Looking for a game that once-again couples the nostalgic 8-bit feel of Minecraft with the balls-busting sensations of Team Fortress 2? Look no further than Jagex Studios’ Ace of Spades—a game that allows players to strap on a guns and a shovel and go at it on highly mutable maps allowing them to dig and construct as bullets fly and rockets explode all around them.
On the surface, AoS is a fairly vanilla first person shooter with very little that would do to set it apart from anything else on the market–perhaps aside from rocket packs for one class–but add in the odd Minecraft-esque homage and it takes on a totally different shade. It’s bringing itself into a space that has already been colonized by games such as Brick-Force but it does it in a fashion that can actually be quite fun and interesting.
I took a week of playing on and off to get the hang of the game and how people took toit; so let’s see what Ace of Spades has to offer.
Graphics and Sound: The graphics get the job done and they don’t get in your way
We’ve seen this blocky-FPS style in Brick-Force as well; although Ace of Spades is certainly different from that game when it comes to gameplay and interaction with the world. This is exactly what to expect from AoS: blocky, gimmicky “8-bit in 3D environments.” Not only are the landscapes made out of blocks, the characters, the weapons, the sky, and even the death animations involve a spray of blood-colored blocks.
The environments themselves render to extreme distances and you can see horizon-to-horizon with the proper settings. It’s quite interesting to watch. The game lacks textures in the common sense as the blocks themselves are rather dull and single-colored; but the further away the more like actual objects they start to appear. Very Minecraft-esque in this fashion and that’s probably what AoS is going for.
It also means that maps are both simple and complex. There’s quite a few maps in the game ranging from what seem to be auto-generated islands (with two fortresses), a map of London, forests, etc. So far it’s extremely extensive.
AoS really doesn’t stand out on the sound and music front very much; however, it also doesn’t fall down either. In a general game there’s a lot of sounds that the general FPS player will have gotten used to: the patter of submachine gunfire, the bang-bang of pistols, the kavroom of sniper fire. However, add onto this the tink-tink of pickaxes drilling through the earth as people try to collect blocks and attempt to sneak around your position.
Fortunately for everyone, the pickaxe—while a very fast digging implement—is a very loud instrument of cutting through the landscape. As a result, when one team is trying to use one to “sneak up” beneath another they can hear the miners coming through the earth below them and prepare for the inevitable eruption of dirt, gunpowder, and bullets that will issue forth behind their lines.
Gameplay: It’s not quite Minecraft-with-guns but it’s definitely an interesting FPS style
As a take on the first-person-shooter genre, Ace of Spaces integrates not just FPS elements but also the malleability of the environment with Minecraft-like “blocks.” In fact, as seen in the graphics, much of the game is effected through this blocky motif.
I found that I could choose between four different classes: the Commando—giving me a rocket launcher, triple-barred rocket launcher, or a minigun and a pistol (in my case); the Marksman—basically a sniper with a rifle, or a semi-auto rifle and a pistol as well as a landmine; the Rocketeer—feels a lot like an engineer with a submachine gun, a deployable turret, as well as a jetpack or glider; and the Miner—with drill-cannon (for really fast digging) and a shotgun (either single or double-barreled) and dynamite (for obvious reasons…) The fact that there’s a “Miner” class is meaningful in AoS because the game itself has a mutable environment that allows players to tunnel through the landscape itself (or build objects and obstacles.)
For the most part, the classic game mode is essentially team death match. Players are thrown together on a map with their teammates and must wipe out the enemy team. All of this is fairly standard for FPS games, but really sets the gameplay of AoS apart from other games is changing and mutating the terrain.
In a standard FPS game the map itself is an obstacle that cannot be overcome—in AoS the map is an obstacle and an opportunity. Players can destroy parts of the map to gain blocks and those blocks can be used to build structures—these change per class, but they include blockades, barricades, murder-holes, corridors, and similar. Not only does digging give players the ability to build other objects, but it also provides a means to change position or get superior position. “Why go around when you can go through?”
This part of the game makes strategic and team-based thinking a lot more amusing. There have been times when I was playing a Miner and I dug through a mountainside with my teammates following me through the tunnel and we all came up behind enemy lines and caught their snipers by surprise. It was slow, strange work but in the end it gave us a massive advantage—granted, shortly after our arrival we were massacred when the enemy regrouped.
Buy-to-play: Available on Steam for $9.99 and its yours to play on their servers forever
Not quite a free-to-play title and it’s not an MMO, but more of a lobby-based multiplayer FPS game Ace of Spades can be bought for a price tag of $9.99 on Steam.
After that it runs on its own servers and is lobby-based so it’s usable to find games, pick maps, and game modes and just jump in. Most often people are playing team death match style games across large maps and just rocking it in a casual sort of way.
In this way, AoS is essentially a nice game for people to buy their way into playing forever (or until Jagex shuts it down.) No virtual item shop, no costly DLC, just a game that once bought can be played straightaway.
Conclusion: It’s an okay game but it seems to lack the je ne sais quoi that makes FPS fun
Ace of Spades is gimmicky and very indie feeling—this isn’t a bad thing by itself—so as a result it was hard for me to get into the game and play with earnest gusto. With only four classes, it feels a little bit restrictive, especially seeing how classes benefit so hugely from manipulating and digging through the landscape (and only the Miner really takes much advantage of that.) The graphics are not a turn off for me, although they feel really under-par even for the Minecraft-motif.
The community exists right now enough that I have always been able to jump into a quick game and find eight people playing. I am never alone.
What makes AoS different from other FPS is also what brought me to it in the first place: digging and constructing on the fly.
It seems like Jagex could do well to take advantage of expanding these abilities as much as possible. They seem very basic right now and really its enough to keep AoS a casual-FPS-shooter for now. However, I just don’t see myself coming back to this game very often because it’s not very exciting if I don’t know who I’m playing with or against and there’s little else to sell it to an audience.