra stuff for a game that you will likely get tired of the moment you find out that Tommy the Green Ranger has been nerfed in the next update, or that your phone has become so bogged down with updates and files that it can barely run it without overheating and crashing. But with a few nudges you’ll think nothing of it, and before you know it…bam, an extra charge on your phone bill, an overdraft on your credit card, your carefully-sculpted budget crashes and mass hysteria! Cats and dogs, living together!
Nothing comes for free, I get that. The developers, artists and other folks who helped make this surprisingly competent and varied core game need to get paid, too, and I do hope that they are compensated. Having a game out for free gets you (theoretically) a big audience, but if your methods for getting that audience are sleazy at best, what’s the point? The game feels like a creepy, annoying sales person eyeing you as you browse a store, and it’s a shame that the success of a developer has to be beholden to bait-and-switch tactics. At least when you purchase the iOS/Android port of Sonic CD, you get the full game. Here? This is definitely a digital hamster feeder that you throw money at just because it has the veneer of That Thing You Like/Liked A Long Time Ago. It’s cynical AND bordering on cruel.
People who look upon stuff like this and know better than to participate in it in the first place, non-gamer or otherwise, can pat themselves in the back and be smug. The business model of where just a few people contribute to the total revenue of a game may sound like a good idea to a developer, but when people only see the potential revenue, they begin to lose sight of what the are actually suppose to do: provide a great game. I’ve said a long time ago that the gaming industry is like a room full of Ridley Scotts selling multiple versions of their own, “Blade Runner” at different price points. Playing games like, “Power Rangers: The Legacy Wars” reveals that said room is actually a group of Jordan Belfort clones selling soon-to-be-expired coupons towards things you Used To Like.
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