Game: Ace of Spades
Developer: Ben Aksoy, Mathias Kærlev
Publisher: Jagex Game Studio
Available on: Windows PC Only
We’ve all done it, we’ve all played a game of Minecraft and come across some guy that just won’t leave you alone. They’re either constantly in your way, making the game unbearable for you to play in a number of annoying little ways, or are overly friendly, asking you time and time again what each little aspect of whatever you’re building is. There’s a time and a place for all that, and there’s also a time and a place for showing these people what’s what, for shooting them in the face with mini-guns. That time and place has come now, with the release of Ace of Spades on Steam.
Ace of Spades is a multiplayer First Person Shooter which takes a lot of the typical tropes that we’re used to seeing from some of the more classic shooters over the years. There’s no levelling mechanics or perks that you might see from modern shooters such as the Call of Duty series, instead, you’re just given a game mode and told to get as many points as you can for yourself or your team, before the timer reaches zero. Sounds pretty straightforward doesn’t it? I couldn’t agree more. Then you add the Minecraft-esque base building mechanics and things start to get entirely more complicated.
As well as your typical weapons, each character class is equipped with both a shovel and a set of blocks. The shovel does exactly what you would expect to, allowing you to dig in to the environment, collecting blocks until you’ve reached the maximum number which you can carry; which is fifty. The player can then take these fifty blocks that they’ve acquired and place them anywhere on the map to start building anything you could possibly imagine. You could create a quick, simple wall for you to hide behind, bearing in mind that your character, when stood up, is three blocks high yet when they’re crouched they’re only two blocks high. Basically, build a wall that’s two blocks high and, when crouched, the enemy isn’t going to be able to shoot you, but you still have the ability to stand up and shoot at them; it’s genius. Players also have the opportunity to go all out and create massively elaborate bases, with secret entrances, exits, bunkers, the works. We’ve all seen the videos of Minecraft where players that have way too much time on their hands build what can only be described as works of art within the game world, in theory, all of that could happen in Ace of Spades too.
The one thing that players will need to keep in mind when it comes to building objects in Ace of Spades is that the game utilises a physics engine, something that you wouldn’t expect upon first glance at the game. If you’re going to build a massive sniper’s nest, make sure you’re protecting the bottom somehow. The last thing you’re going to want is for a rogue enemy fighter to come sauntering up to your structure, knock a couple of blocks out and watch the whole thing come tumbling down. Now, if you’re the lone fighter, then there’s nothing more fun than watching a gigantic structure come tumbling to the ground thanks to a couple of well placed shovel smacks.
When you start a match in Ace of Spades, you’ll be asked to choose from one of four classes, the Miner, the Rocketeer, the Marksman, and the Commando. Each of them have their own special skills, for example, the Miner is especially well-suited to digging through the terrain, he can shovel faster and has a drill gun which, when fired, can cut through massive swathes of the landscape. Certainly a boon if you want to make a quick getaway from an enemy stronghold, but you want to do so in as much of a straight line as possible. The rest of the classes are your basic infantry, but there’s quite a lot to get used to so players would do well to just pick them, play about with them, work out their strengths and weaknesses and figure out if they’re going to want to use them in the long term.
As well as having multiple classes to choose from, there are also quite a few game modes that you can get your wanton destruction on in. There are your typical Deathmatch/Team Deathmatch mode, and King of the Hill, but by far the most interesting mode is Diamond Mine. In this mode, the objective is to dig through the landscape to find some of the randomly generated diamonds, then take these diamonds back to the indicated area of the stage. The catch is that while you’re carrying the diamond, you can attack or even run at a normal speed, so you’re wide open to attack. This means that it’s important to have a team with you while you’re carrying the diamond, if you don’t, you’re a sitting duck and you better be prepared to throw that diamond into the wind so you can get your weapons back out and fend for yourself, hoping that one of their team doesn’t make off with it in the madness.
VERDICT: Ace of Spades is an interesting concept, the ability to build your own bases and then take them back down to their base components with a single well-placed shot never gets old. The main problem is that the ideas that are there don’t quite feel as if they’re fully fleshed out. With a little bit more polish Jagex could have something special on their hands, Ace of Spades could very well be the indie shooter that the masses play, but as it stands it just feels a little bit too half-baked. Having said that, it’s easy to lose yourself in the beautiful madness of the game’s world, seeing scenarios that would usually have caused problems in a more clearly defined game being solved simply by blasting a hole in the wall has got a certain Michael Bay charm to it. Play on a server with a bunch of friends and there’s a good chance you’ll have some of the most fun you’ve had in a First Person Shooter in years. Play in a random server, with a bunch of people you’ve never met before, and you could be frustrated within minutes. It’s a coin toss which you’re going to get when you’re playing Ace of Spades, and it’s this uncertainty that keeps it short of greatness.