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Free-To-P(l)ay- Puzzle and Dragons and the Right Way to Do F2P


Usually, when I see that a game is going the route of free-to-play and including microtransactions as it's sole avenue of income, I grimace and expect the worst.  Typically, titles that have gone this route are rife with progress-blocking traps that require the gamer to fork over some cold hard cash to have any hope of progress.  It's a pretty scummy way to make a buck and doesn't seem like a way to really ingratiate a developer to it's player base.  But, it doesn't always have to be so bad.  In fact, the team at Gungho have done something incredible: they've made a free-to-play title that doesn't require you to pay a dime to actually enjoy the game and see everything the title has to offer.  40 million plus fans and counting can't be wrong, can they?

For those unfamiliar, Puzzle and Dragons is essentially the unholy union of Bejeweled and Pokemon.  Your goal is to clear each dungeon of increasing difficulty with your team of pre-selected monsters, each with specialized skills to help deal with the threats you face along your way.  Monsters are broken down into types like attacker and healer and are given elemental designations (fire, water, etc.) corresponding to the orbs on the play screen.  Matching three or more orbs will cause the monsters of that color to attack.  Reduce the enemies' HP to progress, and beat the boss of each dungeon to move on!

By nature, games of this sort tend to be addictive.  Adding a monster collecting element only gives fuel to that fire.  Some monsters, once defeated, will drop eggs containing that monster which can then be used on your team!  The monsters that you collect can then be leveled up by "feeding" other monsters to them, giving them greater strength, HP, recovery power, and the ability to evolve into even stronger creatures.  It's a really simple way of making each step forward, no matter how small, feel like progress.  It's definitely necessary in the free-to-play model to make the player not feel like they are stuck in one place, just waiting on luck or money to push them through to keep the player base interested.  Usually, all it takes to succeed is a little bit of leveling to lead your party to victory.


 Of course, there is a free-to-play element to the game.  Each dungeon has a stamina requirement to enter, and you gain one stamina every five minutes.  Stamina can be refreshed by using a Magic Stone, the in-game currency of choice.  These Magic Stones can be purchased via the in-game shop, averaging out at about one U.S. dollar per stone.  These same stones can also be used to continue if you lose all of your HP in a dungeon, respawing you with full HP as well as removing any status ailments you may have incurred so far.  Most importantly, by using five stones at the Rare Egg Machine, players have a chance to acquire golden eggs containing super-powerful monsters that are impossible to obtain via normal gameplay.  Sounds pretty icky, doesn't it?

The reality, however, isn't nearly so nasty.  Gungho, either out of charity or insanity, usually gives out between 10-20 Magic Stones per month as part of their events schedule, which includes increased chances to pull great monsters from the REM as well as special dungeons with incredibly powerful monsters as a reward for victory.  Furthermore, each full dungeon that gets cleared nets you one stone, and another can be earned for repeating it but with limitations in place.  If you play your cards right, you'll never be without stones!  

In addition, each dungeon clear gives you experience points which you can use to increase your account level, granting you increases in the strength of monsters you can field per team as well as increased stamina.  This means that you don't have to constantly burn resources to play or make attempts at harder dungeons.  Don't get me wrong, there are still times when I'll have to wait for my stamina to refill before I can play again, but it doesn't ever really feel like it inhibits my progress.  I just have to plan ahead a little bit, and it never really comes into play.

There's no denying this is a free-to-play game, don't get me wrong.  It just doesn't feel like it.  Considering certain dungeons, depending on your team, can take upwards of an hour, I always feel like I'm getting my "money's" worth.  Plus, Gungho continues to support the game, rolling out new dungeons and additional content every couple of weeks without any upgrade fees or restrictions.  You get access to everything, instantly, for nothing.  Pretty good deal, if you ask me.  

I've been a player for about a year at this point, putting in my time every day, and I'm nowhere near the "end" of the game.  It's been a great journey, and I'm still enjoying myself just as much as I ever did.  I never thought I could possibly enjoy a game that was free-to-play because of how bad I and others had been burned in the past.  And you know what?  I've actually spent money on the game.  It wasn't because I felt like I needed to in order to progress or because I needed a certain monster in my collection.  I spent the money because I felt like I needed to support a company who put out a great game without charging me a cent, and making me feel like they actually wanted me to keep enjoying it for a long, long time.  Very few games are worth the price you pay for them these days.  That's why I wholeheartedly recommend you at least try Puzzle and Dragons.  It's perfect for a quick fix or a long bus ride, or just a nice way to relax at the end of a long day.  And really, for the price, what have you got to lose?  Give Gungho a chance and maybe, just maybe, they'll change your mind about the free-to-play model, too.

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About SpaghettiOReillyone of us since 6:27 PM on 05.05.2014

Hiya! I'm just your average joe who loves to play the vidya games. My earliest memory is playing Super Mario on NES when I was 3. I have a sizable collection of games spanning the decades. I love my Super Nintendo more than some of my family. I remember more about games I've played than my own past.

I think I have a problem.