Indie Game Review: Ace of Spades
Developer: Ben Aksoy
Version: Beta 0.75
Genre: Voxel/Team-Based FPS
OVERVIEWDuring what developer Ben Aksoy described as the year of the voxel when Minecraft and Terraria dominated the block-based gaming landscape, Ace of Spades has begun to emerge as a dynamic new fusion of construction and destruction in a team-based environment. The vanilla game consists of two teams competing in either a control points or capture the flag game with one important twist: players can place and remove blocks, creating their own sniper spots, forts, walls, or secret tunnels.
Some defenses built by blue team to protect their own base. This map was entirely flat when the game began.
The PositivesWhat instantly impressed me about this game was the integration of the voxel concepts with the combat. Un-crouched players are the equivalent height of three blocks while a player crouching is exactly as tall as two blocks. Because of this, players under fire can build simple, two-block-high defenses in a hurry. Buildings need not be intricate and time-consuming constructions and, if necessary, can be built at the same pace as the combat.
Crouching behind a two-block-high wall, which I could easily shoot over uncrouched.
The voxel elements are not only closely integrated with the combat; they also enhance the strategy involved in Ace of Spades and give it a unique feel. In your standard Call of Duty game, your friend could be holed up with a sniper rifle in a key building overlooking an exposed part of the map. Now imagine being able to put up a wall to protect the exposed area, being able to burrow into the sniper’s building, being able to take down the sniper’s building with a few well place shots, or simply digging two blocks into the ground, jumping in, crouching, and, in short, making your own improvised sniping position. In many ways, an equal amount of mental challenge exists in Ace of Spades as in playing spy in TF2. A player roaming an open area or mountainous terrain must be wary of enemies burrowed into hills, the ground, or hiding behind small walls which the enemies have colored the same as the surrounding terrain. Playing Ace of Spades well requires a whole new mindset and set of strategies.
Another plus of Ace of Spades is that every single map is custom and most servers have their own map. Players choose servers mostly for the map, as some servers run cities with skyscrapers made out of AoS blocks, jungles with cleverly constructed trees, or nearly flat worlds where the defenses are entirely up to the team (an example can be seen in the pictures above, which were taken on the GoonHaven.org server). Leaving map making entirely up to the community that actually plays the game has resulted in hundreds of unique maps, each with unique challenges.
On the technical side, a huge bonus of Ace of Spades is its ability to run on any system with barely any resources or effort. The developer’s statement that “Your Grandmother’s rig could run this game,” is absolutely no overstatement, as it ran perfectly fine on my i3 laptop with no FPS issues using less than half the memory of Skype and a quarter of the memory of Firefox. My family’s ancient Windows 98-running Dell which has been collecting dust for years would probably have no issues with Ace of Spades.
Ace of Spades is still in very early development, which, of course, means it has its share of bugs. Servers which have multiple slots open often display ambiguous connectivity errors, giving no hint at all to the problem. Additionally, frozen screens and other graphics glitches occasionally occur when switching classes or weapons. Griefing, specifically with aimbots, is a common problem on a lot of servers, although most of the popular servers have a votekick system which I’ve observed to be very effective in dealing with aimbots. Of course, this is the Avolition forum, so and easily hackable Ace of Spades could be source of enjoyment for our Programming community.
Final ThoughtsConsidering its unique strategy and effective and clever integration of the voxel and FPS game elements, Ace of Spades is already very entertaining and could be a fantastic game down the road. As far as improvements go, I could see the addition of more diverse classes and weapons (the only secondary weapon is a generic grenade,) going a long way towards making the game more exciting and more attractive to a wider audience.
What are your thoughts on Ace of Spades? Do you like it, hate it, or wish it would improve in some way? What do you think?