Free to play has a much different meaning today than it used to. For many the term free to play reminds them of free flash games available on the web, or perhaps the numerous Asian inspired MMOs available. But free to play games have taken an unexpected and much welcomed turn into the genre of First Person Shooters - ones built with quality tools and tech - and ones that have more content than even top tier titles like Modern Warfare 2.
Alliance of Valiant Arms is one such game by Korean free games publisher Ijji. Their website, ijji.com and their service through the Reactor Client have over 11 million registered players through a dozen plus games ranging from first person shooters, fighters, puzzle games and MMOs. AVA itself has over 1.3 million registered users.
The first thing I noticed in my time with the game is the high production values. Music, sound, and graphics were all top notch. “Our graphics, based on Unreal Engine 3 sets us apart from the competition.” Calvin Yang, VP of ijji’s marketing told us. And we agree - the game looks gorgeous with plenty of different locales on display and richly detailed player models. Despite the high level of graphics we were assured the game scales quite well for lower end systems.
While the core focus of AVA has always been on team based versus modes, the game does offer a co-op mode called Prison Break. This mode actually takes place on existing variations of maps all with a theme of a prison riot occurring. In one mode you’ll need to work your way up several stories of a burning prison, stopping along the way to rescue a captured comrade, and then to the roof for a helicopter escape. Another mode has you surviving waves of inmates, opening strategically placed doors, and trying to escape with your life. Both of these modes, on four different maps, can be played with four players in co-op - you can bring a fifth player in the Rescue type if you decide to play on the easy mode, but you won’t earn as much XP or goodies.
Speaking of earning goodies, what sets Alliance of Valiant Arms apart from other free to play first person shooters is how the game handles unlocks. While you can still purchase guns and items with real cash, every gun in the game is also earn able by spending in game credits earned. Wook Kim, Product Manager on AVA said that a problem with other titles are that "people that pay money to get premium items that are over powered. It ruins the balance of the game." Further, another problem that the team saw was that while you can purchase an item for a set period of time in other games - that time was subtracted whether you used the item or you didn’t. AVA solves that problem by allowing you purchase items for actual time used.
All of the goodies you unlock by leveling up, by purchasing with in game credits, or by purchasing with cash can be used in any of the game’s modes - including a new co-op mode that’s launching on September 9th called Death Valley.
Death Valley is the game’s first co-op map that was designed from the ground up for co-op play. Four players (five on easy) will team up in a jungle themed area to take on bad guys, bring down helicopters and for the first time in the game, ride vehicles like a river boat. There’s also going to be several boss fights along the way.
Co-Op is getting a big focus in Alliance of Valiant Arms, with an entire channel dedicated to the game’s co-op modes once the Death Valley map launches. Along with this players will be able to earn experience playing co-op, not just by killing bad guys, but by participating and working as a team.
“The highest level player on a team becomes the team leader,” Kim told us, “ if he chooses to play as the point man class he can use binoculars as a perk and spot out enemies. Doing this will show their position to everyone on the team and earn that player bonus points.”
The end goal of Death Valley is to assassinate the opposing leader - no easy task we’re told. The reward? Along with rare weapons and items you’ll get to actually wear the leader’s face as a mask in any other game mode. We’re told it’s not going to be easy, and co-op is a must in order to complete it. Sounds like the perfect way to show off your co-op achievement.