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Gamers looking for a side-scrolling, player-vs-player MMO don’t have a lot of options out there but that doesn’t mean they aren’t present. If you happen to use Facebook for games, there is the persistent, PvP MMO, The Battle of Survival. It’s a side-scrolling game that features jetpacks, vehicles, upgradeable weapons and special skills.
The game is basically an extremely bare-bones deathmatch simulator that takes place in 2D. The plot is equally as simple: Cyborgs and Humans are battling for supremacy, choose a side and claim victory. Yep, it’s really that simple. However, most gamers aren’t going to head to Facebook to play something like Indigo Prophecy or The Saboteur, anyway. Besides, that’s what the big consoles are for.
Now despite the near-nothingness story and side-scrolling gameplay mechanics, the main issue with The Battle of Survival is that it aims to venture into hardcore gaming territory without enough of the amenities to make it a viable choice amongst certain other free-to-play hardcore MMOs out there. However, I’ll get to that later.
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General Game Concept
Unlike so many other free-to-play games currently available, I must first commend SpellCasters for adding a lot of options to the play schematics for The Battle of Survival. Much like newer action games, this Facebook title actually sports a bevy selection of weapons for both humans and cyborgs; ray blasters, shotguns, pistols, sub-machine guns, sniper rifles and rocket launchers are just some of the many available weapons in the game. There are also special attacks that include ninja stars, ice shards, fireballs and an assortment of other team-based, defensive and offensive magic/special attacks that can be utilized by either humans or cyborgs. The developers obviously put a lot into the conceptual phase of the game's design and it shows with some of the ambitious things that it tries to achieve.
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In the regard of weapons and skills, there is plenty of optional ways to lay waste to other players and there’s no shortage of incentives for doing so. The main issue with the weapon selection is that it’s all kill/score-based. While this operates much in the same way of other MMOs, the game isn’t very affable to newbies, thus expect to spend a large percentage of your time being dead, waiting to be resurrected and pretty much not getting a chance to use any of the cool weapons on the game. An economy system and a more varied leveling system would have worked much better as opposed to players having to solely kill other players in order to advance in the game.
This leads to another issue with the gameplay in Battle for Survival: vehicles. It’s a neat feature for a side-scrolling MMO. The problem, however, is not in the ability to use vehicles but in the simple fact that the vehicles are way too over-powered for newcomers. Anyone who snags a vehicle first is basically guaranteed to score the most kills unless someone manages to blow them out. Veteran players who have leveled-up to Elite status can easily destroy a vehicle but if you’re new to the game, expect to spend a lot of time watching that respawn counter countdown if an opponent manages to get in a vehicle first.
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Game Modes And Play Options
Now, this is not to say that all parts of the gameplay and modes in Battle of Survival are broken. The game has a fairly decent Capture the Flag mode, though the fact that it’s always humans vs cyborgs usually results in one side having more players than the other. As a result, either humans or cyborgs will have a disproportionate amount of score than the opposing side. When the teams are even CTF can be quite enjoyable because it relies more on using the level design and teamwork to an advantage rather than simply going in guns-a-blazing at all times.
A somewhat impressive Battleship mode is also present with its teamwork strategy elements; it mirrors the likes of Anarchy Online’s mothership battles, which sees players assaulting the opposing team’s base and having to destroy the ship’s main core. It requires a lot of teamwork and could be considered one of the more fleshed-out modes of the game.
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I won’t sum up the entire gameplay experience as broken but more-so incomplete. Vehicle usage and weapons sort of feel like they were designed very amateurishly and the stages sorely lack the proper design to mediate the pace of the deathmatch and team deathmatch modes.
Even with its sloppy gameplay pacing, the game’s integrity could have been preserved with better level designs. The fact that most levels consist of a few oddly shaped and lazily placed level obstructions; it usually turns into an open-area free-for-all in just about every stage. Better levels could have easily prevented this major flaw for the game. Maybe in future updates the team will iron out more streamlined levels for better deathmatch gameplay. But as it stands, the level design for anything other than CTF in The Battle of Surival is simply poor.
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The controls in the game are quite fluent; they consist of the legendary keyboard ‘W’,’A’,’S’,’D’ controls for character movement and the mouse for aiming and shooting. ‘Q’ and ‘E’ work as selectors for grenades and special attacks. The ‘F’ key activates items around the stage as well as allows players to operate vehicles. Now I mentioned before that vehicles are over-powered…and they are. However, controlling many of the vehicles in the game feel very generic; the tank moves around slowly but packs a punch and both the helicopter and futuristic war plane glide around as if they’re sprites strung up by wire.
Now I know a lot of people would probably say, “It’s free you shouldn’t expect too much”, however the simplicity of this game was supposed to be its highlight (i.e., Cave Story, Kudos, Runscape, etc.) but it works more-so as its drawback. While the controls aren’t faulty and aiming the mouse is very responsive, the fact that the game plays out like a fast-paced Klick’n’Play title strips away a lot of the pace and usability that it should have. Instead of gracefully running around and aiming at targets to snipe off, fire rockets at or toss grenades toward, the loose controls and arcade-speeds usually result in every player pressing the mouse button as fast as possible and aiming wildly around hoping to hit something. Contra this game is not.
Again, I wouldn’t say that the controls are bad or designed incorrectly, but the speed at which players move and the floaty vehicles sort of force the game into the unpleasant territory of seeming unpolished.
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This is a Facebook game and with that descriptor alone no one expects anything grandiose in the audio or visual department. What some gamers might expect is a solid gameplay experience, though. Battle of Survival has fluent animations, decent designed sprites (for a Facebook game) and the armory and special skills look fair. As mentioned previously in this review, the problem is the lack of polish to the effects that are in the game. It’s kind of neat how the arrows stick to whatever object they hit (including enemies) and it’s cool that grenades are slightly physics-based, the issue with the presentation is that it all seems kind of tossed together. There are obvious outlines around some of the vehicles at times and the explosions seem a bit underwhelming in their visual effect.
Nevertheless, it’s the game’s lack of refinement for the too-fast firing mechanics that creates the kind of frustration that will leave you caring less about how you see the effects or what you hear and more about just trying not to die so often in cheap ways.
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Audio And Aesthetics
While we’re on the subject of “what you hear” this game has very little to listen to. Simple sound effects push the action forward whenever someone shoots any sort of weapon or dies to said weapon. The best part about the sound is probably having the option left open to play your own variety of music in the background while you play in the browser.
When it comes to menus and navigation the game handles them in the same fashion of every other feature in the game: it’s all very simple. The menu consists of picking either a human or cyborg and then choosing your armor, your weapon and your special ability (all of which can be upgraded with more kills). After that there’s just a basic menu that shows various games to join and how many players are in each game (or game type). That’s about as far as it goes when it comes to menu and options aesthetics.
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If you don’t have a computer that can run games like GunZ, S4 League, War Rock, Counter Strike or Combat Arms or maybe you want to play a game at work that doesn’t include installing any of the aforementioned titles, then I suppose Battle of Survival isn’t too bad of an option. This is, of course, assuming that you don’t mind a game that acts like it was designed over the course of a few vacation weekends.
Battle of Survival’s potential is apparent but seemingly untapped. If Spellcasters can iron out a better gameplay pace and offer up better starting options for new players – as well as conveniently make it accessible to level-up and challenge other players (like GunZ) – then perhaps this could easily become one of the best free-to-play action games available on Facebook. In its current condition, however, The Battle of Survival will need to do a lot more than offer up a lot of good ideas in an unrefined fashion to gain any recommendation here.