Thursday, April 1, 2010

NanoStar Siege

It is still Facebook week on Tobold's MMORPG Blog, an opportunity to see what the rest of the world is playing. Today I am going to talk about a very different game, NanoStar Siege from Digital Chocolate.

Now NanoStar Siege presses all the wrong buttons with me: It is still in beta, and has some quite annoying bugs such as cards not working at all, or battles crashing with an error message and you being declared to have lost. After every battle it spams you with a window asking you to spend more money, or to invite more friends. And this is definitively the kind of game in which spending more money significantly increases your chance to win in battles against other players.

Nevertheless NanoStar Siege is incredibly fun and addictive. Unlike all the other Facebook games I tried, NanoStar Siege is a completely active game, with absolutely no artificial downtime or waiting involved. You play when you like, and as much as you like. The devs describe the game as competitive tower defense game, but actually all the action happens in the attack. You attack other player's castles, for which the other players have set up an army and various defenses, and you need to overcome these defenses to win the battle and earn xp to level up. But the beauty of the system is that it is positive sum PvP: Even the loser of a battle is rewarded gold for the enemy units he kills. Thus, even if you log on and find one of your friends has raided your castle a dozen times while you were away, you can click on all those battle lost message icons and collect lots of gold with which to strengthen your defenses for the next time. So while defense is rewarded, I'd rather call the game a tower attack game.

NanoStar Siege has three basic troop types, swordsmen as tanks, slayers as melee dps, and bowmen for ranged dps. You set up a starting army, the bigger, the more expensive to you and begin battle. During battle a regroup meter slowly fills up, which you can use to send fresh troops into battle, choosing in which column they should attack. Or you wait until the regroup meter is full and use it to reshuffle your deck of hero cards, which is very necessary when it runs empty.

Playing heroes is the main activity during battles. You select a "deck" of heroes, with a predefined number of legendary, mighty, and strong heroes, based on your level. There are various types of hero cards: Cards that add troops, cards that transform one of your simple soldiers into some special troops like a healer or master archer, cards that deal damage to enemy troops, buffs, debuffs, and various global effects. Thus there is a lot of fun involved in putting together various strategies: Do you want to kill the enemy troops with direct attacks, or would you rather zerg him with lots of reinforcements? What cards can you use to counter your enemies strategy?

You start the game with a small selection of cards, and the only way to get more of them is to buy random booster packs, like in a trading card game. Because I was having fun, and I do believe in paying game developers that produce fun games, I spent $30 on 215 "DC points", with which I bought 8 boosters of 5 cards, and two boosters of 1 card, for a total of 42 additional heroes. As I can only take 13 heroes into battle each time at my level, that gives me already a rather large number of options to build my deck from. And while that initial investment was certainly a boost to my power, further purchases will have diminishing returns, because I only gain more options in deckbuilding, not more heroes per battle. Interestingly there is another game from the same developers, NanoStar Castles, which uses the same cards, so if you buy boosters in one game, you can use them in both. But basically I consider that I paid $30 for playing NanoStar Siege, which isn't a bad deal in view of how much fun this is to play.

I certainly would recommend checking out NanoStar Siege for free by playing a couple of games with the cards provided. I sure wouldn't recommend going overboard with card purchases, especially in view of the game not being all that stable yet. Whether you can justify a moderate investment in cards depends on your personal finances and how much you end up liking the game.

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