But is it any good? Hardcore fans of the Avengers, the X-Men, the Fantastic Four, and other Marvel heroes may be understandably concerned about the price tag, especially after the free-to-play cash grabs we saw in Plants vs. Zombies 2 and Angry Birds Go! last year.
Will Avengers Alliance take the crown of best mobile superhero game? Let’s take a look.
Saving The World (Again)
From a gameplay mechanics point of view, Avengers Alliance is pretty simple. At the core, what you’re trying to do is use your superhero team to defeat villains and save the world. Pretty standard, right?
The game is split into a number of chapters, each consisting of six missions. At the time of writing, 7 chapters are available on Android and 9 on iOS, though Playdom is releasing new ones fairly regularly. To make it through a mission, you have to win a number of battles with your superhero team, and then defeat the final boss of the mission.
You play as an unnamed agent of S.H.I.E.L.D., and you begin building your team of superheroes early in the game. You can choose from your favourites, including the Avengers’ Iron Man, Spider-Man, the Hulk, Captain America, and Thor; the X-Men’s Wolverine, Cyclops, Storm, and Nightcrawler; and the Fantastic Four’s Mr. Fantastic, Invisible Woman, and Human Torch. Currently, 38 heroes are available on Android and 43 on iOS and you can look forward to a lot more; the Facebook and versions of the game both have 83 heroes.
Once you’ve assembled your team, you can start working your way through the missions, collecting silver, gold, S.H.I.E.L.D. points, and command points to buy new weapons and heroes and upgrade the heroes that you already have to get bigger, badder attacks.
The combat system in Avengers Alliance is actually very simple—it’s usually 3-on-3, and each character from both sides gets to take an action in turn. On your character’s turn, you can choose from one of four different actions (unlocked as you level that character up) or use an item from your inventory. You can also call for help once per battle, which brings in a fourth character (usually another S.H.I.E.L.D. operative) to launch an attack.
A lot of the fun in the game comes from unlocking new attacks and unleashing them in the combat sequences — it’s pretty fun to watch Storm call down a tornado on your enemies, or to see Sif throw her sword through an adversary or two.
To engage in a battle, you’ll have to use 10 energy, one of the in-game currencies. You can store up to 60 energy, and it replenishes over time. You can also use items to increase your energy, allowing you to battle more before you have to wait to let your energy recharge again.
True To Its Social Roots
Aside from completing missions and defeating bosses, you can also send your heroes on remote missions (to accrue experience points and cash), engage in occasional special operations (to earn special items and heroes), and complete special tasks for added experience points. Sending your heroes on missions generates a lot of useful income, so opening up the app a few times throughout the day and sending them off on the missions can help a lot when it comes to paying for upgrades.
Of course, what drives the desire to progress through the game is collecting things — more heroes, more attacks, more equipment, more rewards… there are plenty of things to unlock, level up, and buy. In this way, Avengers Alliance can be very addictive!
Avengers Alliance was originally released on Facebook and Playdom.com as a social game, and it’s retained a lot of the social side of the first release in its new mobile incarnations. One of the best ways to accrue resources is by adding friends in the game. But don’t worry — even if you don’t know anyone else who plays the game, the app will make some friend recommendations for you.
Because it’s in everyone’s best interest to have as many allies as possible, all you have to do is send off a bunch of invites each day and you’ll eventually find yourself with a lot of allies, which means you’ll be getting a lot of silver, energy, and S.H.I.E.L.D. points.
You can also send free gifts to your allies—you don’t lose any of your resources, but they get whatever you decide to send them. This is a win-win situation for everyone because you’ll often get gifts in return, helping you move through the game. Because some of the resources in the game (especially S.H.I.E.L.D. points) are difficult to get outside of gifts, it’s a good idea to try to recruit as many allies as possible as soon as you can.
In addition to sending and receiving gifts, you can also take part in player-versus-player (PVP) tournaments, in which you battle other players for a chance at winning exclusive rewards like special equipment and characters.
Free At What Cost?
First of all, Avengers Alliance is free. And that’s awesome. However, Playdom tries to make you give them money in a number of ways, all of which involve gold. You do accumulate gold as you play the game, but often not quickly enough to really accomplish the things you want. You’ll be using this:
- To engage in a battle, you need 10 energy. You can store up to 60 energy at a time, which means you can usually only engage in up to 6 battles per gameplay session. How do you get more energy? Either by allowing time to pass (you accrue 10 energy per hour), levelling up (which completely refills your energy reserves), or by using gold.
- To recruit new heroes, you use command points, which you do manage to get throughout the game. However, the bigger, more popular heroes (Captain America, the Hulk, Thor, Spider-Man) cost a lot more, which means you’ll either have to wait a long time or just buy some gold to turn into command points.
- To upgrade your heroes, you need both silver and S.H.I.E.L.D. points. Silver is pretty easy to come by, especially if you take my advice and send your heroes on remote ops throughout the day and overnight, but S.H.I.E.L.D. points can be tough.
- When buying equipment for your character, you can often pay with silver and S.H.I.E.L.D. points, but some items can only be paid for in gold.
You can buy varied amounts of gold, from 4 gold for $1 all the way up to 500 gold for $100.
So far, I haven’t actually purchased any gold outright. I’ve been able to recruit a number of heroes and level them up, and I’ve also been able to get through all of the available missions, including about half of a special operations set. However, I have used TapJoy to get some “free” gold — you have to complete some sort of offer, and they’ll give you gold. There’s a big list of apps that you can download for 1 gold each, but there are bigger offers, too.
For example, I ordered business cards through VistaPrint and got 45 gold with my order. So if you feel like buying gold, I recommend going this route, as you’ll get something you might need anyway out of it, too.
Overall, I have very few negative things to say about this game. It’s fun and rewarding, and just challenging enough to stay interesting. It’s a great way to indulge your geeky side and your inner comic book fan. The mobile versions of the game are also starting to roll out some of the more advanced features of the online-based game, which adds a level of complexity that’s much more rewarding.
The big count against this game is that it often feels like Playdom is constantly trying to get you to give them real money, which they probably are. But if you can be disciplined enough to either not spend any or to only spend it when you’ll really benefit a lot from it, this isn’t a big deal. If you’re counting down the days to Avengers 2, this is a great way to spend your time!