MicroVolts, by NQ Games is a title I’d seen before. It took me a while to realise it, though. Almost two years ago today a trailer for a Korean game appeared and made some waves in Team Fortress 2 communities. It appeared to advertise a class-based shooter and on the face of it was an exact copy of TF2 with the mercenaries we know and love replaced with dolls and toy robots. The trailer very obviously lifted scenes straight from the TF2 launch trailer. The game was H.A.V.E. Online. MicroVolts is H.A.V.E. Online re-branded for a western audience.
If you’re still reading after that, do not be dissuaded because, for all that the trailer sells the game as TF2, it doesn’t really play as TF2. What MicroVolts actually is is a fast-paced third-person shooter with a diverse set of weaponry available to all players because – and this is the important distinction – it’s not actually class-based. Yes, yes, I saw the trailer, and that very much looked like a scout and a soldier and a heavy and a sniper and a demoman to me, too. But the way it actually works is that every player is given access to all seven weapons so you can mix and match to suit the situation.
Matches are incredibly fast-paced. Fights rarely last longer than a couple of seconds and respawn times are less than five seconds. Keen eyes and quick wits will serve you well. If the players moved a little faster I’d be quite content to make the comparison to the arena shooters of old: Unreal and Quake and their ilk. As it is, it still comes close, the thrill of running around with a ridiculous arsenal on your person blasting others to bits is recreated nicely.
The style is essentially that of Toy Story. A lot of toys running around in oversize environments. Usually. For some reason a few of the levels decide to not stick with the toyland theme and are scaled to a normal size. Weapons are all rather toy-like and mêlée weapons include silly things like pencils and hotdogs. There are four playable characters, two of which need to be bought initially; a hip hop action figure, an anime girl doll, a scantily clad demoness doll and a toy robot. These are all extensively customisable through the in-game store.
Which obviously leads us conveniently to the usual question: “How free is it?”
The store, like most f2p games, uses two currencies, in this case Micro Points and Rock Tokens. Micro Points are earned after matches, typically earning 100-200 points depending on the length of the game and on your performance. Rock Tokens are the premium currency with 10,000RT costing £6. A new character costs 20,000MP, weapons cost up to 18,000MP to unlock permanently and costume items are 22,000MP. Lower price points let you use the weapon or item for a shorter time frame. Items bought with Rock Tokens are unfortunately undeniably superior, however costumes cannot be unlocked permanently, with 3000RT giving you the item for 90 days. The advantage any given item provides you is on the whole pretty negligible, with only minor buffs to damage and stats, but with all premium items stacked this would give you a 12% speed boost or 24% extra health. That’s not an insignificant edge. The cost of this full max-power set would put you back about £30 for the weaponry and £10 for the costumes, with the costumes needing to be re-bought again in 90 days, making it a £30 up-front cost and £40 per year subscription, essentially. That is of course assuming you feel the need to buy an edge over your competitors, when a lot of people won’t be buying into this system.
From a personal standpoint, it is a lot of fun, given that there’s not been a good arena shooter since Painkiller, and I could quite comfortably see myself spending a small amount of money on this game. The fact that any costume piece worth buying expires after a time limit rather reduces the appeal somewhat, though, so I’d probably stick to the weapons.
It’s well worth a look, particularly if you’re sick of trudging slowly around brown military environments. And it certainly isn’t the Team Fortress 2 reskin that the launch trailer prophesied. At the end of the day it has failed to escape its Korean stereotype roots, though and the person with the fattest wallet will likely still win.