For Block's Sake: Ace of Spades Review
Ace of Spades is a game that is full of potential and disappointment. All at once it wants to be a Minecraft-esq block builder, but never truly commits to supporting a construction process. Every time it seems to say “Use your creativity and think outside the Block” (*rimshot*), it immediately provides you with a standard, and frankly boring way of overcoming any sort of creativity that is not only incredibly effective, but incredibly simple. Ace of Spades represents the promise of innovation that was never truly delivered on.
In every match you play of this game, you'll get to be one of four different soldiers. These four classes represent a spectrum going from truly amazing, to horrendously game breaking. In many ways, the classes represent my thoughts on the entire game; some bits are excellent and some are just plain pain-inducing. Two of the classes are rather standard: The Commando and the Marksman. The Commando is your tough guy, equipped with a RPG or a Minigun. He’ll be your main line breaker, wading into the enemy, and dealing death left and right. The Marksman is more about precision, armed with a Sniper rifle and able to pick off opponents with ease from a distance. There’s nothing particularly mind blowing about either of these two classes, but they work as intended and do their jobs well. Any lack of creativity is more than made up for by the other two classes.
The Miner represents the good ideas of Ace of Spades: Here is a class designed not with combat in mind, but with sapping and construction. You’re equipped with a Shotgun, sure, but your most powerful tools are your Mining Cannon and your Dynamite. These are incredibly fun and powerful tools, able to dig tunnels, collapse houses and bridges, and shape the battlefield in whatever way you’d wish. I've never played a class in an FPS with this much power to shape and control the battlefield, and I commend Ace of Spades on creating a class with such depth.
Unfortunately, The Rocketeer destroys any chance of the Miner or for that matter anyone creative, of having any effect in a game of Ace of Spades. While Jetpacks might seem like the perfect thing to give a game like this some eclectic spice, it actually doesn’t work in the game’s favor. The mechanics of the Rocketeer's jetpack work perfectly fine, but single handedly eliminates any need or reason to construct defenses: Your enemy’s simply jetpack over them. It’s unfortunate that this small and well executed mechanic actually does so much harm to the game as a whole.
The Game's different modes of play are also a mixed bag. Team Death match and Capture the Flag are pretty stock standard, and you’ll have no problem figuring out where you belong. Multi-Hill and Diamond mine are nice changes of pace on these standard game modes. Multi-Hill is King of the hill, but with multiple hills (I guess that’d make it Oligarchy of the hill instead….). Diamond mind is probably my favorite mode, and involves the standard rules of capture the flag, with the one exception that you have to find the flag first!
The final mode of play in Ace of Spades is Zombie mode and it is…a chaotic mess. I actually kind of enjoy it, but the imbalance between being a zombie and being a normal player is palpable. Zombies may be fast, but they can be rather easily outmatched by a clever opponent. It feels like a game mode that was tacked on at the end of production, if only to say “Hey! We got Zombies too!”
The environments, and in particular how destructible they are, are most certainly the game's biggest strength. It was a definite high point the first time I killed an opponent by felling a tree onto him (Death by Lumber? I was sold). Being able to dig your way into a building, climb to the top, and then start lobbing grenades onto the enemy is incredibly satisfying.
Ace of Spades has a noble intent, trying to blend the classic FPS fun with the incredible imaginative qualities of Minecraft. Ultimately, it fails. That’s not to say that it isn’t fun. I’ve really enjoyed playing Ace of Spades. It’s fun, easy to understand, and quick to get into, but it does miss being innovative or mold-breaking, which is certainly seemed to be promising. There’s no need to use the blocks you collect, nor build any sort of defenses. This is, for lack of a better way to describe it, Team Fortress 2 with the aesthetic of Minecraft. It feels more like Ace of Spades Developer/Publisher Jagex was trying to cash in on the Minecraft craze, and not truly try to make something innovative.
Ultimately, this is more disappointing than it really should be, only because you can see the great potential of Ace of Spades just sitting there. Jagex has announced that there will be an expansion of the main game focusing on a WWI aesthetic and introducing trench warfare. This is truly inspiring news, and I hope that it gets Ace of Spades back on the right path.
I'll keep my ears turned towards Ace of Spades in the hope of future improvements and interesting developments. Until then, this game is a promising disappointment with an addiction to right angles.