Back in August, a little game called Radiant One came out. It was a solid adventure game with great visuals and a story that hit me harder than I was expecting. I wasn’t in love with it, but I enjoyed my time with it a great deal. So much so that I gave it a nice four star rating and recommended it to friends who were looking for something new to play.
In the intervening months between Radiant One’s release and now, a lot has changed. For starters, the game has a new chapter, which is odd mostly because--in my playthrough of Radiant One--I was not aware this game was going to have multiple chapters. The game was short, yes, but nothing about it remotely suggested that the game would include a new or continuing storyline beyond what was in the initial package.
Upon hearing new stuff got added to this great game, I got excited and re-downloaded it. I wanted to see what else Radiant One might have up its sleeves. Would it be a continuation of Daniel’s adventures with lucid dreaming? Would it be more like an anthology? I could see things going in one of quite a few different directions, but if any of them were like the game’s base package, I was ready for it.
As soon as I opened the newly updated app though, my heart sank. Along with an extra chapter, Radiant One has also morphed into highly monetized machine. In other words, it went free-to-play, and in just about all of the worst ways you can think of.
Last summer, paying $2.99 got you everything in Radiant One, which felt like a completely fair price. Now, the game doesn’t cost anything to download, but it goads you into using social media to earn currency and subdivides its stories so that you have to wait eight hours (or pay) between sections of gameplay that are upwards of 10 minutes long (and that’s an incredibly generous estimate).
Worse yet, the game’s second chapter is tuned specifically to try and squeeze money out of you. Environments throughout this chapter are littered with wandering boogeymen that can instantly kill you if they get near you. Your choices to overcome these enemies are limited to two bad options. You can either a) deftly weave between them without getting touched (which seems almost impossible) or b) spend premium currency on items that protect you from these monsters.
The phenomenon of games going free-to-play is nothing new, but Radiant One’s transformation is truly something abhorrent. It was something so good once, but now it’s barely recognizable. Yes, you can still play what was in the base game (and, if you bought the game when it wasn’t free you can cruise through it without the lame monetization blocking you), but none of it feels enjoyable now that it’s buried in such a gross package.
In the era of games we’re currently in, I can’t necessarily blame developers like Fntastic for trying to squeeze as much money out of Radiant One as possible. Games are expensive to make, and hitting big on the App Store is harder than it’s ever been, particularly if you’re charging upfront for your games.
That said, there’s a not-so-fine line between free-to-play games that show respect for their players and ones that don’t. Fntastic ignored that line, and now Radiant One is just yet another mobile game that flagrantly doesn’t give two shits about players, just their wallets. It’s terrible.