Fort Conquer – Lots of Monsters, Lots of Microtransactions
You’ve got to wonder what kind of crazy, mixed-up world we’re living in when the name Fort Conquer isn’t the optimal choice for a game based largely on forts and conquer(ing). It’s not a bad title, mind you. It’s not even an inaccurate one. But it’s just as surely not the *best* one.
“Whoa, buddy,” you may be saying. “There’s no way to measure a name. You can’t say one’s for sure better than another any more than you can call a single Train song the greatest musical composition of all time.”
If that sounds like you right now, let me make a few points. The first is that you have historically bad taste in music. The second is that, even if the quality of a game’s title *is* generally subjective, there’s no combination of words that describes Fort Conquer better than this alternative:
No, it’s not some lame attempt at random humor (Pink monkey cheese!!!). It’s a solid description of the game, its characters, and the kind of stuff you’ll be doing when you play. Compare this to the actual title, which references a military installation that doesn’t appear in the game at best and gives the English language a big ol’ bird at worst, and there’s not really a single good reason to not call it that. Even if there isn’t really any football in it.
But enough about the title. There’s an actual game to play behind it, with turkeybears and hippoboars and all kinds of other crazy stuff. Crazy stuff that, if you want to do much else with your life besides play Fort Conquer, you’ll probably end up shelling out some dough for.
I think it’s safe to say DroidHen is one of the big dogs of Free To Play. Clicking their Play Store catalog opens up no less than five icons millions of Android gamers know like a family portrait: Defender II’s roaring dragon, DH Texas Poker’s upturned cards, and Shoot the Apple’s, well, apple are all mainstays in the Play Store’s top 25. With a dungeon crawler or endless runner you get a good idea of where the monetization comes into play. With a game like this, which includes elements of everything from card battling to RPG upgrading to the above-mentioned pigskin, almost anything can be purchased… and the game’s balance is a lot more aggressively stacked towards buying than accumulating.
In fact, the “level everything” approach to gameplay goes so deep it’s easy to imagine some suits and/or developers sitting around, phones in one hand, pens in the other, noting each and every thing other games on the market try to charge for. There’s a whole lot going on here:
Cards: Fort Conquer’s cards combine a number of ideas that shoudn’t work together into an addictive cornucopia of awesome. If my nonexistent knowledge of the Yu-Gi-Oh! cartoon series is correct, the spiky-haired protagonists summon the monster they want by throwing a card with its picture on the ground. In Fort Conquer, the cards summon real animals instead. Your first three come provided by the game ; the rest come from spending your hard-earned gold in the game’s store. Random generation also makes for slight variation for cards of the same animal and level, which is a nice extra touch.
- Evolving: Perhaps the coolest feature of the game, and certainly the most unique , the evolution menu allows strategic-minded players to combine their cards into killing machines for any situation. Fortunately, us disorganized thinkers can still have some fun, but mostly by creating the kind of bizarre, ugly monstrosities that would only need to know two words if they could talk: Kill meeeeeee. The cards you combine must all come from the same suit, which helps maintain the game’s balance but also robs us of creations even more horrifying than the turkeybear. In a game so focused on the upsell, it’s frankly baffling that DroidHen didn’t realize a creature with, say, a wild boar’s head, unicorn’s body, and turkey’s legs would evolve into a grotesque affront to nature for players and a really ugly printing machine for them.
- Football Battles: A game that’s absolutely nothing like football while being a whole like football at the same time shouldn’t, by the very laws of logic that bind our universe together, be able to exist. By that same token, it makes perfect sense that Fort Conquer — a game whose components might have been constructed by a yard-sale bucket of Lego and generic counterparts that still all fit together somehow — meets the description perfectly. At either end of the large, flat expanse that serves as a battleground are the forts that need conquering. Your creatures, which come from the deck you pick prior to the match, spawn with a touch in one of the five lanes dividing the battlefield and immediately set in a straight line towards the enemy stronghold. Each creature spawned takes a certain amount of wood – yep, all the werehippos and uniboars are apparently made of fallen trees — which regenerates over time and as you kill enemies. Cards also have a cooldown, further complicating things. Any of the units that reach the fort on the other side immediately set to work attacking it. However, the opposite fort’s enemies use the same roads you do. Being mortal enemies, neither you or the bad guy coming head on have any intent of stepping out of the other way. Unlike a standard sidewalk collision, however, you can’t just want until the person who bumps you is out of earshot and mutter an insult. You have to fight and throw fireballs and punch each other and stuff instead.
And the thing is, those points and all the varied gameplay, almost all of which I could find a reason to love out of fun or sheer quirkiness, I still can’t say the gameplay experience as a whole is pleasant. My initial reaction to the issues I faced was to dicuss them as separate entities. It became clear to me they were all very much connected. Besides the graphics, which were at least mediocre, everything else I didn’t like followed a line straight back to the monetization.
I couldn’ t tell a single notable difference between Fort Conquer on my Galaxy S III and Iconia Tab. It’s a fairly simple game as far as visual resources go, so it shouldn’t come as a surprise. The one advantage my tablet offered — making the radar at the top bigger by virtue of the larger screen — was so small as to be negligible.
True to their Top Developer badge, there’s nothing shady going on with the purchase situation. The game was very clear about X press costing money and Y press costing gold. Their two alternative methods include an undesirable tactic (ingame currency catalog touches nearly every aspect of the game that might take you any time to complete), as well as a basic design philosophy — selfishness, applied liberally — that also reflects the game’s contradictory nature. The second point is the one that really made the game hard for me to enjoy. The moment I’d played through enough levels to no longer consider myself a beginner, cards and evolution started to drastically outprice the increased number of bonus coins I got.
The difference between ratio increases in Fort Conquer and other games who use them as a financial backbone? I’ve played many games I thought were way too tight on the purse strings, but never one whose ever-expanding playtime got to a point that I effectively considered it impossible. The closest prior to that in my perception came all the way back when The Burning Crusade (AKA the first World of Warcraft expansion) came out and the level cap increased from 60 to 70.This was in part due to my relative inexperience with the game. Even then, though, with a tangilble 7-0 at the end of my grind, it took a long time.
Well, if we could talk ratios one last time, the effort to reward ratio in Fort Conquer seems about four times larger on the wrong side. No quirky gameplay or bout of card-collecting mania can overcome that simple fact. It’s DroidHen’s game, and they’re welcome to do as the please with it… it’s just a real and sincere bummer that of all the things that could make me stop playing a game, it had to be money that finally took my beloved turkeybear away from me. I wonder if I can get weekend visitation rights or something?