12 September 2017 - 15:46

Brawl of Ages is putting the ‘free’ back into ‘free-to-play’

At last: A free-to-play game that rewards you for skill, not deep pockets.
Dot Esports

This article is sponsored by BNA Studios, the developers behind Brawl of Ages.

It’s pretty easy to feel cynical about the “free-to-play” shuck ‘n jive put on by the games industry.

Take Hearthstone for example. Yes, technically you can download the client without putting any money up, but you’ll immediately be filed into several garbage starter decks with no real hope of being competitive. That’s how you find yourself going against all of your self-discipline and buying 20 digital card packs at a time. Trust me, there is no greater frustration than opening two of the same ultra-rare Legendary, and knowing that you’re going to need to commit another wad of cash in hopes of something better.

The word “free” has lost its meaning over the past few years, and Brawl of Ages is ready to change that. The overarching design philosophy behind Brawl of Ages is that pay-for-power is an outdated, archaic concept.

All of the “cards” are unlocked from the start, and no, you don’t have to spend ages waiting for your chest timers to tick off in order to get access to new loot. Hallelujah. From the moment you boot up your first match, there’s a chance you can win off of pure guile, timing, and strategy—instead of the priciness of your resources.

The point-to-point gameplay is similar to a number of the other RTS-lite platforms on mobile devices. It’s a one-on-one duel where you defending three buildings while sending your minions down two lanes to take out your adversary’s forts. You do this by drawing from a 10-card deck of units, spells, totems, and buildings—each with a specific cooldown timer and mana cost—that are equipped with synergistic abilities.

So some cards might simply do damage to your opponent’s infrastructure, but others might increase your mana regeneration, or discount the cast of certain cards in your hand. In a sense, you could consider Brawl of Ages a combination between a tower defense slugfest and a strategic deck builder. If you’re familiar with games like this, you might be aware that a lot of players like to turtle to force out some of the most frustratingly slow-paced matches ever, but you’ll be relieved to know that Brawl of Ages forces proactive, offensive gameplay. If you’re passive, you’ll get snowballed down immediately.

How can Brawl of Ages keep up a competitive balance while also maintaining a large cardpool? The game assigns the power level based on the specificity of the card’s ability, rather than overall game-changing utility. The rare legendary cards, for instance, have effects that can be very good in the right deck, but that doesn’t mean they’re any better than your average common card. This eliminates the cold feet you usually get when jumping into a complicated scene. Don't worry—you’ll be well-resourced no matter how long you’ve been playing.

And hey, even if you’re not interested in grinding out hard-fought victories on the ladder, there are plenty of other more casual modes to enjoy Brawl of Ages. Conquest is similar to Hearthstone’s arena mode, in which you draft cards (including cards you don’t personally own) and try to rack up as many wins as possible before losing three times, and Smash Party let’s you invite seven players into a single lobby, where friends can take turns challenging each other.

Brawl of Ages is still in early access, but you can pick up on Steam right now. Developer BNA Studios aims to launch with a $2,000 tournament on Sept. 16, and that will help immediately push the game into the esports space.

So start refining your strategies now! You never know how it might pay off.

Download Brawl of Ages for free here.

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