If you’ve ever found yourself wanting more firepower in Minecraft (or been drawn to the more warlike modded servers), it looks like the folks at Jagex are a step ahead of you. Ace of Spades is easy to summarize in terms of existing games – Minecraft meets Team Fortress 2 – but stands alone by virtue of a unique core concept. There’s no other game that delivers creative block-building and destruction in a shooter like this.
The Minecraft influences are apparent at first blush – pixelly blocks pop colorfully in this bright world, and they are subject to infinite Lego-style assembly and breakage. Each of the four playable classes are armed with either a pick or a shovel that can destroy a block or two at a time. You could, if you wanted, spend the entire game just digging an enormous trench, destroying blocks that make up the ground one by one. Similarly, each class is equipped with a number of deployable blocks that range anywhere from single cubes to premade barricades, bridges, stairs, and protective tunnels that, when used intelligently, alter the physical layout of the battlefield. Construction is quick and intuitive, and the game is usually pretty good about setting the blocks where you want them to go. Of course, there’s no guarantee that your clever roadblock or hidden staircase won’t be blown to bits (or filled in by blocks) by the other team. Actually, some of the more hilarious moments come when stumbling across an enormous project that a player has been squirreling away at all game, unnoticed – even if it’s the inevitable dick statue.
There are only four classes in the game. The high-HP commando carries powerful but somewhat difficult heavy weapons. The marksman is a deadly but delicate sniper. The rocketeer bounces around the air with boosted jumps, spraying automatic weapons fire from above. Finally, the close-range miner is perhaps the most equipped to leverage the game’s unique mechanics with a rocket drill, dynamite, and some of the more useful premade block structures. Like other class-based shooters, there are times when you’re just in the wrong place at the wrong time against a class better suited for the situation. Your miner’s shotgun is rock to the rocketeer SMG’s paper at middle range over open ground, and there’s no chance you can pick up something else. Get used to dying and using your respawn time to decide if the big-picture strategy calls for a different class.
The game is at its best when order and chaos struggle for dominance while players compete to out-maneuver each other’s structural modifications. A typical King of the Hill match might have one team defend a hill inside a large castle. Some rocketeers attempt to fly over the walls while miners drill under and up, creating a tunnel that allows teammates to pour out into the castle’s courtyard. Enemy snipers drive them back and then plant mines at the tunnel’s exit, killing a few unfortunate infiltrators late to the party. Reluctant to charge into an obvious killzone, the attackers abandon the tunnel, allowing the defenders to wall it off with blocks. Instead, a series of stairs begins to appear at the castle walls, with defenders rushing to destroy the blocks while attackers patch holes.
That’s a case where Ace of Spades performs at its full potential. Sadly, your mileage may vary. There’s not always real incentive to go nuts with the build-and-destroy concept. You can sometimes get an advantage in Team Deathmatch if you can tunnel into the enemy’s spawn point, but you’re usually taking yourself away from the fight for a few minutes to do so. From a pure shooter standpoint, Ace of Spades could use some work. There’s not much balance to the weapons (the rocketeer seems to be by far the best all-around combatant), and it’s often hard to tell if you’re even hitting your target. I tend to enjoy shooters that are smooth and snappy, the combat in this one feels sluggish and imprecise. Worse, it seems that server lag is a pervasive and ongoing issue. I was frequently getting warning messages that were counting down to disconnecting me from the server and assumed I was having problems on my end, but lag is the constant refrain in complaints from the Ace of Spades community right now.
These issues seem fixable, and Jagex is attentive to the game, having already released the first content patch. Shooter aficionados probably won’t be impressed by the super-simple gunplay here, and the nagging lag might mean Ace of Spades will be best as a lunch-hour LAN diversion for the time being. It might sound like I’m down on the game, but in truth, I had enough fun messing around with tunneling into the enemy castle before the bullets started flying to justify my $10.00. I once fell down a pretty deep hole, and building a stair out of single blocks to get out reminded me a bit of the time-sensitive spatial puzzling of Catherine. If you’re willing to forgive some combat flaws, Ace of Spades might just reward you by bringing out your inner combat engineer.
This review is based on a Steam download of Ace of Spades, developed by Jagex Games Studio.
- Excellent Multiplayer Modes
- There is Plenty of Fun to be Had
- Super-Simple Gunplay
- Very Laggy