Review: King of Thieves

From what I’ve read, King of Thieves is getting a lot of mixed reviews.
I’m going to try to go over the positives and negatives as objectively as I can and I can’t think of a better way to do that than in point from.

Positives:

  • Addictive game play
  • Fantastic art:
    I love it! It’s wacky, contemporary and executed perfectly. Like they did with Cut the Rope, Zepto Lab has done a great job ensuring this game is well polished, creating a visual treat for artists like me.
  • Fluid animation:
    There’s a lot of juice in this game. Everything moves and responds just right.
  • Easy to navigate menus:
    A simple point but an important one. Too often games are a mess of buttons and careless layouts which create a confusing and often frustrating experience for the player.
  • Fun social play features:
    Regular league contests, leader boards as well as avenge and revenge features offer many ways to experience the social aspects of the game.
  • A strong core platformer game:
    Well thought out layouts and trap mechanics that can be combined much like components in The Incredible Machine (a personal favourite from my childhood).
  • Build and upgrade your own personal dungeon:
    Who doesn’t like a little tower-defense style game play? There’s a variety of trap mechanics already in the early part of the game so I’m looking forward to seeing what other traps are unlocked as I progress.
  • Interesting use of in-game currencies and resources:
    Keys – used to unlock dungeons
    Orbs – the only virtual currency able to be purchased with real money. Used to speed up upgrades, purchase keys and ingredients.
    Gems – The combined value is used to calculate score. Score defines position on leader boards.
    Gold – Used for all upgrades, to create a guild and to skip dungeons.
    Ingredients – used to upgrade your character’s costume and powers.

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Negatives:

  • Addictive game play:
    (some people may rightly have issues with this so it deserves to be in both columns)
  • Limited social play features:
    This is probably my only real gripe with the game personally. I want to be able to challenge and be challenged by friends and guild members to beat their dungeon. Currently are almost no ways to interact with my friends other than trying to get gems back for them. This gives you gold but there doesn’t seem to be any other benefit.
  • Frustrating server time outs:
    After 20 or so seconds of inactivity, you are automatically logged out. This wouldn’t be a massive issue if it weren’t for the fact that you’ll likely be raided at least once by the time you log back in.
  • A heavily punishing in-game currency system:
    The cost always outweighs the benefits in most cases. You’ll often (and I do mean often) find yourself just 1 key short of unlocking a dungeon before needing to watch another ad (on top of the 2 you just finished watching).
  • Heavy Focus on the money:
    Seems to be focused strongly on the monetization model rather than the core dungeon building/crawling game play.
  • Dungeon Builder issues:
    This system forces you to successfully beat your own dungeon two times in a row in order to save your layout. I appreciate why they felt this was necessary, but two times in a row seems a bit OTT.
  • No option to remove ads or buy a premium version of the game:
    This shouldn’t be expected but it would have been a welcome addition for those willing to pay more money to remove ads and gain a few in-game benefits.
  • Frustrating shield and revenge mechanics:
    So someone raids your dungeon while you’re offline and steals a gem. Your shield is activated but your gem is worth a lot and you want it back. You sacrifice your remaining shield by hitting the ‘Revenge’ button only to discover that player is still online or has their own shield and you can’t attack. What a waste!

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I should mention that Zepto Lab released an update today which seems to have adjusted some things like improved gold generation, longer shield timers and some cheaper dungeon upgrades for things like the Lock. These are welcome changes and hopefully just the beginning as there are many other features I’d like to see added or adjusted to get this game to reach its full potential.

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I refuse to get drawn into the debate about whether or not King of Thieves is even a game, or if freemium is the future of gaming. Personally, I don’t really have an issue with the model. No one is forcing me to spend money and if I don’t like it I can choose not to buy it or play it. Boogie put it well in one of his videos when he said ‘vote with your dollar’.
Wildebits, my game studio, is just about to release our own freemium game Bits and Bites and I’m pretty sure people will get a kick out of the game play and toilet humour. We can’t create a demo on iOS but the freemium model allows players to try our game at no risk to them. As long as freemium is done the right way I don’t see a problem with it.

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