Based on developers being nickel and dimed for critical game patches and content updates on Xbox Live Arcade, it seems nearly impossible that Microsoft would open up a free-to-play massive online battle arena (MOBA) style game like Happy Wars. However, Happy Wars exists, is a free-to-play 15-on-15 cartoony multiplayer action game, and is stunningly well put together experience.
League of Cartoon Mages
Unlike MOBA grandfathers League of Legends or Defense of the Ancients, Happy Wars doesn’t take itself seriously in the least. You play what looks like a Little Big Planet style ragdoll dressed up in the armor of a warrior, mage or cleric spawning out of a castle on the other edge of the map. Your goal is to push across the battlefield erecting spawn towers upon selected points on the map to help push your front line trace forward to the enemy castle. Upon your team reaching the enemy castle, your job then becomes to breach the castle defenses and take out the giant statue on the inside of the castle courtyard. Think of gameplay seen in Fat Princess on the PS3 without having to lug a giant cake devouring princess back to your home base.
Each of the three classes in Happy Wars has its own strengths and weaknesses; the cleric can heal his allies and set up support stations, the mage is a ranged attacker that can buff teammates, while the warrior is an up front and center attacker that can take a beating. Each class has its own skills that it levels up over time, with a different skill being mapped to a each of the face buttons on your controller. However, instead of an “Ultimate” that charges up over time that you can use like in League of Legends, you instead can initiate a power move with the Y button. When you initiate, it shows a series of rings that allied players have to stand on in order to activate the power; the more players that join up, the more powerful the skill if it is actually pulled off. These powered up attacks are a great siege breaker at the castle area as your support classes can set up outside of the range of a castle’s ballistae and really turn the tide creating phalanxes for your assaulting troops or meteor showers to crush the enemy defenders.
Castle siege is where Happy Wars really shines. Each castle has a variety of defensive points that clerics can erect mounted crossbows to rain down death on enemy assaulters, but enemy clerics can also set up a battering ram to break down the front gate or climb over the parapets and assault the defending archers. It is somewhat important to leave up
Matches are set for 15 minute blocks of time in Happy Wars, so any damage done to your enemy’s front gate or main tower inside the castle does not regenerate back, making suicide runs to damage enemy structures worth your while if you can get a couple of cracks in on the target.
Fat Princess Lewts
Happy Wars has an absurdly detailed loot process which will easily keep you out from actually having to spend money in the in-game store…but when I started playing, I ran to my email to see if the developer had left me a code for any of the in game currency to “try out the store”.
Every match, you earn “stars” on top of experience you gain for healing, killing enemies, destroying and building structures, etc. Obviously, if you win, you get more stars. However, the game also rewards players for being active; the more you’re contributing to your team, you earn a bigger and better loot box at the end of your match, meaning you get a better chance of getting a rare piece of gear when you’re done. When you finish your match, you can go into the in-game store for a variety of ways to spend your stars. The main way stars can be used is for a chance to win an item you need; a wheel is displayed and you can bet up to three times at 300 star increments (you get about 1000 a match) to increase your chance of getting a specific item you need (weapon, armor, shield, accessory, helmet). There is no “zonk” or “lose” tiles on the wheel, but even if you fill up the wheel with weapon tiles, there is still a chance at your getting a trinket or helmet. Most equipment is also class specific, so it’s a bummer to get a piece of armor for your mage when you were really looking for a cleric chest piece, but it’s still useful if you jump between classes. On top of the stars being used for spinning the wheel for more loot, you can also go into the smithy in the game and spend stars to enchant and increase power for equipment that you already have, breaking down other lesser items to get the necessary materials to build the item buffs.
Oh, but wait, we’re not done yet. Toylogic has of course created an entire section of the shop devoted to players who want to speed up the process with Microsoft points. You can purchase Golden Tickets, which you can then go in and purchase different specialized customized character class skins and most importantly, you can use them to go in and purchase “foil packs” like a Magic The Gathering booster pack. Desperately want some new accessories? Simply use some tickets to buy accessory boosters, which will give you two common accessories and one rare accessory. I’m not exactly sure if there’s a way to earn tickets in the game, but I didn’t see any drop as loot or get any at the end of the game. Even getting one ticket a match would be scratching the surface as you need at least eight to purchase a booster pack. That being said, tickets are not necessary as stars are just as viable a currency, and there are “Happy Hour” deals where if you are in a match in certain intervals every few hours, you earn double stars for the matches.
While your characters level up and get stronger with loot, the concern is whether or not Happy Wars is a game that you can “pay-to-win”. I’ll save you all a lot of grief and let you take a look at the following two pictures of my level 2 and level 4 cleric, earning second place and an MVP rating in a match with just barely out of the basic starter gear not having purchased a lick of gear from the paid store. This should tell you that while you will definitely get stronger with continued playing, the purchasing of gear does not unbalance the game dramatically.
I think the thing that surprises me the most about Happy Wars is that the game is the furthest thing from a cash grab on Toylogic’s part. Happy Wars has a level of polish to it that is surprising for a free-to-play game that could have very easily cut corners. The game not only sports a variety of fully stocked multiplayer modes, but has a full single player story driven campaign (as silly as the story is), a tutorial that guides you through the game’s mechanics quite nicely, co-operative play with friends on your friends list, and a “training” mode that allows you and your friends to go in and bash computer run enemies at differing levels of difficulty. You start with 6-7 maps to play on unlocked with another 4-5 that you can unlock as you level up, giving you plenty of size and shaped maps to play on (beat THAT League of Legends and your two maps). A nice little touch at the end of a match when you beat your opponents, if you win, any opponents you knock out after the enemy final tower falls gets tied to a stake in the enemy courtyard at which point you can throw rocks at them as a final insult to beating them. It’s little things like this that really show that Toylogic really put a lot of heart and soul into hand crafting Happy Wars.
As someone who has both MOBA League of Legends and Super Monday Night Combat icons on his computer desktop, I’m hoping that the game makes the transition to Steam/PC, primarily because a game that thrives on microtransactions like Happy Wars will do well with regular content and seasonal updates. Come on, you can’t tell me at Christmas they wouldn’t be selling a skin for your weapon that makes it look like a mini-Christmas tree you can beat your opponents with?
For what Happy Wars is on the Xbox, I’m stunned stupid at how well the final product is put together. I personally was ready to pass by and not even give the game a look, and now I’m quite happy I tried it out. As a matter of fact, as I write this, I’m having to sit and think long and hard about jumping back into Happy Wars as opposed to XCOM or Borderlands 2 right now; I spent most of my time playing as a cleric yesterday and would like to try out a mage with the new wand that I won from the prize wheel before I turned off my Xbox last night. A lot of people are looking between Microsoft and Sony’s annual $50 online membership plans, and Sony has been recently trouncing the hell out of Xbox Live. Bravo to Microsoft for taking a chance on giving their Gold members a reason to actually have their online service like Happy Wars, and bravo to Toylogic for Happy Wars!
Interested in finding out more about Toylogic’s Happy Wars? Check out Happy Wars over at Toylogic’s website!
Check out where we first reported about Happy Wars being free-to-play!