From bad to worse
By D e s t i n y
While I have been dissatisfied with this game from the start, it has grown much worse over time and now I'm strongly considering quitting altogether.
Being a very big FFXV fan, I was extremely excited when I heard about the development of a mobile game. I followed its development the best I could and downloaded it as soon as I heard it had launched. Essentially, I've been a player since the very beginning. I wasn't especially pleased when I saw the style the game was, but it was okay. The nice part about empire games is that they're relatively passive, and I don't mind passing games to supplement the more active ones I play. And I'd actually never played in empire game before this point, so it was novel for me, at least.
But there was an issue that bothered me from the start. Sure, the game is littered with advertisements asking you to make purchases, but that's most games these days. The real issue is that as soon as you open the game, you're greeted with a flashing screen telling you to make an in-game purchase. Sometimes, the x in the corner is even hidden! This ad is troubling for several reasons. For one thing, you have to wait for it to load, which can be detrimental when you're opening the app because you got a notification that you were being raided or scouted. By the time the ad's loaded on my slow, rural wifi, my neighboring fortress has sometimes already attacked me, before I had an opportunity to react by protecting my resources. In a less urgent sense, it's just extremely annoying. The game has a questing system where you essentially wait for the counter to run down to receive some extra resources, and this can be anywhere from 1 minute to 3 hours. Generally, they last 3-20 minutes, though. I often turn off my screen or switch to another application as this happens and re-open the game. But every time I do this, I have to wait for the advertisement to pop up again. A diligent quester will encounter the screen at least a dozen times per day, because quests refresh every five hours and allow five quest per refresh. It's just an inconvenience. People defending the game argue that the game has to make money somewhere, but this is beyond excessive. Other games have occasional ads for in-app purchases, but they generally occupy a small space on the user interface (Love Nikki) or the pop-up is limited to once per day the matter how many times you access the app (Kingdom Hearts Unchained X).
In my opinion, there is no excuse for this grossly excessive, aggressive marketing, but it's become much worse as of late and THIS is the reason I'm writing this review right now. You have to keep notifications on to play this game, because you have to know when another player is raiding your fortress. The developers have recently started using this feature more to send several event reminders every day, which is annoying, but that's still not the main issue. The real problem is that the developers have now abused this notification system and very frequently send advertisement as notifications. And it gets worse: these advertisements are often veiled as gifts. The game will be so magnanimous as to give you a new item---A chest, I knew sold your type, a new building, etc.---but you have to purchase another item in order to use it. This actually leads to another fundamental problem: This game has absolutely no growth or improvement from its state at launch unless you pay for it. The game sends you a dozen notifications about a big new improvement it's made, then you open the app only only to find you have to spend $5 to unlock it. It gets old.
Like others here have complained about, the "Pay to Win" aspect of this game is horrible. I had the good fortune of being placed next to the main hive of a major guild in my realm after I used a random teleport to escape a bully at my previous location, and because of this, I'm accustomed to multiple weekly rates, sometimes coordinated. These players are extremely high-ranked and have the ability to devastate the nonpaying members such as myself. To move, I have to buy another teleport with actual money (and even if I was able to, there are so many hives like this around the realm that nowhere is relatively safe anyway). Even with my defenses maxed out with high-ranking traps and a decently formidable army, I still get robbed of my resources before I can build up a supply adequate to build or research something new at level 14. The P2W players take the fun out of it for those of us who don't or simply can't invest anything more than time or effort into the game.
I cannot speak to the social aspect of this game, as I have not engaged in it. Realm chat is unpleasant, only ever being about sex, drugs, and (not even rock 'n' roll!) insulting people, and the only direct communication I've ever had with other players is unsolicited threats to my fortress from the P2P players. Otherwise, my inbox is filled with unnecessary notifications about my gold investment, supplemented by popup iPhone notifications with the most atrocious sound I've ever heard come out of my phone.
Lastly, another complaint I've seen a lot is how scant its ties to FFVX are, and I agree. Most players were attracted to this game because of its link to FFXV, yet you can barely tell it's part of the FF universe at all. Yes, the main hero is Noctis and there are some FFXV monsters to fight, and yes, there are a few chocobos mulling about your fortress. That's about it. Occasionally, when there is a new feature (which you'll have to pay for), other characters, like Gladio or Luna, will popup to explain it; and sometimes, a character like Cor may give you a chest or other gift---but you'll have to pay to open it anyway. The game ads new heroes, like Prompto---but he'll be grayed out and unavailable to you until you purchase an item to unlock him. Essentially, you can pay to increase the link of this game to FFXV, but I'd argue it's weak. This game is an incredibly lazy reskinning of another.