You play a WarMage, a caster-type who has been set into the world to defend and conquer other WarMages. Your weapons consist of a small army, creatures, and a hotbar filled with scrolls, artifacts, and spells, and you battle it out with other players and NPCs on sometimes large (but always manageable) maps. If you have played Pox Nora, a turn-based title from Sony Online Entertainment, then you will be familiar with WarMage Battlegrounds. But WarMage Battlegrounds does some things that are well ahead of Pox Nora, things that take strategy gaming to newer heights.
Second, the game provides a lot of different ways to play. I can avoid humans altogether and play through some of the many missions available to me, some of them providing a real challenge. Or I can ask in chat or challenge someone to a game and pick the parameters of the map and other details. I can also let the game select a random player who is around my battlerank to fight me in a quick battle, or I can join three other players in a mega-battle! My pals and I can join up against the computer, as well, meaning that this is a perfect game for jumping in with a real-life friend who has never played a strategy game. Let's say you have a significant other who hasn't played games at all before -- Warmage Battlegrounds is a perfect candidate for playing while you're sitting up in bed with two laptops, destroying monsters together! I love the fact that the game provides so many ways to play and keeps those different ways easy to figure out and to participate in.
Third, the game monetizes itself by selling what some might call "power." Heck, I would call it "power": It's got a cash shop filled with scrolls, magic spells, units, and other goodies that can actually make a difference on the battlefield. While many of you might scoff at such an idea, I have long talked about how the selling of virtual goods will not only grow but grow to include real, powerful items. In other words, you should probably get used to it. How does a game that sells power work? It offers powerful items available with in-game currency, as well, so everything has a real-life money and an in-game gold cost. It also keeps prices pretty darn cheap for those virtual items, allowing players to spend very little money to open up many more choices as to how to build an army or to outfit a WarMage. Games can sell "power" and get away with it when skill is still the driving force, skill that can make the difference between winning and losing a match, regardless of how much money was spent on either side.
Personally, I love the cash shop, but I have not spent any of my real money on it yet. I was given a chunk of coins for press coverage but really have not spent it much at all at the time of this writing. I have been using a pretty basic army, and since the gold I earn after fights can be used to buy new stuff, I really haven't touched much of the cash I was given. There are many titles now and many more coming that will utilize a similar monetization method. Basically, free players can earn what paying players purchase. It's a different approach than we have been used to for a while, but I like the fact that the paying player is seen as the default, not the other way around. These devs have to eat!
So check it out if you're in the mood for a good old strategy tabletop game. All you need after that is a six pack of cola (we didn't drink beer at that age!) and you'll be set!
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