G&G Reviews: Deus Ex GO

Reviewer: Michael Mendis

Developer: Square Enix Montréal

Publisher: Square Enix

Platforms: Android (reviewed), iOS

ESRB Rating: T (Teen)

 

Video game publisher Square Enix has an interesting series of mobile games that they have been creating over the last few years, making turn-based puzzle games themed around one of their pre-existing action franchises typically only seen on console or PC.  Last year I played Lara Croft GO, their Tomb Raider themed mobile game, and really enjoyed it, due to its well designed puzzles, engaging atmosphere, and the hidden collectibles that netted you some extra rewards.  When I heard that Deus Ex GO had come out earlier this year, I was excited to give it a shot.  Unfortunately, it seems that not all of Square Enix’s “GO” games are created equal.

From a story perspective, Deus Ex GO doesn’t have much to offer, particularly someone like me who has only a limited understanding of Deus Ex lore; in fact, you are expected to be familiar with the Deus Ex series in order to make sense of the barebones plot that is present in GO.  Playing as Adam Jensen (the main character of the recent Deus Ex games), you are tossed into a mission for Task Force 29, searching for a terrorist named Novak.  Not far into your mission, however, a hacker friend contacts you, and says that there may be more to Novak than meets the eye.  None of these characters receive much else in the way of further explanation or depth.   If you don’t already have an idea of who these characters are, tough luck; you just have to sit through their dialogue when they occasionally interrupt you at various points throughout the game.  When you reach the end of the mission, your two allies have differing opinions on how they want you to finish it, and you have to make a choice; the plot is so meaningless to the rest of the game, though, that the choice at the end felt equally pointless, lacking any sort of weight or impact on the player.

The goal of each level is to move Jensen from point to point along a branching dotted line until he reaches the finish.  Each stage has various obstacles to stop Jensen, from security guards, to robots, to automated turrets; if any of them kill Jensen, you start over from the beginning of the level.  The gameplay is strictly turn-based, meaning that enemies don’t move along the dotted line until you do; this gives the player the opportunity to stop and think about how to solve the puzzle.  Completing a level in the fewest steps possible nets you a gold rating, encouraging the player to plan each move carefully and replay levels they haven’t yet perfected.  Unfortunately, some of the levels (especially early on) are designed in such a way that you are all but forced to complete the level in a set number of steps, which detracts from the game’s replayability.

For the levels that don’t hold your hand in such a direct manner, the puzzle design vacillates between clever and tedious (and occasionally manages to be both at the same time).  On the one hand, there are a good variety of enemies and other hazards to overcome, as well as a handful of powerups you can use to complete the challenge; in some levels you’ll hack turrets to take down enemies, while in others you’ll use camouflage to sneak your way past guards.  On the other hand, you’ll often find yourself pacing back and forth between two points in order to get a robot to move into the right position, which feels like a chore rather than, well, fun.

In light of Square Enix’s previous entry in its mobile puzzle series, Lara Croft GO, Deus Ex GO is not only inconsistent, but disappointing as well.  Lara Croft didn’t have any of these design errors; on top of that, LC features hidden treasures in each level and unlockable outfits, whereas Deus Ex lacks any such extras.  If there’s one extra feature that helps DE GO stand out from its predecessor, it’s the ability to create and share your own levels with the community.  This is a really neat feature that works well with puzzle games, and one that would certainly be welcome in any future GO titles.

As a whole, Deus Ex GO is a shallow experience.  While it earns good marks for the planning that is needed to perfect each level and the ability to create and share levels with the community, it isn’t enough to overcome the dull gameplay and the half-hearted attempt at a story.

 

OVERALL SCORE: D

G&G Reviews: Hearthstone

Reviewer: Jacob Toman

Developer: Blizzard Entertainment

Publisher: Blizzard Entertainment

ESRB Rating: Teen

Platforms: PC (reviewed), OS X, Android, iOS

Hearthstone is like a good book. You can cuddle up with a glass of your favorite beverage, a blanket, and a mobile device like a cell phone, tablet, or PC and enjoy a quiet evening.

With each turn new challenges, twists, and options open up. As the game first begins a world is revealed through the introduction of new characters, abilities, and cards.

What Is Hearthstone?

Hearthstone is a player versus player collectible digital card game. 2 players start with 30 HP, and the first person to reach 0 HP loses. Decks are made up of 30 cards (only 2 duplicate cards allowed) with 9 unique classes offering multiple deck types each. Games typically last between 5-15 minutes. The game itself is free-to-play, and all cards are unlockable through playtime, or through purchasing with digital transactions.

The Goal of Hearthstone is simple: make your opponent's life points drop to 0. Just like a good book, each game of Hearthstone offers a slightly different journey, full of excitement and unexpected surprises before the final turn. The fun of Hearthstone can be found in many places, and thanks to the multiple game modes, there is a bit fun for everyone. Whether you’re the ultra competitive type, or you’d like a game to casually play together with your children, Hearthstone has a range of appeal that is rarely seen in today's highly targeted gaming culture.

The Boundaries of Hearthstone

Cards are broken into 3 major categories in Hearthstone: Creatures, Weapons and Spells. Creatures typically have a value for attack, and health. Creatures remain on the game board until they have received enough damage to reach zero life. Weapons are equipped to your character and have an attack value and a durability value (how many times the character can use the weapon before it is discarded). Spells typically are a single use card that gives an immediate ability. All three of these card types have a resource cost displayed in the top left of the card.

Because decks are so small (30 cards) and games are rather short (Averaging 5-15 minutes), one choice can determine a game of Hearthstone. Short turns, fast games, and high impact decisions all combine to make Hearthstone so appealing to it’s wide audience of over 40 million players. (http://toucharcade.com/2016/02/11/hearthstone-heroes-of-warcraft-has-more-than-40-million-registered-players/)

There are 4 different types of game modes to be selected in Hearthstone (Blizzard is currently looking to expand the options for play and has goals for early-mid 2016 of even more options for play):

“Play”

“Solo Adventures”

“The Arena”

“Tavern Brawl”

Players have a choice to play against friends, or against others online in every game mode except “Solo Adventures”. “Solo Adventures” are customized boss battles that have unique rules, and also offer collectable cards that are only earned through completing the adventure.

In “Play” mode players can compete on a “ranked” ladder using custom built decks of cards to achieve recognition and test their skills against other competitive players, or go into “casual” mode for a less intense match.

The “Arena” is a mode where players are given randomized cards to build a deck with and then compete. Playing in the Arena costs either $1.99 or 150 gold in game.

Each week “Tavern Brawl” offers a dynamic option for players looking for unique rules. Once a week Blizzard releases special rules alterations within the “Tavern Brawl” that give Hearthstone a different taste than typical “Play” mode or “Arena” games.

These four game modes offer great options for players. The strength of this particular game is found in its quick playability and its wide variety of potential game interactions. The rules are simple, but the available depth is large enough for any die hard gamer who is looking for a competitive and compelling strategy game.

A Strategic Choice

Players make meaningful choices throughout every step of the game in Hearthstone. As players create a deck they need to decide what strategy their deck is built around. A game of Hearthstone can be won at almost any point of the game, and each deck has a tendency to focus on a few particular cards in order to achieve victory. These cards create what is known as a deck’s “Win condition”. There are dozens of websites dedicated to teaching and sharing deck building strategies, ideas, and game tactics within the Hearthstone community.

Achievement Unlocked

Hearthstone offers daily quests on a 24-hour clock that incentivizes players to return for in-game rewards. This is one of the attractive and fun mechanics that allows this game to be optionally free-to-play. Yes, you can purchase cards and unlock content through monetary spending; however, you can also earn up to 100 gold (in-game currency) per day. Individual packs are available for purchase for 100 gold (the least amount of money that can be spent on packs $2.99 for 2 packs), and entire solo adventures are available for 2800 gold. This means every week players can earn enough in game money for 7 packs (5 cards in each) and purchase new in game solo adventure content with each release (new solo adventures currently come out about twice a year).

Hearthstone also offers rewards for climbing the ranked ladder by giving cards and other in-game perks (such as gold, and dust used to craft cards that haven’t been collected through packs or adventures) by giving away tiered prizes once a month to players who compete on the ranked ladder. The better you do in ranked gameplay, the better your end of the month reward. When you’ve hit the plateau of 500 wins with a certain character, the game flashes a special “500th win” animation and from then on, your class character will be a shiney golden version rather than the base plain image.

Personal Notes

As of writing this review I’ve got 4827 wins in ranked play, 221 wins in the Arena and have 6 out of 9 classes with 500 wins or above. We have high standards in our game review system (which you can read more about here) but also want to guard against wasting our time and resources. I’ve been playing Hearthstone since it was in closed Beta in August of 2013.

*As far as tutorials go, Hearthstone's is by far the best I've ever played as an educational piece. The tutorial exposes new players to the rules, mechanics, and options made available through unique card interactions.

*Hearthstone is a quick game to learn, but has a high demand on a player's time or money in order to posses the entire collection of cards.

*Quicker games are the trend over the last 3-5 years in casual game development. By making a game that offers short individual match sessions grows the audience of mobile gamers playing.

*With virtually no objectionable content except for cartoonish fantasy violence, this game’s objectionable content compares to JRR Tolkien’s The Hobbit or Brian Jacques RedWall.  

*Hearthstone is a great game to play with friends on the go, at a coffee shop, between classes, or during a break at the office. I play almost every night with my 4-year-old daughter before she goes to bed. She loves to move the cards around, name the characters involved, and we share laughs over the cartoony characters and fantasy themed gameplay.

*Decide before you play whether or not you are going to spend money or not on the game, then stay committed.I’d rather not have any of our readers or supporters of Gospel & Gaming spending $3,000 on Hearthstone (you can read about that incident here [http://www.pcgamer.com/meet-the-guy-who-spent-3200-on-hearthstone-packs-in-one-night/]).

 

The next time you have a few minutes to kill and the itch to play a fun, quick game, I encourage you to try out a game of Hearthstone. In the opinion of this reviewer Hearthstone gets high marks in theme, art, game mechanics, online support, gameplay, and availability. This combination of excellence in multiple facets makes Hearthstone a top tier game.


Overall Score: A+