Tag Archives: Avatar Laser Wars 2

REVIEW: Avatar Warfare

Avatar Warfare (80 MSP) is DigitalDNA Games latest FPS to hit the service, and it’s once again adapting Call of Duty’s gameplay and progression system to fit the avatar crowd, to very good effect.

This installment ditches the neon-drenched hallways of a space station (Avatar Laser Wars 2) and tries for a more serene, grounded setting. It’s certainly pretty to look at (check out the reflection effects on the stream that runs through the level), and the game’s ‘Lost Subdivision’ map (if you’ve played Black Ops, think of it as vaguely ‘Nuketown’-ish) gives you plenty of natural cover and houses to hide behind / strike from.

Most games start off as Free-For-All matches, transitioning into a Team Deathmatch once enough players have joined. In fact, it handles and plays practically identical to the aforementioned Avatar Laser Wars 2, which is a good thing (I ranked the game 10th on my leaderboard). That same familiarity can also lead to some stagnant matches, as the differences (meaing ‘lack thereof’) between the two games becomes more apparent, kind of like how gamers take issue with the annual COD installments. Only having access to a single map, too, tends to stale during longer sessions.

Still, most of the impetus for playing first-person shooters comes in ranking up and unlocking new weapons / perks, and Avatar Warfare offers a plethora of tiered rewards. Much like its spiritual predecessor, you earn experience for hitmarkers and ‘tags’ (i.e. kills), which level up your avatar and give you access to the bigger / better versions of the starting guns (assault rifles, SMGs, rifles, shotguns), and perks that enhance your own latent abilities. Tagstreaks (standing in for ’killstreaks’) make their return as well, giving you the chance to one-up your competition with short-lived boosts and effects, like radar and the still-frustrating shield, or an RPG to wreak havoc with. Earning a set number of tags in a row, with higher rewards requiring higher risk / longer killstreaks, remains a just prize for skilled players and an ample challenge for newcomers.

Avatar Warfare - Screen

Water so pretty!

Feelings of familiarity aside, the usual frustrations with online XBLIGs will apply, including laggy connections and players suddenly dropping out. This is particularly troublesome in the Team Deathmatch mode, juggling six players or more, with others constantly joining in / leaving. It’s never to the point of being unplayable (for long, anyway), though you’ll no doubt encounter numerous situations where you’ll die or miss your shots due to the connection. Individual results may vary, as they say.

Overall, Avatar Warfare is another solid FPS on the service courtesy of DigitalDNA, though those expecting a brand new experience will be slightly let down. While the same fun and pick-up-play components that fuel competitive multiplayer games are present in Avatar Warfare, it feels more like an evolution of previous games. Should still scratch that Call of Duty itch for a dollar.

REVIEW: Avatar Arena Action

Battle lines have long been drawn up between two major XBLIG multiplayer shooters, ones that have (so far) stood the test of time and short attention spans to maintain, and even continue to grow, dedicated communities around their version of a popular FPS. There’s others that have done the same, to lesser degrees, but Murder Miners (plays like Halo / Minecraft) and Avatar Laser Wars 2 (Call of Duty-lite) have emerged as lasting favorites for many. Stepping in now to fill the void of Doom / Quake / Unreal Tournament-like, is Avatar Arena Action (80 MSP).

Avatar Arena Action - Screen

It does a solid impression, too, matching the controls, (almost same) speed, and twitch-shooting those games are known for, with similar-textured hallways and open areas bred for fast, hit-and-go conflict. Other familiar staples are here as well; warp points and jump pads, body armor, and the ubiquitous red health crosses (that yes, will boost your health beyond the seemingly-full 100%).

Supporting both challenging AI Avatar bots and online multiplayer up to eight, all of the levels are suitably balanced for small or large-scale skirmishes. With eight different arenas to choose from, there’s a good amount of obstacles and verticality in each of the maps, pushing faster and faster navigation as both a offensive and defensive tactic. He / She who gets the drop on their opponents (and carries the biggest gun) will typically win the fight.

And speaking of weapons, you’ll get a small but lethal assortment to counteract the weak starting pistol / knife combo; a sniper rifle, rocket launcher, and an assault / shotgun hybrid that can fire three different ammo types with devastating effect. If you’re like me, though, you’ll be entirely content to jump around the stage, hitting everyone with the rocket launcher and its generous splash damage. Kills leave behind a green goo (an avatar’s soul?), which refills ammo and equips you with any weapons that were in their possession.

Avatar Arena Action - Screen2

Strangely, Avatar Arena Action doesn’t function like a traditional multiplayer shooter. It keeps score and placements diligently, and offers straight-up Deathmatch for its sole mode, though there’s no countdown timer or way to absolutely ‘win’ a match, or tinker with any options to do so. Games go on forever. To finish, you’ll have to manually exit out, in a ‘Nobody loses, We’re all winners’, ‘participation trophy’ sort of way. Odd. And if you’re interested in the game purely for the ability to play online, be aware that there isn’t much of anything happening there currently; I searched for games two days in a row, only to turn up empty each time.

Avatar Arena Action fills out the trilogy of Triple-A shooter impersonators quite nicely. It’s lacking a lot of the options present in Murder Miners and ALW2, and doesn’t have much of a community (yet), which could hurt its longevity. Still, you’d be hard-pressed to find a better indie substitute for the quickened gameplay in shooters like Quake and Unreal Tournament. As such, it comes recommended.

REVIEW: Avatar Laser Wars 2

Whether you’re a fan or not, I know I’m not alone in continually looking for a legitimate Call of Duty experience on XBLIG. The nature of the service (small or one-man teams) is prohibitive to that type of scope, but there’s been a few contenders that nevertheless press on and accept the challenge. Some have even done a decent job.

I voted absent for the first Avatar Laser Wars, which was released almost two years ago and well before my reviewing tenure, but a quick sampling of the trial indicates I didn’t miss out on much. The third person camera is tossed in favor of fully becoming an FPS for the sequel, which to me feels like the right step. The graphics and player progression also look much improved. With about three hours of gametime under my belt, I’m confident enough to say that Avatar Laser Wars 2 (80) has taken over as the high-water mark for indie first-person shooters.

Just like the original from DigitalDNA Games (yeah, the CastleMiner guys), the game ships with only one map. Alpha Three, in the case of ALW2. This isn’t a slight against the game either, as its large layout (with plenty of offshoots and levels) works comfortably for most match sizes (a 4-8 player average in my games, with 16 simultaneous players possible). You’ll find most of the action takes place in the ‘reactor’, a central column with three levels that’s excellent for ambushes or sniping. Depending on the number of players present, the game switches on the fly from Free-for-All to Team Deathmatch, and back again.

Its controls are modeled on the standard FPS mold; acclimation should be swift. It can play a bit loose to start (like a Doom or Quake), but that passes, and the sensitivity can be adjusted. With the exception of an odd / limited run speed that never worked when I needed it to, I had no complaints with its general feel.

You level up with XP earned via ‘tags’ (PC term for ‘kills’), with partial scores for hits, headshots, and assists. In true FPS fashion, each level you reach rewards you with something from a cavalcade of unlockable perks, weapons, and killstreaks.

These should be instantly familiar to COD players, with mainstay perks like ‘Sleight of Hand’ and ‘Quick Draw’. The killstreaks in ALW2 (which are completely customizable) tend to be more support-minded than offensive. ‘Recon’, ‘Teleport’, and ‘Optic Camo’, for instance, or, taking a page from the recent MOH, streaks beneficial to others in a Team Deathmatch format (ammo refills or armor for all).

It has minor faults. I’d like to see a stats screen, K/D ratio (there’s currently one for awards (challenges) and high scores) for starters, maybe a new map (or remixed version), and the balancing for unlocks favors higher level players. There are some online issues too, such as players popping in and out, stutters and false starts, dropped matches (the game froze a few times while attempting to connect), which is to be expected given the unstable hoops that multiplayer XBLIG’s have to jump through. Nothing that’ll keep you out of the fight for long, as overall, it’s a solid, attractive option for anyone seeking a $1 FPS.

Just as the Call of Dutys, Battlefields and Medal of Honors of the world don’t look to be losing any wind in their respective sails, it’s doubtful Avatar Laser Wars 2 will have a problem finding a lasting audience. And when it handles and plays close to its AAA brethren, I can’t argue or find a reason it shouldn’t.

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Interested in how a game like this comes together, artistically? Read this.