App Reviewed on: iPad Air 2
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There’s a trend in multiplayer free-to-play mobile games that really has to stop. Since Clash Royale’s release, the App Store has been flooded with games that imitate its progression system, and Mayhem is the latest release that follows in these footsteps. It’s really a shame too, because Mayhem has a lot of cool ideas, but it doesn’t have what it takes to make its free-to-play model worth suffering through.
Mayhem is a 3v3 character-based arena shooter where players control their heroes on a 2D plane using a simple (but effective) set of virtual buttons. In any given multiplayer match, players might need to capture and hold a control point longer than their opponent or simply rack up more kills than the other team.
As a character-based game, players can unlock all sorts of different heroes, each of which has their own strengths and weaknesses. There are characters that are big and durable, short range scouts, snipers, and more to take control of. This variety adds a lot of replayability to Mayhem, and is enhanced even more by the ability to outfit each hero with a custom loadout of powers and structures you can use and build if you collect enough purple orbs over the course of a match.
Mayhem’s base control scheme and shooting are pretty par for the course, but the game feels special because of the customization options you have at your disposal in every match. On top of selecting your character, you can further customize them to either compensate for their weaknesses, push their strengths to the next level, or somewhere in between.
It also helps that the characters and powerups in Mayhem aren’t all just typical stand-ins for shooters. The game has its fair share of snipers and heavies, but it also features a character with a bow who must arc her shots, a structure that spits circles of flames in designated parts of the map, and other, atypical options for you to select. On top of this, it helps that Mayhem’s character design is quite nice. The characters themselves may not say much (or… anything really), but their visual design is a fresh departure from most other shooters out there.
Mayhem falls apart because it tries to pull off the Clash Royale monetization scheme, which breaks the game's balance and forces you to focus on progression instead of skill. By having chests that unlock cards for you to upgrade characters, abilities, and structures, outcomes of matchescan easily be decided more by who has more powerful stuff rather than who plays better, which is super annoying.
This wouldn’t be as much of a problem if Mayhem had a larger player base or matchmaking that was better about pairing people of similar levels together. Since it doesn’t though, Mayhem ends up regularly generating matches with characters of widely varying power levels, which throws of the balance of the game.
The bottom line
Mayhem is a really cool and fun game that’s buried under a poor monetization scheme. Clash Royale got away with this method because it attracted a ton of players and could more easily match players of the same level. When you can’t do that though, you’re left with a multiplayer game that feels broken more often than not.