Following on from Meroka’s encouraging article regarding the stigma surrounding Free-to-Play gaming, here’s why you should be giving Spiral Knights a try!
With a massive rise in Free-to-Play games it’s difficult for individuals to stand out, be long-lived and become profitable for the developers. So what makes a good Free-to-Play game? Accessibility, the chance to earn all content in the game without spending a real life penny. Community, a structure that allows players to interact, socialize and work together. Value, because if you are spending money to enhance you game play experience, it’d best be worth it. And new content, lots and lots of new content. Keeping players interested and involved in-game makes it more likely for the developers to generate more money from their customers. and because doing the same thing over and over again just gets boring.
Spiral Knights has been running as a Free-to-Play MMO for over a year now, and as far as it goes I’ve managed to rack up roughly £50 of spending in it over that time. And I can honestly say I feel like I got my money’s worth. Why spend that much on a Free-to-Play game? Allow me to elaborate over the course of the article, make a cuppa’ if you like.
If you’ve not tried your hand at Spiral Knights before, the styling is rather cutesy in an androgynous kinda way. Your custom Knight and a community of others have crash landed on a mysterious construction known as the Clockworks. Stranded, but not the first adventures here, you’re tasked with finding out what happened to Alpha Squad and reach the Core to find the strange power source that could potentially get you and all the other Knights back home.
The aim of the game is to descend down through the Clockworks by way of elevators through twenty-nine levels of increasingly hardened monsters. You fight with various swords, guns and bombs. It’s generally quite a treat.
Your main source of currency are Crowns, you earn Crowns by killing monsters, smashing boxes and by selling minerals and materials. You can then use them to buy recipes and gear from Vendors or try the Auction House and see what other players are selling that might be interesting or useful to you.
Heat is the Spiral Knights equivalent of experience. But instead of levelling up your character, Heat is distributed evenly between all of your current equipment. The more equipment you need to level up, the longer it will take to complete all their levels.
Prestige is a reasonably new feature that ranks you and every other player in the game. The more missions you complete, the higher rank you are. This only really serves to stroke a players ego, but it’s all in good fun.
It’s well-known that a large aspect of every MMO is its community. The nice thing about Spiral Knights is it’s pretty difficult to be a dick, easy to be a beggar, but not so much a dick.. Largely the game isn’t PvP apart from it’s fantastically structured mini-games, so chances of some higher levelled character butchering you while you’re bidding for your favourite accessory is out of the question.
Spiral Knights encourages you to fight alongside other players on your adventures, the enemies might be harder, but mostly you gain more heat and coins by fighting in groups, which is all shared equally. There’s even benefits to reviving your downed team mates by stealing their heat to level up your own equipment.
Where Spiral Knights makes in money is in Energy. Players are given 100 free Mist Energy that fills itself up automatically over 24 hours. Players use can use Energy in several different ways as a secondary currency, mostly by using 10 to travel down each layer of the Clockworks. But it’s also used for unlocking extra sections within levels, reviving yourself if your team mates are unable and it’s also used for crafting, which will advance your equipment up into the next Tier.
On these alone it becomes clear that you’ll eventually need more than 100 Mist Energy to allow you to decend into the harder levels and craft better equipment. This is where Crystal Energy comes in. Wondrous, marvellous Crystal Energy. It can be bought in-game by a handy Trade system where by the players themselves decide how much the energy is worth in Crowns, or you can get your wallet out and buy the energy with your own hard-earned real life cash.
This is a great system because it means you get to decide how much you want to invest into the game play, as well as being massively accessible to anyone who doesn’t want to pay for their Five-Star equipment and get months worth of genuinely great game play.
Until the expansion, Operation Crimson Hammer, it was entirely possible to earn every scrap of content in the game by grafting hard and being smart and restrained with your free Mist Energy. Although it’d take you weeks to be able to afford the crafting recipes and Crystal Energy needed, you won’t have to pay a penny for it and you’ll be able to appreciate a game that actually has a lot of mileage in it. But then there’s always the option to spent a little money, it’s actually pretty reasonable, and give your characters equipment a much needed boost.
And what do you get for your money besides cool gear? Well, by supporting Three Rings and their developers it gives them the opportunity to regularly put updates into the game. Of course it’s in their best interest to keep the gamers happy so they spend more money. And they do it well. In the last year that I’ve been playing this game, it’s come a long way. There’s been all kinds of costumes, accessories, new quests, events, features, story content and improved functionality. Spiral Knights just gets better as it goes along. And it’s thanks to the customers that it continues to be a successful game.
Operation Crimson Hammer was launched on February 29th of this year as an optional DLC. Being a big fan I had to try it. It came with a five new levels in different difficulties as well as exclusive gear at a price of £3.99. I have to say I wasn’t impressed, the new gear looks nice, I liked the new boss fight. But I don’t believe it was worth launching it as a separate add on at cost to the players. Especially when Spiral Knights have launched similar content in the past for free that I felt was inclusive and useful to alot of players. Not only did this restrict players that were unable to purchase the DLC online, it stopped players who already had the DLC from putting the exclusive items in the Auction House for other Knights to buy. Bad form.
I realize that the cost is trivial to most, but I’d use the same wording to describe the new content in the DLC. Not enough new enemies, no innovative or challenging objectives, just more of the same. It’s just not worth it.
Despite this, to say I got a 395 hours worth of enjoyment out of Spiral Knights over the last year, as apposed to maybe the two or three days I’d get from a big console title. Yes, I’m content with thinking I got my money’s worth, while supporting Three Rings.