Developer: SMS Services O.o.o.
Price: Free
Version Reviewed: 1.1.9
Device Reviewed On: iPhone 5

Graphics / Sound Rating: ★★★½☆
Gameplay Rating: ★½☆☆☆
Playtime: Rating: ★★☆☆☆
Replay Value Rating: ★★☆☆☆

Overall Rating: ★★½☆☆

If there’s anything in particular about the current generation of mobile gaming that I dislike, it’s the way that free-to-play has been used to actively devolve games to a point where they’re worse experiences solely because people will spend more money on this sort of thing. Such is the start of Evilibrium, a game whose existence is rather unfortunate.

Evilibrium-7Evilibrium-8Oh, it starts with an interesting premise: it’s an RPG where players navigate boards where they have to flip over tiles to advance, discovering treasure and enemy encounters along the way. The problem is that – and it’s not really ever explicitly pointed out – each tile turned uses up energy. Now, extra energy can be found, but it just feels like it’s there purely to get players to run out of energy; which they will then spend money on. Oh, and it punishes players for going off the beaten path and finding additional rewards.

Then the combat starts and oh, it’s another one of these free-to-play RPGs where players have literally no control over the combat – even to dictate who should be attacked. At this point, Evilibrium has revealed its true purpose for the player: they’re merely there to flip the lever. They’re Desmond keying in the numbers, except a giant magnetic storm causing a plane crash won’t happen if players just up and quit the game.

There’s one moment early on where players are clearly made to die against a suddenly-stronger foe, and it feels set up in such a way purely to get players not just to spend gems, the game’s hard currency, but to get used to the fact that they can and occasionally must spend gems. The whole thing is built for grinding, to either get players to buy more energy or to become conditioned to returning regularly, which will then get them to hopefully spend money.

Evilibrium-2Evilibrium-5This is a Skinner box, except the button that rewards players is coin-operated. And the sad thing is that these games keep making money so they keep getting made and in greater quantity. It’s a system that actively punishes developers for making, well, a game, and not just a task where they have no agency other than to put in their iTunes password.

And the worst part is that Evilibrium is nothing special at all. It’s par for the course for its market. That it actually manages to have a cool, if abused, mechanic for exploring levels that has interactivity in it is rewarding on perhaps the smallest level possible.

I don’t hate free-to-play games. I just get distressed when I see games like this that are so cynically regressive; made purely for the profit and not for the ideal experience. Free-to-play can be a valuable experience, but because of games like Evilibrium – and it’s hardly the worst offender in its category – mobile gaming suffers.


Posted in: Games, iPhone Apps and Games, Reviews

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