Large-scale games like Happy Wars carry the risk of players not feeling like their individual actions matter during the match. Here, you are of course rewarded the most if your team wins, and that depends greatly on the skill levels and tactics of its players. But thankfully, winning is not everything. Your real focus should be on your own score, which is determined by kills, assists, and the like. As long as you stay with the group, help build towers and other tactical equipment as necessary, and come out on top during some of the individual skirmishes, you’ll score just fine. The better your score, the more Happy Stars (currency) and items (and higher quality gear) you’ll get at the end of the match, win or lose.
Happy Wars has a single-player game, though as you’d expect it’s more of a side dish to the larger multiplayer component. In fact, not only do gamers have to be online to play the game at all, but new single player stages only unlock when players reach specific rank levels through versus and co-op play. As such, your time in single-player will be spread out and disjointed, for better or worse. These stages do offer unique item rewards, plus a simplistic and lighthearted narrative.
Whether playing in versus or co-op, matches consist of 15-on-15 battles. You’ll earn one or more items at the end of either game type, depending on your performance (kills, assists, towers built, etc.) during the match. Most Achievements can be earned in either mode, though co-op does have a specific Achievement for winning three matches in a row.
In co-op games, your team of 15 will be matched against a team of AI players on a random map. Beat that team, receive your rewards, and you’ll face a tougher team, with the third match being the hardest. The computer players are absolutely relentless, especially the teams with mostly Mages. The chances of facing defeat grow exponentially in the second and third ‘rounds’ (matches), particularly if human players drop out (since they won’t be replaced).
Success also depends on the quality of the team: get matched with a bunch of low-level players (who will have weaker equipment) and you’re unlikely to beat that third round. Sure, you get item rewards even when you lose, as long as you do your part during the game. But a gentler difficulty curve would make co-op more enjoyable, for me anyway. Unless you absolutely loathe competitive gaming, I recommend leveling up a bit in versus before taking on co-op.
Some MMOs let you equip items without changing your appearance - I wish this game had that.
At the moment, one major annoyance nips at both versus and co-op’s heels: matchmaking. Specifically, matchmaking often takes far too long (more than a minute). You can even get dropped during the matchmaking process, sending you back to the menu. Even after a game ends, there’s a lengthy wait on the results screen before the next game starts, during which you can’t even choose to exit the game.
Considering Happy Wars’ almost complete multiplayer focus, these matchmaking issues absolutely should have been ironed out during the open beta. Luckily a notice on the main menu promises that matchmaking improvements are coming soon. The effectiveness of those fixes will directly determine the game’s long-term potential, because playing is much more fun than waiting.
Happy Wars is a fantastic multiplayer game which anyone with a Gold account can play for free. At the moment, over 300,000 players have joined in. That’s quite a lot for an XBLA game, but Microsoft could still be doing more to promote the game to new players. If you’re interested solely in co-op comp stomping, you might grow tired quickly thanks to co-op mode’s stiff challenge. But even versus games involve a lot of cooperation between teammates (and not the kind that requires microphones), so less competitive players could still have a good time. Try the game out for a while, learn the mechanics and how each class works, and you might just get hooked.
You can get Happy Wars here at Xbox.com.
The Co-Op Experience: A team of up to 15 players can comp stomp AI teams in a series of three increasingly difficult matches. Co-op moves include building towers and other structures together, healing and resurrecting team mates, and Team Skills that require multiple participants to perform.
Co-Optimus game reviews focus on the cooperative experience of a game, our final score graphic represents this experience along with an average score for the game overall. For an explanation of our scores please check our Review Score Explanation Guide.