Brilliant in concept and nearly flawless in execution, Sword & Poker and Sword & Poker 2 were two of the best reasons to own an iPhone. With the release of the free-to-play Sword & Poker Adventures, the whole thing has gone to shit.
The first Sword & Poker game, available still for $3.79 on iPhone, combined good-old five-card Poker with role-playing elements. Players battle fantasy creatures by completing poker hands, earning coins to purchase enhanced weapons and equipment, raising the damage done by different card combinations. It really is a brilliant game, and still worth a purchase.
The $4.99 sequel added new dungeons, creatures and weapons, while not straying far from the winning formula.
I had no idea Konami was releasing a third game in the series — when I saw Sword & Poker Adventures in the app store last week I was surprised and delighted. Having played the game for several days now, I'm just sad. It's a much prettier game than its predecessors, but the free-to-play bullshit just kills it.
First off, we've got my old nemesis, the energy meter.
Ten energy units, refilling at a rate of one per 10 minutes. By the fifth area of the game, each battle costs two energy, so that's five battles before waiting. Energy can be refilled via in-game currency (purchased with real money), by bugging Facebook friends (ugh), or by spending $5 on "Infinite Energy!"
Considering how much enjoyment I got from the previous games in the series, $5 is not a lot to pay to upgrade to premium — but it's not a premium upgrade, as many of the game's early iTunes reviewers point out.
With the energy meter out of the way, players are free to charge headfirst into the realisation that the best equipment in the game can only be purchased with gems bought with real-world money. Powerful spells, earned in previous releases, now function as one-time power-ups, purchased with the same gems. Coins earned in battle only get players so far, and with 10,000 needed in order to pass the Candy Crush-like level gates (a $2.49 in-app purchase gets you through as well), players will need to scrimp and save just to keep on playing.
On the plus side, Sword & Poker Adventures is much prettier than previous games. Unfortunately it's also a lot slower, so even the good looks come at a steep price.
Over the past year there's been a lot of anger over beloved traditional game franchises being transformed into bad free-to-play mobile games. Sword & Poker Adventures is proof that mobile series aren't immune to free-to-play ruination.
Sword & Power Adventures
- Genre: RPG Hybrid
- Developer: Konami
- Price: Free-ish
- Platforms: iOS