Hellfire: A Droid Review
First things first: I like Hellfire. Quite a lot, really, for something so incredibly simple and repetitive. Hellfire is a free-to-play game published by ngmoco:) and released through Mobage's portal, and in the game, the Gates of Hell have been opened and monsters are pouring forth. Luckily, you can have your own team of monsters you can use to fight them off, and killing monsters allows you to collect them and use them for your own purposes. As far as story goes, that is pretty much all you get with the game. Sure, each area you visit has a snippet of flavor text, but that is it. You're not playing this game for the story, however. You are playing it at first because it's different and then, once that newness wears off, you are playing because it's addictive.
The available monsters are composed of four elements and each has a strength and weakness. Death is strong Earth, Earth is strong to Water, Water strong to Fire, and Fire strong to Death, and repeat. You compose a team (deck) of nine monsters, further broken down into groups of three. Those groups are then converted into energy balls that you fire in arcs at monsters. There are around 600 areas in the game to visit, but they are literally monster battles and nothing else. No NPCs, no plot, just fight, fight, fight. You do battle by launching your monsters at your enemies by flicking your finger across the screen; the idea, of course, is to build a balanced team so that you aren't taking a bunch of Death monsters up against Fire monsters. The flicking mechanic works very well the majority of the time, although occasionally there will be issues, but the concept behind it is very solid and draws you in more than simply assembling a team and auto-battling. You can't just flick at random if you really want to succeed.
The monsters are beautifully drawn, for the most part. Every monster starts at stage one of a four-part evolution. As you sacrifice duplicate monsters, they level up and their artwork changes slightly. A Vulcan Fae Archer may start out with a plain wooden bow; upgrade to stage two, and the same basic artwork has been redone so that her hand is on fire and her bow has some gems on it. The third stage is a variation on the same theme, but the final stage in the evolution will have completely redone artwork with a flaming crown, a gigantic bow made of fire, and an ass shot. Because, of course, why not? Each stage has higher stats than the last. In addition to evolutions, each stage also its own level (30 levels for a standard monster, 65 for rare, etc.), and by feeding it your weaker monsters, your target increases HP and Attack Power. In theory, you would want to start with four stage one creatures, level three of them up to max and then feed them to the final creature, ending up with a perfect creature. In practice, this takes forever and you'll never do it; if anything, you will evolve to stage four and then just build up the level.
Really, that is all there is to say about the mechanics. There is no story to speak of, every battle is the same (flick, flick, flick), there is no PvP, and within a few weeks you will have seen every base creature and become painfully tired of the lower level ones. The reason that I say it is so addictive is because of the events. Every now and then (and happening with more frequency), an event will pop up with a scant amount of flavor of text where you get to fight some raid bosses. The current one, as of 3/14/13, is the Second Awakening and the raid boss is a dragon. Previous raid bosses have been love goddesses, Norse gods, and the Cheshire Cat. New monsters are constantly introduced via those events, continually providing you with pretty new artwork to look at. Seeing how many monsters you can catch during those events, and seeing how high you can get on the rankings, is truly addictive and the only reason I am still playing.
The events are, sadly, the game's big downfall. The better you get at the game, meaning the stronger your creatures get (your own skill will max out pretty quick), the more Event Points you can score and the better you end up doing. Previously I was scoring in the top 15-20k on the leader boards; the current event has me at 3,415 with 3,751,610 points. That is pretty fantastic, but realistically this is probably as high as I will ever get. The top player currently has 132,273,370 points. And while I don't know this person, I can bet they pumped a good bit of change into the game. Sure, the game is a free download and free to play, but if you want to purchase some Mobage Coins, you can unlock the rarest of the monsters, and rare = strong. Lacking a PvP option, this doesn't break the game like it does with some other Mobage titles (Blood Brothers), but there is no way I am closing a gap of nearly 130 MILLION points by playing for free. This is a problem with most free to play games that offer premium content, however.
The last issue relating to these events is one to do with the user interface. If you're any good at an event, you are going to get a ton of free monsters. Why is this bad, you ask? Well, let's say you end up scoring 600 free monsters from an event. You can only use 9 monsters at a time, but you are going to want to have a balanced hand, so you'll want monsters from every element. There's no way you can manage the upkeep on nine of each color, not if you want to level them up to any real degree, but for the sake of argument let's say you do keep 9. That works out to 36 monsters. You'll have an excess of 564 monsters. Split pretty evenly, that is about 15 monsters each. So, pick your Vulcan Fae Archer, which you already evolved to stage four, and then tap the screen 15 times in a row. Then, since you likely had one rare creature in that bunch, the game is going to ask if you are sure you want to do that. You are, so you tap again (16). Then you get a lengthy animation to indicate feeding, tap again to skip it (36). Then you are shown the Archer's new level; tap again to go back to your deck (54). Move to your next creature, repeat (130 taps). Repeat with the third creature (195). To finish up, you're at 648 taps. You may not need as many at first, but the better you better, the more taps there will be. This gets very, very tedious surprisingly quickly.
Then a new event starts the next week and the cycle repeats.
Hellfire is a good game, and one I still enjoy, but that is most likely because I currently have a massive amount of free time to devote to it. I've already skipped one event, the Norse Gods, because I had no interest in the monsters (I did dive right back in for Alice in Wonderland and the Dragons, however). As a concept, it is different from a lot of other games, and will hold your interest for a while. How long, depends on how much time you can devote and whether the current event looks like fun.