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It seems today that all you see are purchases in software, for in-app currency – but where are those “pay once, play forever” values on which we used to rely?
It was only a matter of time before FOX extended its free to play empire to include the Family Guy brand. Seth MacFarlane’s adult-themed animated hit set in the fictional town of Quahog follows the immensely popular The Simpsons: Tapped Out in all but jokes and visual style, but with in-app purchases that cost more than $400 in real money – has it gone a bit far?
I’ve spent a good two weeks finding out.
The game opens with an animated short depicting Peter Griffin and his feathered nemesis fighting in typical, drawn-out Family Guy fashion until the entire town of Quahog is destroyed. Much like The Simpsons: Tapped Out, it’s up to you to rebuild Quahog – and FOX hopes you’ll spend a few dollars doing it!
Like so many free-to-play titles, The Quest for Stuff tries to reel you in instantly with its charm. Provided you’re familiar with (nay, fond of) Seth MacFarlane’s risqué humour, there’s little to complain about in the way of content here. For Family Guy fans, fan service doesn’t get any better than this.
Each character has relevant sound bites from the show, as well as additional audio and written dialogue that appears upon completing the game’s many quests. The map is fairly large and divided into the usual unlockable chunks, which cost money and time to clear. There are six defined areas to the map (at least at this early stage), each of which contains unique characters and buildings that become available as you level up.
The core gameplay involves tapping buildings which generate XP and coins (the standard, non-premium in-app currency), assigning time-based tasks to characters and building more Quahog. The visual splendor developers TinyCo packed in is not to be understated – character animations for the various quests look great, buildings animate and change based on activities taking place inside and the visual style and colour palette used is arguably better than what EA achieved with Tapped Out.
The main difference compared to The Simpsons title is that characters level-up individually, in addition to your own levelling (which allows you access to new parts of the town). Aside from the franchise, these are two very similar games, from two different developers.
Faster Than The Speed Of Love
You pretty much get a full hour of unhindered gameplay before the free-to-play hammer comes crashing down and gives you two options: pay up or wait around. This is to be expected, these are after all time-based tasks which you can pay premium currency (clams) in order to speed up.
Characters are unlocked first by buying a new building, waiting for that building to be built and then finding a set number of items. These items are again earned by assigning time-based tasks, or by collecting them from buildings you have already placed. It can feel like a bit of a grind, particularly as many activities and buildings only have a “chance” at producing the item you might need. For rare items, this can be excruciating.
One such area of the game that requires items is Al Harrigton’s Outfits, a chance to dress up characters you have already unlocked with classic outfits from episodes gone by (think tweaked-out Peter, Speedo Quagmire and so on). While this is a nice touch, some of the “extra rare” items are incredibly difficult to come across without spending real money. Sometimes you can be very unlucky and not earn any of these chance items, which means either waiting another 8 or more hours (or using premium currency).
You can always pay clams to speed up processes, and even pay outright for characters or outfits. The more progress you make in a quest, the lower the premium unlocking fee becomes, but roughly $10 worth of premium currency to unlock Lois Griffin alone is rather steep. Unfortunately, the madness doesn’t stop there.
Hey Big Spender
A twelve hour task can be sped up for around 24 clams, which is about a dollar. After finding a few simple items, I was offered to unlock Lois Griffin for 225 clams, for which you’d need to buy $10 worth of clams (you’ll have a few left over). The Stewie Dictator statue, which costs 150,000 coins, is roughly the equivalent to $430 in real money.
One of the game’s earliest quests is an optional purchase of $4.99 worth of clams, to receive $4.99 of coins free of charge – and despite being optional, it hangs around your task list like a bad smell. Vast amounts of content are (at least at first – this does change) only available using clams. After two weeks of playing and not spending a thing, I have 18 clams.
After a fair amount of time (weeks or months) your town will generate a considerable amount of income per day, and that $430 statue is arguably the game’s “final” decoration (at least at this point). The game is paced for short sharp bursts of gameplay, checking in a few times a day to make sure your characters are working overtime. Sure, it’s tempting to do more – but if you’re happy with the pace set by Springfield’s free-to-play outing, you’ll have little trouble adjusting here.
As with most titles in the genre, connecting to Facebook earns you clams and offers you the opportunity to visit other Quahogs in your friend list, in addition to “Ollieland” which you can visit once a day. These trips into the multiverse earn coins and premium currency, but Facebook integration’s is most useful for playing across different devices. You can also connect use Google+ if you’re Zuckerberg averse.
Should You Bother?
If you love Family Guy, you’re probably going to love The Quest for Stuff. If you don’t, then why are you reading this review? Family Guy: The Quest for Stuff is a feast for the eyes, and a treat for fans – at a cost. Money. Actual money for virtual items that sit on a screen and don’t really do much.
Make no mistake, this is a fun game – doubly so for big fans of the show – but you’re either going to have to be patient or filthy stinking rich in order to get on with it.
Have you played The Quest for Stuff? What about Tapped Out? Let us know what you think!