Happy Wars review

Toylogic’s Happy Wars recent launch on Xbox Live caught many of us by surprise, as one would think the first free-to-play game hitting the platform would receive more fanfare. The arrival of a F2P title on consoles is arguably the beginning of a larger movement within the video game industry to bring social titles onto what have been traditionally closed platforms. After spending a few days with Happy Wars we can confirm that it’s certainly a step in the right direction, but there’s still a long way to go before we reach that destination.

The game is a multiplayer action RPG, much in the same vein as Riot Games’ behemoth League of Legends. Happy Wars’ core gameplay is a combination of Team Deathmatch and tower defense.  Players are automatically assigned into two teams who have to make their way across the game map  in order to capture the enemies’ castle. At the same time, the team has to prevent their opponents from breaking into their own castle via cartoony and relatively bloodless combat. There are multiple ways into a castle, either by demolishing the main gate or building siege ladders in order to scale the side walls.

Along the way players can construct towers where there are foundations already in place, which can then act as respawn points should a player get taken out. If an opposing tower is already erected, players will need to destroy it before constructing their own.

There are three main classes to choose from: warrior, mage and cleric. Warriors are (surprise) the cannon fodder in matches, charging at enemies and trying to take out as many opponents as possible before they in turn are killed. Mages can launch ranged attacks as well as provide buffs that let friendly characters deal even more damage. Clerics, meanwhile, serve as support in several different ways: they can heal friendly characters, build defensive turrets to use at the castle and can construct the ladders and siege engines used to help take enemy bases.

F2P translates to console better than you might expect…

As characters level up during a battle, they unlock new abilities that are automatically assigned to the 360 Controller’s different face buttons. The higher a character levels up, the more abilities they have at their command and can easily switch between them by holding down on the left bumper and pressing the button with the skills they want to switch between.

The F2P elements, for better or for worse, are present in full swing. Battles allow players to randomly discover new gear during combat, and players can also earn the in-game currency of “Happy Stars”  based on their performance during an online battle. These stars allow players to engage in minigames that reward them with random weapons and gear. The game’s hard currency comes in the form of “Happy Tickets” and can be spent on premium gear and extra avatar customization options. The gear one can purchase doesn’t tend to provide unfair advantages, but the items often come with some extra buffs not seen in the gear free players will normally find. As a result, it’s not uncommon to see the highest-scoring players are the ones who’ve shelled out some serious cash for the equipment they’re using.

The game’s single-player campaign has a cute — if shallow — plot for users to enjoy, but the problem is each successive level requires the player to be at a certain level in order to access it. That means users are forced to play in buggy multiplayer matches in order to further their story campaign; there’s no option to spend the game’s currency on unlocking these levels, either, which seems like a missed opportunity.