Happy Wars sees Microsoft finally, belatedly, enter the world of free-to-play gaming. It's a team-based multiplayer game that sees you and up to 29 other players engage in cutesy swords-and-sorcery combat, as two teams attempt to capture the base of their opponent. Think a 3D version of Awesomenauts based on a kids' TV show set in medieval times, and you're in the right postcode.
It's another simple, accessible MOBA game, in other words. You've got three well-balanced classes to choose from - Warriors wade into battle with swords and shields, Mages lob spells from range, and Clerics are your healers. Each has special skills that use up an Action Point gauge and you can also summon tactical weapons at specific locations, as well as commandeering new bases to spawn from when you die.
Reach your rival's castle and you can opt to smash through its gates with a battering ram or attempt to scale the walls using ladders while ballistas pepper you with arrows. A classic tactic would be to use Mages to attack the ballistas from distance while you keep them protected with Warriors who in turn are healed by Clerics.
That's the theory, at least - and if your army of happy scrappers is well-organised your plans may just come together. Too often, however, it descends into chaos, as two cel-shaded armies charge madly into each other, and only a few survive the resultant melée. Rinse and repeat until a victor is declared.
MOBA money, MOBA problems
Dying is less disastrous than in many of its peers: in fact, it happens so often on both sides that it's little more than a fleeting inconvenience. You'll level up sooner if you don't, however, which gives you quicker access to better gear.
That's assuming you don't take the easy route and pay your way to success. You can happily play without spending a penny, but it's impossible to say these purchasables don't have the potential to turn the tide of battle. That means when you lose you'll wonder whether your opponent was more tactically astute or simply more cash-rich.
Lone players need not apply: an offline campaign proves useful for learning the maps and the nuances of play, but the focus is firmly with the online game. And either way, we'd advise spending a little extra buying Awesomenauts instead.
By Chris Schilling
Entertaining but limited - play before you pay
- Varied and well-designed maps
- Adorable art
- Encourages proper teamwork
- A little too busy at times
- Paying customers do have an advantage