I have been enjoying Galaxy of Heroes for over a year, logging in nearly every day of that year. Being a gamer that loves tactical/strategy games, GoH held a lot of promise from the very beginning. It seemed to be a game that focused on awesome tactical combat with characters I actually liked (sorry, Final Fantasy). Unfortunately, Galaxy of Heroes is not a strategy game.
There have been a lot of ups and downs with the game. I’ll give it that. And GoH has gotten me to spend more than any mobile game before. I’ve started taking the genre much more seriously. It’s shown me the potential of mobile games. But now I’m intimately aware of its severe failings. Instead of being a strategy game, it is a Skinner box – essentially just a slot machine in a casino. (If you want to learn more on this aspect, watch the Extra Credits series on ethical game development [h][e][r][e].)
Games are about providing players meaningful choice. Experiences should be enjoyable in and of themselves. You should *want* to play the game. In most games you have resources to manage, whether implicit or explicit. Strategy games are about these choices on a macro level, while tactical games are about making choices on a micro level.
Galaxy of Heroes does not deliver this kind of experience. The only gameplay that most people enjoy are raids or Arena (but often not both), and in some uncommon circumstances, Galactic War. This part is obvious, but it points to an important realization. GoH demands a large share of your time and attention in order to play the vanishingly small parts of the game that you want to. It even charges you to skip the parts of the game that *aren’t* fun.
Further, GoH has made significant strides, intentional and unintentional, to diminish choice. Look at how GoH handles raids. Part of the fun is exploring raids and trying to find atypical strategies to win them. Instead, unusual strategies are patched out – quickly. Critically, this shows that the team has bandwidth to fix what they determine to be bugs. But their highest priority is to slow the player base down. In other words, they view GoH as a treadmill. And they’re trying to keep us all on it.
Arena is a dismal failure. We’re back to the one-team solution. In a game where you have hundreds of characters, a single team should not be the only dominant, “correct” solution. But thanks to the power disparities between characters, poor AI, and other factors, we’ve got a metagame where there’s a single correct choice.
Yes, you can make other teams work. But you’re intentionally using a weaker team for your own motivations – that’s not the same thing as providing the players with an interesting choice. I argue that if we were given competent AI, or even live PvP, the metagame would settle on one team. The antithesis of choice.
Yes, there was a time recently that there was good diversity. However, I’d argue that this was because of the limited availability of the best characters – now that they’re commonplace, the meta has settled in. There haven’t been significant balance changes or new meta-defining characters since November (except Darth Nihilus, and to a lesser extent, R2D2).
More importantly, you see that GoH isn’t interested in fixing this problem. It’s clear to anyone that competes in arena that the health of the arena metagame isn’t a concern. The metagame is long stale. There isn’t even an acknowledgement that this is an issue. And I suspect that’s not just a failing of communication (which I could write another full post about). I would guess that GoH is okay with a boring arena metagame.
To be clear, I am *not* criticizing players that enjoy the collection aspect of games. Nor am I hating on players that love the gambling aspects of games. I understand that drive and desire. If all you want is a collectible game to unlock the characters you love, good on you. Keep enjoying the game. But that’s not the only game that Galaxy of Heroes pitches itself as. The game that GoH has failed to deliver.
Admittedly with the new update they’ve announced, GoH could right the ship. It could be going in the right direction. I would love nothing more. But I doubt it. It’s more likely that the new game mode is going to have limited play-time. Have little meaningful choice. Not deliver an experience that you enjoy for the experience itself.
And until that day comes, I’m not interested in playing anymore.
Thanks for the good times.