Ace of Spades ReviewDecember 23, 2012
Ace of Spades draws heavily from Minecraft and Team Fortress 2. Can it live up to the games it’s inspired by?
Ace of Spades is an online sandbox builder and FPS developed by Jagex Game Studios, most famous for the classic time-eater RuneScape. In essence, it is the estranged love child of Notch’s Minecraft and Valve’s Team Fortress 2. But does Ace of Spades live up those legendary games’ glory?
Unlike Team Fortress 2, Ace of Spades has no accompanying plot. You are thrust right into the action with three main menu options: “Choose Match”, which lets you choose a game mode and map to join; “Quick Match”, which joins you to a random match; and “Ranked Match”, which also allocates you to a random map, except your rank has a chance of increasing if you win the match. I cannot be more specific, as every ranked match I played crashed on me. Also, whether or not there will be other players in the match you join is apparently up to the machinations of fate.
Jagex seem to believe that everyone in the world has played Team Fortress 2, as no tutorial is provided, unless you count the control scheme in the Settings menu. Or, indeed, the Ace of Spades Wiki.
Now, when I said earlier that the game was a fusion of Minecraft and TF2, I meant it in the most literal sense. There is nothing in Ace of Spades that was not cleaved from those two games and stuck on with string and staples. There is even a gameplay mode based solely on mining diamonds, and another on killing zombies! Like TF2, there are a number of classes to choose from. Specifically, four classes, and although this is a disappointment, you’ll be glad to know that you can have players on the same team using the same class, which came as a relief. Each class comes with its own unique weapons and gadgets, from sniper rifles to rocket launchers, and even a jet pack.
What Ace of Spades lacks in classes, it makes up for in gameplay modes- half of which are fan-made, three of which are duplicates of another three, and all of which are either copied straight from Team Fortress 2 or based around an activity in Minecraft. In addition to the two modes mentioned earlier, the ten game modes include Arena, a no-respawns team deathmatch (not to be confused with Team Deathmatch, another mode in the game with respawns); Capture The Flag, Infiltration, Free For All, and Territory Control. Capture The Flag is an aping of the Team Fortress 2 game mode of the same name, but with Intel instead of flags. Infiltration is exactly the same as Capture The Flag, except instead of both teams trying to capture each other’s Intel, one team has to capture the other’s Intel while the latter defends it. Free For All is a Call of Duty-style match in which players are pitted against each other like twelve rats locked in a cage that can only accommodate five, and finally Territory Control is yet another mode taken from Team Fortress 2 and given a slightly different name.
But enough about Team Fortress 2, let’s move on to what the game takes from Minecraft. Everything in the world is destructible, and this can be used to your advantage as you dig underground to sneak up on the enemy, create a hiding spot for yourself or even make traps. I once dug a deep hole, which I then flew out of with my jetpack and surrounded with walls. Because your blocks are the same color as your team, an enemy player thought one of my team must have been hiding inside, and broke in, falling into the pit. He/she was not playing as the Rocketeer class, and thus could not escape, allowing my teammates and I to shoot them. Aside from guns and digging tools, you also have at your disposal blocks and three different types of pre-made structures, such as bunkers and fort walls, which can be used to build small safe areas or to strengthen your team’s fort. You are given a limited supply of these blocks, and unlike in Minecraft they cannot be recollected by destroying them, so strategy is key. The problem, however, is that the game is really finicky about where blocks can be placed, resulting in some random and jagged structures that are either really easy or impossible to pass through.
The map environments in Ace of Spades are nicely varied, and highly enjoyable, with block representations of locations ranging from a Mayan jungle to a base on the moon, with view of a block version of the Earth. And there is something about seeing a Lego-style version of Elizabeth Tower that stays with you, at least until you blow it up.
Ace of Spades suffers from an ungodly amount of lag. This is a serious problem for an online multiplayer game. There was not a single match I played in which the character models did not flicker instantaneously between standing and crouching, like non-stop machine gun teabagging, and turning was as smooth as a gravel road covered in spikes. Hopefully, this will be fixed through patching.
The game’s graphics are similar to Minecraft; everything is constructed from blocks. But in Minecraft, the blocks were at least coloured in such a way that they looked textured. Stone actually looked as though it would be rough to the touch. In Ace of Spades, each individual block is uniformly coloured, giving everything a smooth look, as though it’s made of rubber. The environments also suffer from fog which masks far-away objects.
The soundtrack is laughable, virtually non-existent. There is a single, two-minute techno/dubstep loop in the main menu, and that is about it. During the matches, there is only an ambient hum, punctuated by the sounds of gunshots, explosions, and the character’s taunts. Like Team Fortress 2, each class has their own taunts that they say during the match. However, unlike Valve’s colorful characters, the classes in Ace of Spades have only two lines, which only play upon respawning. And hearing the phrase “Death from above!” every five seconds in a tone of a man trying to sell you a bank account can get rather grating. I have only heard music outside the main menu once, when there was one minute of a match remaining. It was a loud, annoying, ten-second dubstep loop. The only other music is a one-second tone that plays upon unlocking an achievement.
In spite of all this, Ace of Spades has potential. Underneath this game’s many flaws, I caught glimpses of a decent online multiplayer shooter. Hopefully, through patching and updates, the lag and sound issues will be fixed. And I suppose, at $5, it is worth a look-see.