Friday, April 11, 2014

Feature Friday #5 - Only One

Every Friday on our blog I’ll feature a game that’s doing something unique, innovative, and truly noteworthy. This isn’t just an app review; it’s an analytical look at a fresh game from the perspective of someone within the game industry. ~~~ Arguably the most crucial factor in determining whether or not a mobile game will become a hit is if it’s enjoyable in short bursts. The ability to create a deep experience that can be enjoyed in bitesized pieces is paramount to a game’s broad appeal and financial gain. Only One is a level-based battle arena brawler that straddles that line between pickup and play and deep RTS experience with moderate success. The game is fun, let’s start with that. The combat is entertaining and appropriately difficult for this genre. The gameplay certainly more in-depth than “casual” games, but takes just a few seconds to understand. You’re in a ring atop a pillar in the sky, the fall from which will kill you and your opponents. If you’re able to best your enemies on solid footing you get to pick up their loot, but knocking them off tumbles their spoils along with their bodies. Nuances like this make the game a little more complicated, and the skill tree is fairly tall, so there’s a good amount of long term appeal too. Where the game struggles isn’t the difficulty per se, but how much you have to grind to progress. I don’t mind dying repeatedly in a game if the gameplay is worth it (which I’ve already established it is), but it’s when there’s a total lack of progress that I get annoyed. When I die over and over, but am gaining valuable money or in-game experience it feels worth it, because eventually these deaths will result in a level up, new item, or some other kind of upgrade. The problem is that Only One is missing the results part of the grinding. There are rewards that you can eventually earn by grinding (or paying), but most are pretty out of reach unless you’re willing to put some serious time in. The game is broken into micro levels - waves of slimes, archers, and even the occasional Flappy Bird or Pedobear - with a boss after every tenth. Defeating each boss results in a checkpoint of sorts, so at least the game cuts you some slack. In several hours I’ve only reached the fifth boss once, and was quickly destroyed by his fiery attacks. Again, I don’t mind dying a bunch before beating the next boss, but not getting any further than the time before gets frustrating after a while. Another design decision I didn’t really agree with was the art style. Plenty of people love pixel art, and I’m all for it when it feels right. There are various levels of pixelation, though, and this is pretty much the bottom of the barrel. As I mentioned last week, this could have been strategic, as the gore in the game might’ve turned off some users had it been realistic, but this wasn’t a game aimed for young fans or mass audiences. Only One is spectacularly indie, and I think higher quality art, even if a bit gory, would’ve been a dramatic improvement. It’s likely that the developer didn’t have the art resources to do anything other than what he did, but I would’ve loved to see some high-quality pixel art or 3D graphics.

Only One's graphics
Higher quality pixel art, seen in Junk Jack
Criticisms aside, Only One is pretty great. It’s got 70 levels (of which I’ve barely beaten half), plus an arcade-style endless mode that will keep you busy for hours. There are a ton of abilities that seem both fun and helpful, but as stated earlier, the latency in gaining power means I’ve only had a chance to try a few. All said and done, this game is playable in small doses, but the lack of frequent progression makes accomplishments scarce and skews the game more towards the core persuasion. ~~~ Only One was developed by Ernest Szoka and is quite impressive from a one-man team. It’s Free on both iOS and Android with pretty minimal ads, but a bit of nagging to support the game via in-app purchases. Buying some Power undoubtedly cuts down the grindiness of the game and supports the developer without destroying the difficulty curve. I’d suggest considering making a purchase if that interests you. 

Josh Dombro Community Manager

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