DV8: Exile review
DV8: Exile is a new Facebook game from Gamoso Ltd. It’s currently in open beta on the social network and is yet to pick up a significant amount of traction, but it is undergoing something of a marketing push at present with occasional sidebar ads.
DV8: Exile is a massively-multiplayer midcore strategy game in which players build up a base, gather their forces and then assert their dominance over a persistent dystopian future world. It is particularly noteworthy for its distinctive aesthetic, unusual gameplay and the fact it doesn’t follow the usual formula for this sort of game set by popular developers in the genre such as Kabam, Digital Chocolate and Plarium.
The game begins with an initial tutorial that thematically represents an attack on the player’s base. During the tutorial, the player is shown how to move units and instruct them to attack, how to “reload” them with the resources they require to function, how to repair damaged structures and how to summon additional units if required. The player is also quickly introduced to the use of the game’s hard currency to speed up tasks that take periods of real time to complete, such as bringing in additional units, constructing objects and repairing things. Hard currency may also be spent on shielding their base from attack for a set period of time.
Subsequent missions guide the player through a suggested course of action, though unlike many other games of this type, these missions encourage the player to both build and attack enemy bases rather than following the usual (rather dull) formula of spending the first several hours doing nothing but upgrading the same buildings over and over again. The player is also free to go “off-piste” and play the game as they wish whenever they like, though the rewards for completing missions are worthwhile.
DV8: Exile makes use of a rather unusual system for unit management in the field. Each unit is “stocked” with small amounts of ammunition and energy and must be regularly “reloaded” with both from the player’s overall stocks. Some units require “Power” to restore their energy, others require a different resource known as “Lucid.” All of these resources are produced by structures in the player’s base or may be purchased with hard currency. Taking actions (including moving) costs the unit energy, while attacking enemies also costs them ammunition. Given that the game unfolds using a mechanic that occupies a peculiar middle-ground between being completely turn-based and real-time, the player must quickly reload their energy and/or ammunition when it runs out before they get attacked and possibly killed by enemy forces — defeated units are removed from the game and do not return, so the player must purchase new ones when this happens. It’s an interesting system, but initially doesn’t appear work brilliantly — on several occasions during testing I moved into position for an attack and was then shot and killed while attempting to restore my energy for the assault. The problem could perhaps be mitigated by giving the units a slightly larger bank of energy to use at a time — or by making the game properly turn-based.
However, the reason for this system becomes very clear the moment the game shows one of its best aspects: real-time synchronous multiplayer. Unlike most other games of this type, combat does not have to unfold in an asynchronous manner. DV8: Exile does cater for this style of play by allowing players to leave units and traps around their base in “sentry” mode, which means they will automatically attack intruders (and, optionally, use the player’s stock of resources to continue reloading themselves) but also allows players to fend off an assault in real-time if they happen to be online when it happens — if they’re not, the player receives a Facebook notification allowing them to quickly jump into the game if they want to. The slow pace of the gameplay brought about by the limited movement radius and the need to regularly reload means that players can observe their opponent’s actions and time their own counterattack accordingly — something that is typically much more difficult (though not impossible) to do in fully real-time combat. By watching their opponents’ moves, the player can determine when they are likely to need to reload either ammunition or energy, and can strike while the enemy is vulnerable. It makes combat an immensely satisfying, highly tactical experience, and was by far the most surprisingly good thing about this game.
That aside, the game does quite a few other nice things. The player is able to customize their base and units as they see fit — they can change their forces’ color scheme, name their base and even name each individual unit if they desire. The game also features a built-in matchmaking facility that theoretically pairs opponents up with those of a similar level of skill and power. Perhaps most crucially, though, is the fact that this is a Facebook-based strategy game that genuinely requires some strategy in order to succeed. Many other midcore strategy games on the social network are little more than a numbers game, meaning that players will inevitably win if they always buy as many of the most powerful units available to them at any time — here, however, different units have different specialisms, and stationing them at tactically-advantageous points around the base will ensure that they can do a good job of defending. When attacking, players must consider where their opponent is likely to have left their units and traps, making the whole experience pleasingly tense and genuinely exciting to participate in.
The game could use a little improvement to its social features — there’s no way to send messages or communicate with other players beyond attacking them, for example, and no means of cooperating or collaborating with others — though the game’s main menu promises that this feature, along with a “world map” and “quick battle” facility, is coming soon. On the whole, the game as it stands has built a solid foundation for future greatness. It’s a satisfying, fun experience at present that will hopefully expand and improve over time with additional features and a bit more structure to the gameplay — for now, however, it’s still well worth a look.
We don’t yet have a detailed breakdown of user figures for DV8: Exile, but the game currently reports it has more than 3,800 monthly active users. Check back shortly to follow the game’s progress in more detail with AppData, our tracking service for social games and developers.
A Facebook strategy game with actual strategy in it is worthy of praise by itself, but this is a solid foundation for what could be a great game, too.