The Fire Rises review
The Fire Rises is a new advergame for Warner Bros’ upcoming Batman movie The Dark Knight Rises. Although players may play while logged in to Facebook and the game shows up in Facebook’s search results, it is actually hosted and presented on its own dedicated site rather than the Facebook canvas.
In The Fire Rises, players take on the role of an up-and-coming criminal in Bane’s mercenary army tasked with looting as many supplies as possible from various locations and expanding their influence in Gotham City. This is achieved through a series of real-time strategy missions in which players must spawn henchmen, defeat the forces of Gotham Security, steal loot, capture locations and escape before the police arrives.
In each mission, players begin with a single sewer cover to their name. From this sewer cover, it is possible to spawn henchmen of various types — at the outset of the game, players have access to melee-based characters, troops who are proficient in both ranged and melee combat and machine gun-wielding ranged specialists, with others becoming available over time. Only a limited number of each type of henchman may be present on the map at any one time, and each sewer cover may only queue up four different troops to spawn at once. By capturing additional sewer covers from around the map, however, the player gains access to additional “build queues,” allowing more units to be constructed simultaneously.
In order to score points, players must direct some of their troops to break into various structures and then steal the loot within. Both of these processes take time, depicted by a number of “stars” on the location that gradually diminishes as the player breaks in or misappropriates the goods inside. Once a location has been unlocked, the player may send their forces inside to carry crates out, and scores points if these crates are successfully brought back to a sewer cover under their control.
The forces of Gotham Security naturally don’t take too kindly to people just breaking in and stealing things, so respond to the player’s troops with deadly force. While sewer covers are not under the player’s control, Gotham Security forces may spawn from them, though even when they have all been captured, enemies may still appear from darkened corners and the edges of the map to ensure the player is never truly unopposed. After a set amount of time has passed, too, the full fury of the police force is summoned, represented by a countdown timer. All loot is worth double points during this period, but if the player is caught then they risk losing a significant proportion of their ill-gotten gains.
The Fire Rises is a well-presented game with high-quality, smoothly-animating 3D graphics. The color scheme is somewhat drab and bland, though this is in keeping with the muted tones of the Batman movies. Sound design is excellent and atmospheric, with clear audible cues allowing the player to understand what is going on even if they are not looking at that part of the map. The gameplay, too, is good quality, bearing more resemblance to traditional standalone real-time strategy games of the past than the light, risk-averse, casual-friendly take that most social strategy games tend to take. The mission structure is somewhat repetitive and the game is rather light on content right now, but small variations in the mission objectives and special rules as well as the very different map designs help add variety. Add the fact that players unlock access to a wider variety of unit types and expand their own personal headquarters as they level up (simply by collecting certain amounts of loot over time) and there is a surprising amount of replay value in this game despite its relative lack of content.
Whether or not the title is a good advergame is a matter of debate, however. Aside from a couple of offhand references to Gotham City in the in-game text, an unlockable Catwoman unit and the movie’s credits printed below the game canvas, there’s nothing explicit tying The Fire Rises directly to the new film. This is both a good and a bad thing — good because it means it remains accessible and playable even to those completely unfamiliar with the Batman mythos; bad because it will disappoint those who were hoping to gain a greater understanding of the background behind the movie. The initial map screen also does not give any indication what the player is supposed to be doing upon first starting the game, either — instructions may be found under a help menu, but an explicit tutorial (such as the one which appears when actually starting a mission) would have made the game’s objectives a little clearer.
All this said, The Fire Rises is a good quality movie tie-in that captures the aesthetic and atmosphere of the movie well. It’s also quite simply a good — if fairly straightforward — game in its own right, and will likely appeal to core gamers as much as (if not more so) than casual social players. If Warner Bros. is planning on keeping it around long after the movie’s release, however, the studio would do well to implement some form of monetization strategy as well as ensuring there are regular infusions of new content, otherwise players will simply give up when they feel they have exhausted the game’s possibilities. It thus remains to be seen if the game should be considered a “success” — its production quality is not in question, but its longevity certainly is.
The Fire Rises is not currently listed on our traffic tracking service AppData, but Facebook reports the game has 5,000 monthly users. This may not be an accurate figure, however, since it is not necessary to be logged into Facebook to play the game.
A high-quality, well-presented advergame, though it remains to be seen whether players will stick around in the long term once the movie releases.