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Game review: FFXV New Empire is addictive enough, but if you don’t have the cash it’s a grind

New Empire is easy to pick up and fun to play; the main problems are the constant pop-up ads and grinding that can only be alleviated by spending real money on upgrades

PUBLISHED : Friday, 07 July, 2017, 7:03pm
UPDATED : Friday, 07 July, 2017, 9:45pm

Final Fantasy XV: A New Empire

Machine Zone/ Epic Action

3/5 stars

My first impressions of Final Fantasy XV: A New Empire – a free MMORPG ((massively multiplayer online role-playing game) released by Machine Zone on both Android and iOS this month – were not exactly great.

The cluttered map, confusing interface, casino slot machine graphics and (this is the worst) the never-ending pop-up ads that prompt you to spend HK$779 on booster packs, all point to a cheap rip-off of Final Fantasy XV, the bestselling title that was released by Japanese game developer Square Enix last November, cloned with a Game of War (a flagship title by Machine Zone) skin.

No wonder that when A New Empire was soft-launched in New Zealand on March 31 this year, gamers (especially Final Fantasy fans) across the globe thought it was an early April Fool’s joke.

Since I’ve never properly played any MMO games (I only dabbled with Romance of the Three Kingdoms 12 online edition some years ago) and I love all things FFXV (I’ve played the demo, and watched the film Kingsglaive and its animation series), I thought I’d give this a go. After all, don’t knock a game until you’ve played it, right?

So here’s the surprise. Once I got past the initial tutorial – and the learning curve isn’t steep at all – this empire-building game (along the lines of Sid Meier’s Civilization) is quite addictive, and even more so for players who love to micromanage. I find myself checking my progress regularly all day long.

The gameplay of New Empire revolves around producing resources, strengthening the army (of warrior, mage, cavalry and siege machine classes), building up a strong defence, levelling up your “hero” (Noctis, the protagonist of FFXV) and conquering other empires. (We are promised more characters from the title will put in an appearance later in the game.)

There is also a “social” element to this game as players are advised to join a guild to reap more benefits (high loyalty wins you more valuable items). Practically, empires can gang up to battle others.

Needless to say (as in any games in this genre), there is much (mindless) grinding. The “quests”, for instance, are a matter of filling up a gauge bar over a set period of time – and there are a lot of bars to fill. You can buy or win “speed up” items that shorten the grind time to one minute from, yes, three days.

In fact, if you have the money (and I mean real-world money) to spend, this game can be a breeze. And herein lies my main gripe with this seemingly pay-to-win game. There have been times when the only way to upgrade – whether a building or a skill – is to spend real money to buy in-game coins to get more resources or shorten grinding time. Not spending any money is possible but, trust me, you will not be advancing very quickly.

Also, our guild happens to be located a stone’s throw away from another whose members obviously have very deep pockets (and I have reason to suspect they are from Hong Kong). When they marched over and semi-obliterated our kingdom of a dozen individual empires, we could not believe how powerful their troops were. To gain that sort of strength in such a short time, they must have spent hundreds of dollars on booster packs. (Now I know why Tencent’s “poisonous” Honor of Kings is so profitable).

Here’s why Tencent’s Honour of Kings has 200 million players

If you are willing to look past these shortcomings – and if you just want to grind away your commuting hours – then Final Fantasy XV: A New Empire is as addictive as they come.