Upon first glance, Ace of Spades looks brilliant. Team Fortress 2 and Minecraft combined with that retro look that’s doing so well these days? What maniacal videogaming Dr Frankenstein stitched those two things together and got away with it?
Of course, the game would have gone one of two ways. It could have taken the best of both worlds and fused world-building with class based combat, or it could be a limp dribble of pixels with nothing much to offer except disappointment and a lingering bad taste in your mouth (Just like my first relationship).
Infuriatingly, Ace of Spades is one of those difficult games to review seriously because it falls awkwardly inbetween those dual potentialities. You do get the freedom to build your own fortresses and blow the map to shreds, but after playing a few games it starts to sink in just how futile it is to try and build your own bunker. The maps are too small to give you the time and space you need to get creative and the tools you’re given to do it aren’t effective enough for the pace of the game. It’s centered around the class-based combat but you just end up with a distinct “we knew a retro-looking class-based combat game would just get sidelined so we threw in some inspiration from the most popular indie game of all time” vibe. Most of the time Ace of Spades just reeks of indie try-hard but it does find success in appealing and solid combat when it all comes together.
Classes come down to the Marksman, the Rocketeer, the Commando, and the Miner, all of which are fairly self explanatory. It’s a good mix of FPS staples and everything feels familiar, mixed up with some frenetic combat and a create/destroy mechanic that despite not coming across in the grandiose way it was intended, adds a little bit more chaos to the game when matches start getting repetitive. Which is assuming there are enough people playing in the first place. As I’ve said time and time again about these indie FPS titles, they’re fantastic if you’re coming to them in a group, but the single player used to finding full games of Halo 4 or Black Ops II within ten seconds of matchmaking won’t find any joy here. The audience is simply spread too thin, most of the games going are either full or set to private so you’ll often have to be content with either starting your own game and hoping there’s enough people playing to make it worthwhile or jumping into someone else’s game.
There’s an entirely unfathomable absence of a level/map creator, which for a game made entirely of blocks, seems like it should have been obvious launch content. For such a great vision Ace of Spades feels remarkably underwhelming most of the time. If you can pull a decent group of buddies together and convince them all to buy it and play it with you regularly then you might just get the most out of it, but come on – who wants to put that much effort into a game at this price range when you could just get stuck into a free and thriving online shooter? If you’re that desperate to build stuff, just play Minecraft. Both games this indie title takes its pedigree from are much better at what they do, and I don’t know if I mentioned this, but one of them is completely free.
The class-based combat is great and fast-paced once you get past the whiff of a reduced Team Fortress, which tends to hang around much of the game like it’s been bathing in old milk on a diet of brussel sprouts and energy drink. It’s not quite smelly enough to make you forget that Team Fortress 2 is free to play these days. Chaotic and capable of true greatness in select moments if you’re fine with wading through some damp mediocrity first.
The game’s building mechanic just doesn’t work in practise. The maps are too small and the lack of a level editor is a horrendously missed opportunity, like LEGO turning down the chance to make Firefly toys and simultaneously earning the disdain of nerds the world over. Hopefully someone at Jagex is working on implementing it, because if a level editor for Ace of Spades genuinely isn’t on the cards, they’ve made a terrible mistake.
It suffers from chronic “underpopulated-itis”. Some games are about as much fun as licking envelopes because the player base isn’t there to make it as good as it can be all the time. That’s hardly down to Jagex – after all, developing an indie online only FPS should be the textbook definition of “swimming against the tide”. What is down to Jagex, however, is how underplayed and unimportant the creation actually is, leaving you with an average shooter that feels distinctly like a low-tec version of a great shooter that you didn’t have to pay £6.99 for. Updates are constant and it’s still being tweaked so in time it may achieve the epic potential it has. Sadly, as it stands, it’s going to be undermined by the huge successes of the titles that inspired it.
Ace of Spades? Unfortunately, it’s more like an average Jack of all trades.
Disclaimer:All scores given within our reviews are based on the artist’s personal opinion; this should in no way impede your decision to purchase the game.