Tag Archive: arena

I imagine when the folks from Wargaming met with Creative Assembly it went something like this:

Wargaming: “I love strategy and war.”

Creative Assembly: “I love strategy and war, too!”

Wargaming: “Did we just become best friends?!”

And thus the partnership that’s led to Total War: Arena started. (Okay, not really.)

The Total War series isn’t known really for its multiplayer options. It’s single-player has always shined, of course, with players reliving the campaigns of history’s greatest conflicts against the computer. On the multiplayer front, though, all you had were two human players standing at the heads of their respective armies in a one-on-one setting, or more recent iterations maxed out with a four-on-four offering.

Total War: Arena changes this by offering a full, 10-on-10, free-to-play showdown, with each player allowed to select their own legendary general from the annals of history, like Rome’s Julius Caesar or the English barbarian queen Boudica. Players can then bring into battle three different unit squads appropriate to their general, like foot soldiers, cavalry, siege weapons, or even war dogs. Each general also features a bevy of passive buffs and abilities you can activate in order to better assist your army.

Those three units are all that is available to players, though. Your three units and general will need to coordinate with the units other players on your team is bringing into battle in order to hopefully rout your opponents, or capture their base and ensure victory. It can lead to glorious multi-front chaos only available in a large player setting like this, but still relies heavily on the classic tenants of real-time strategy games in terms of how your units move and attack. It even touts the classic Total War morale system, where if you break an opponent unit’s spirit, they may just start a hasty retreat and give you the victory.

With any free-to-play offering, the question always comes up about how a game will monetize itself. There are some limited customization options you can pick up for each of your generals, but Total War: Arena leans more heavily on the highly successful World of Tanks model. This allows players to spend real world money to expedite levels, which in turn unlocks new and more powerful units for each of your respective generals.

Even though you’re in control of a legendary general, you’re really just one piece of a much larger army in each match you play, and in that regard Total War: Arena looks to capitalize on the greatest strategic endeavor there is: working as a team. If players can successfully come together, not only will you have a variety of legendary generals working together for a common goal, but also the strategic possibilities are endless. From blitzkriegs to pincer maneuvers, the 10-on-10 scenario feels like it is bringing true war to Total War, and is shaping up to be an excellent alternative for people looking for competitive multiplayer without the need for twitch reflexes.

Total War: Arena is currently in closed alpha on PC and is moving to closed beta later this year.

Don’t catch this one

We’ve always had to take Pokémon spin-offs with a grain of salt. Sure, there have been some interesting ideas like Pokémon Mystery Dungeon and Pokémon Snap that have been able to pique our curiosity for a little while along the way, and natural evolutions to the series like Pokémon Stadium, but most don’t have the staying power for sequels or simply fail outright. It’s just hard to capture the core of what makes the main series of Pokémon games great and put it into a different format that still appeals to consumers. Yet, Nintendo still keeps on trying to milk its precious cash cow in different ways.

The latest attempt at capitalizing on their beloved Poké-brand is Pokémon Rumble U, the third in the Rumble spin-off franchise and the first Pokémon game of any kind on the Wii U. In the Rumble series, players play as wind-up toys designed to look like Pokémon. You battle your way through a series of arenas, mashing a single button for a signature move that corresponds to the Pokémon. (You get two moves if they happen to be a dual-type.) As you fight your toys against other toys, you can add those you defeat to your collection, trying in essence to signify the capturing of a Pokémon from the main series.

The big difference between this iteration and previous titles in the Rumble franchise is that it takes advantage of the Wii U’s built-in NFC technology. This allows you to buy special figures (17 in all) that can help their corresponding Pokémon in the game, giving the a sense of leveling up for the first time in the series. You don’t need these figures to beat the game, mind you, but Pokémon fans and collectors alike will probably want to try to pick up a couple.

Of course, this has the beginnings of a slippery slope for Nintendo and consumers. First, there are all 649 currently available Pokémon in the game, and only 17 figures, leaving the door open for more figures to be added. The figures are also concealed, so whatever you buy is given to you randomly. It comes across as a lottery system really that takes advantage of Poké-fanatics’ willingness to throw money at anything with a Pokémon label on it.

Moral ambiguity aside, the worst part is that Pokémon Rumble U really isn’t a very good game. It’s by no means broken, and the ability to have four people play at once, trying to collect as many coins in battle as possible like some deranged Mario Party mini-game, makes it something that could offer younger children a distraction for an hour or two. But the strategy, the gameplay, the characters, and, most importantly, the bond you may develop towards your most familiar Pokémon are completely absent from this game.

From the very first battle, you’re encouraged to leave behind the Pokémon you start with for the ones you capture, who are typically stronger than your previous crew. Even then, when you actually get into one of these arenas, most of the time all you’re doing is mashing a single button. The gameplay is beyond mindless and gets tired fast no matter how many Pokémon figurines you want to collect.

When all is said and done, Pokémon Rumble U comes off as nothing but Nintendo trying to build up some hype for the highly anticipated Pokémon X/Y and line their pockets with some cheap action figure sales in the process. The game works as a proof-of-concept for the NFC technology (even if no one else is using it right now), but beyond that, this is the kind of dull downloadable game you hope will get lost in the ether sooner rather than later.

Developer: Ambrella • Publisher: Nintendo • ESRB: E – Everyone • Release Date: 08.29.13
Serving as little more than a proof of concept for the Wii U controller’s NFC technology, Pokémon Rumble U is a boring, pointless game that should just be chalked up as another failed Pokémon spinoff.
The Good A Mario Party–style competition system that could make the game fun for multiple players.
The Bad The lack of any of the core gameplay mechanics that make a Pokémon game great.
The Ugly The parents who will surely be duped into buying the companion NFC figures.
Pokémon Rumble U is a Wii U exclusive.