Monday, December 24, 2012

Aurora For Sale

Christmas Eve Release of the R-19 Aurora.  Finally have some time for the review (the last of 2012!).  Yet another plane based on the MIG-3 skin (thanks for the comments - very similar to an F-15).  This version is a basic blue/gray with yellow highlighting.

Lets take a look at the stats:
Armor Regen:  +3%:  Best in Class.  This is the first weapons class plane to ever have armor regen.  3% is the same level as an upgraded Agility class plane.  Its nice to slowly regain your health during a match but unfortunately, 3% is really just a trickle and a far cry from the Green Eagle, Dragon or Raven.

Damage: +10%:  This level of damage falls in the lower half of the weapons class fleet.  Not bad but not very good compared to many of the other weapons class jets.

Energy:  +11%:  2nd in Class:  This gives the Aurora a good boost in energy if you feel that you need it.  I tend to run out of energy quickly with agility class planes but not as often with weapons class planes, so I don't see this as too valuable, but your own flying style may be different.

Speed: +15%:  2nd in Class:  The Aurora is good and fast!  This could be valuable when going full throttle across your opponents field of view to avoid incoming Bisnos.

So we have a fast weapons plane with lots of energy, mediocre damage and some armor regen sprinkled in. Overall a decent plane.  Not one of my favorite, but not horrible either. 

The Aurora has been added to the Comparison Guide  and also to the Fleet at a Glance - check it out!

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Rattlebox for sale

Whew, its been awhile since there has been a new plane to review.   Had to dust off my fleet-at-a-glance files and plane comparison table.  Its been a few months.

If you remember, this is the result of the design-your-own-skin contest back in September.  Interestingly, this new plane doesn't really look like the contest winner, although its does have snake-like similarities I guess.

Original winner of contest

Lets take a look at the stats:
Damage:  +7%:  3rd in class
Agility: +10%:  Near the bottom in class
Speed:  +7%: Middle/Bottom of class

What can you say?  Are you willing to spend 100 coins for this?  Your call, but there is nothing that I can say that is positive about this plane.  It has no outstanding characteristics and is completely unremarkable.  This rattler has no fangs.

The Rattler has been added to the Comparison Guide  and also to the Fleet at a Glance - check it out!

Real-Life J-20 aircraft

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

MetalStorm: Aces Review

MetalStorm: Aces Review
As most of you know, Z2Live has created a new game in the MetalStorm lineup titled MetalStorm: Aces.   Last that I checked, this game still had limited release only to Canada and the Netherlands (most likely to work out any early bugs and updates to a limited audience).  I’ve made an earlier post on how to trick iTunes into letting you download this if you would like to try the game for yourself.

Overall, I’ve been reluctant to review this game, mainly because it seems like it is not quite complete yet.  There have been several major updates and fixes made to it since its limited release.  Z2 is taking an active role in soliciting feedback from fan groups on facebook which is commendable and it is evident that they really are trying to listen to the users to improve the game.  However the game has been out for awhile now, so I’ve decided to post this review for now and will make updates as the game matures.

Cost:  Just like Metalstorm Wingman, Metalstorm Aces (MSA from now on) takes the fremium approach where the app is free but to advance significantly in the game you will need to pay for better planes and upgrades which can add up to a fairly large amount of money as you progress.  

Graphics:  I hate to say it but I find the graphics in MSA to be disappointing.  The terrain detail, shadowing, texturing, weather, sky, etc.  all seem to be less than you’d expect for a newly released fighting sim game.  Especially the shadowing and texturing.  In my opinion, the game takes on the look of a comic book, a cartoon or an old Nintendo console game rather than a cutting edge iOS game.  Perhaps Z2 is focusing more on game play rather than graphics, which would be fine if the game play is good, but I don’t think that is the case here.  They have thrown in some swimming sharks in the water and a few other touches, but there really was nothing in the graphics that I could find that was impressive or cutting edge.  It almost looks like they’ve let some of their developers from their other games, Trade Nations/Battle Nations do the coding here.  Those games also have basic graphics but have excelled on their strategy and game play aspects.

Graphics Verdict:  Disappointing 

...but take a look and judge for for yourself:

Your cannons can catch on fire when shot by certain opponent planes

Game Modes:
MSA has followed the lead of MSWM and has basically 3 game modes:
  1. Ace Attack:  This is basically the campaign mode, however from what I’ve seen so far, the campaigns seem to all be air-to-air combat without much of a story line, (haven’t seen any air-to-ground or boats to blow up, but I haven’t progressed too far yet – maybe some of you readers can fill in here).
  2. Survival:  Just like MSWM survival mode.
  3. VS:  Just like MSWM VS mode.
That’s it.  No new game types. Just like MSWM.  Nothing new.  

Note the fuel gauge at top of screen - if you run out, you have to pay or wait

Flight Controls:

No surprises here.  Same flying controls as MSWM including screen swipes for rolls and flips.  Z2 HAS made major changes to the Heads-Up-Display, showing energy, damage and other info in a more tight package merged towards the center of the screen.  

New limitations to your flying:
There appear to be 3 major new limitations to your flying capabilities in this game

  1. Deceleration:  You lose energy when you brake, just like you do when you accelerate.  So if you get into a circling match in VS you quickly run dry on energy if you decelerate like you would in MSWM.
  2. Fuel:  There is now a “Fuel” gauge in the game.  Translation:  If you play too much, you will run out of fuel and will have to wait or buy more fuel. 
  3. Waiting for Upgrades:  There is a new process for upgrading your planes.  At times you will have to wait anywhere from several minutes to several hours for your plane to get rebuilt and upgraded.  Oh, and this also includes advanced weapon purchases.
My only response to all this is WTF?  I really don’t understand the reasoning on these decisions.  Lets make the game such as pain to play that we’ll never want to play it?

Plane Types and Specs:

MSA has an assortment of planes, as you would expect.  You unlock the better planes as you advance levels, just like in MSWM.  They are your standard fare and will all look pretty familiar if you play MSWM although some of the paint jobs and colors have been jazzed up and are well done.   
The plane rating system has been completely revamped from MSWM.  In general, the performance parameters are slightly simpler.  Each plane has various types of ratings such as Armor, Speed, Cannon Damage, Agility, Missile Damage, Missile Lock Zone… but it appears that there are only 15 different plane performance specs along with a summary of your upgrades (compared to about 25 specs for MSWM).  It is still fairly complex to tell which planes are best, as in MSWM and would take a bit of time to rate them all in a similar manner as MSWM.    Of note, there are no classes of planes in MSA such as Weapons/Agility/Defense class.

MSWM has credits and coins.  MSA has Credits and “Insignias”.  LOL – what was wrong with just calling them coins? Planes and upgrades cost Insignias if you want to accelerate or costs credits as you reach certain levels.  So far, there are no offers for free Insignias by Tapjoy – maybe that is still in the works.  Weapons appear to only cost credits.  Example: If I want to buy the best missiles (the TT-42 Thunderbolts), they cost 2000 credits for 50.  

Weapons Types and Specs:
As mentioned, you have an assortment of cannons and missiles to pick from.  The BUILD time is unbelievable long for some of these (8 hours for the best missiles, 5 minutes for the second to bottom missiles).  I did buy some of the best missiles (TT-42) and (8 hours later) tried them out – they did seem pretty lethal (beat my opponent 5-0).

Best missile
Lower end missile

Lower end cannon

Best Cannon

Plane Upgrades:

There is one word that best describes the MSA upgrade system:  Complicated.  You can upgrade 5
different aspects of your plane:  Missile System, Cannon System, Engine System, Fuselage System and Module System.  Each of these systems have various upgrades that you can make as you advance levels.  You can also remove an upgrade and reinstall a better upgrade as you move up levels, however you cannot transfer upgrades to other planes, just like in MSWM. Most upgrades cost Insignias and they take time to “build”.

Dogfighting and Overall Game Play:
For Metalstorm Wingman, the 1 vs 1 dogfighting is what makes the game great.  Sky Gamblers is kicking its butt in pretty much everything else, but for 1 vs 1 dogfighting, MSWM still offers the best and most exciting experience in my opinion.  So needless to say, I had high expectations when playing VS mode in MSA.  I have to say that I’ve been disappointed.  Control, in general, seems a little sluggish.  The circling physics are just ok, the missile locking seems slow and cumbersome and entry grade aircraft, in general, all seem to suck.  I’ve heard that once you move up to the more advanced aircraft that the experience improves, but do I really want to pay the money to find out??  My advice to Z2 would be to make some half way decent entry level aircraft in the game to get players involved in the game.  I just don’t feel like I’ve enjoyed the game enough to invest the substantial amount of time to reach some of the higher levels or start shelling out $$ for better planes and upgrades quickly.

Also, the playing field in the game is pretty small – if you stray too far from the main area, you start getting a warning.  If you continue to stray, you blow up!  

Heh- lets check out the cool waterfall.  WARNING - It is off the playing field - turn around or you will blow up!

Overall Verdict:  

As you can see, I am not a big fan of Metalstorm Aces.  I feel that Z2 has lost the mojo of Wingman.  Metalstorm Aces is just OK.  They really are not offering anything new here to differentiate this game from the competition.

It seems to me that Z2 is trying to mix a jet fighter sim game with a strategy/resource/city building type of game where you build things and wait for them to get constructed....   I think that there are 2 very different mindsets with gamers.  Jet fighting sim gamers do not want to wait for stuff to get built, they just want to dogfight, shoot at opponents and blow up stuff for some diversionary relief.  Strategy gamers slowly want to build large cities, gather resources, etc...  I just don't think waiting for 8 hours for an upgrade or better missiles is something that dogfighters will want to do.  Anyway, thats my opinion, lets hear yours!  Comment away!

Of note, if you ARE a fan of MSA, there is a great Facebook page out there that you may want to join and check out.  It is located at:

Monday, December 10, 2012

How to Download MetalStorm: Aces if its not yet released in your country

  1. Go to your ipad/iphone  “Settings”
  2. Go to  “iTunes and App Stores”  Once there, locate your e-mail address at the top of the page and click on it. You'll then click "Sign Out" 
  3. You next need to get your ipad/ipod "thinking" that its in Canada.
  4. Go back to “iTunes and App Stores” and start to create a Canadian account.  Fill out as much as you can until you get to the screen that asks for credit card, then quit out.  You can make up whatever nonsense you want here, as long as you get to the 2nd screen, it seems that is enough to trick the device into thinking its in Canada.
  5. Go to the App Store (with no iTunes account signed in).   
  6. Do a search for Metalstorm Aces.  If it shows up, then you are setup properly.  
  7. Click to download Metalstorm Aces once you find it.
  8. At this point it will ask for you to create a new itunes ID. 
  9. Fill in the forms with an email (doesn't have to be a good one but should be).  Find a legitimate Canadian address and phone number.  Fill in all the fields and create an account.  For credit card, you SHOULD NOW be presented with an option for “none”.
  10. If you fill it in properly, you should start downloading & installing MetalStorm Aces!
  11. If this new account is created correctly, you should now have a new Canadian itunes account and should be able to download MetalStorm: Aces.   Of note, don’t forget the id & password for this new account as I’ve already had to re-use it once to load updates to the game.
  12. Once you have downloaded, you can go back and change to your normail itunes account.  The game will remain installed.
  13. Hope that this helps.  Enjoy!  
 Let me know if this doesn't work - I did it a few weeks ago now and I may have forgotten a step or two.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Review of Sky Gamblers: Storm Raiders

Sky Gamblers Storm Raiders Review
I know that this is a blog for MSWM, but I also know that many of you are interested in the latest Sky Gamblers release, so here is my review of Sky Gamblers: Storm Raiders.

Namco/Bandai/Revo has released a 3rd dogfighting game named Sky Gamblers:Storm Raiders.  This is in addition to their other offerings of Air Supremacy and Rise of Glory.  As most of you know, Air Supremacy has both modern jets with missiles along with WWII fighters.  Rise of Glory focuses on WWI bi-planes.  SGSR (as we’ll call it from now on) is strictly a WWII dogfighting game full of P-51 mustangs, Japanese Zeroes, German Stutkas along with all their relations.

Cost:  Similar to SGAS, the new SGSR costs $4.99 on the App Store.  However, similar to SGAS, once you shell out the $4.99, you really will not ever have to buy anything again if you don’t want to.   (there are some in-game purchase options to buy custom paint jobs or accelerate unlocking of planes).   This is in sharp contrast to the Metalstorm "fremium" approach where the App is free but to advance in the game you will need to pay to upgrade your plane or buy advanced weaponry which can cost upwards of $30 per plane.

Lets start with the graphics and terrain detail.  If you thought that SGAS had stunning graphics and landscapes, wait until you see SGSR.  It is simply stunning.  Canyons, bridges, mountain ridges, Pearl Harbor, and what particularly caught my attention were the villages – each house is rendered with great detail – you can barnstorm down a village street and see each door, window roof shingle and tree!  Similar to SGAS, there is also weather: haze, rain, twilight, flying through clouds. 
There has also been a real advance over SGAS in showing damage to your opponent’s plane.  You will see a burst of fire when you score some damage and then the plane will trail smoke (progressively more smoke as its damage increases).  Your own plane also shows much better damage than in SGAS.  Along with your own fire and smoke, pieces of metal from your plane will start to flutter and break off the further you get damaged.  There is also an amazing mode where you have full 360 view inside the cockpit, including a picture of your sweetheart taped to the instruments, floor pedals and cockpit frame.  This is a fascinating view which really gives you a great feel for what it really must have been like to fly these old beauties.  However, in my opinion, this is an interesting view but not one that you would want to use for a competitive game since the cockpit causes such obstructed views that it is much harder to see your opponents.
Graphics Verdict:  Similar to SGAS but bumped up to even more realism
Enough of my talk though, take a look for yourself:
Great rendering of trees, buildings and villages

Every building has detail

The tunnels rock - you can fly into them but watch out for the train!

This canyon is one of my favorite landscape features - especially dogfighting in it

The graphic detail of the towns is stunning

How low can you go!

Game Types:
SGSR is basically a complete copy of SGAS as far as game modes.  All the exact same game types exist:
Survival Mode
Free For All
Team Deathmatch
Capture the Flag
Defend the Base
Last Man Standing…

Game Type Verdict:  SGAS had really done it right with the variety of game play.  SGSR follows the blueprint exactly and you won’t see any surprises here.  The one criticism that I have is that SGAS and SGSR still do not have the quality of 1 VS 1 individual matches that you find in Metalstorm Wingman.  MSWM still reigns supreme in the up close and personal mano-v-mano versus matches (which are really the most fun for me) rather than the large group matches.

Campaigns for SGSR are modeled after real events in WWII such as Pearl Harbor and some European conflicts.  They are action packed, as are all the Sky Gambler campaigns.  You dogfight, divebomb ships, drop torpedoes on aircraft carriers and submarines and lots more.  The campaigns are so full of action and events that I’ve pondered about writing articles about them but there are just sooo many things that happen in any given campaign that it would require a book!  Thumbs up on the campaigns!!
Flight Controls:
Flight control for SGSR again is the same as SGAS.  No surprises here.  You can go full simulation, casual simulator, with or without accelerometers…

Plane Types and Specs:
SGSR has an interesting set of planes.  They all have their “real” names, I believe, unlike SGAS and MSWM with the hokey made-up names for each plane.  There are WWII fighters, “Classics” and Bombers.  Each plane has its own set of ratings similar to SGAS. 
Plane Verdict:  Similar variety as SGAS but with some nice varieties of plane types.

A wide variety of classic WWII planes are at your disposal as you unlock the levels and progress

Early model primitive "Jets" are also available

Each weapon has its own set of specs

Weapons Types and Specs:
SGSR has really taken some good steps in the weapons aspects of the game.  There are machine guns, larger cannons and bombers that drop gravity bombs and torpedoes.  There are even planes that fire unguided missiles.  There are also modes that you can pair your 2 weapons together (machine gun and cannon) to fire both at the same time and increase the damage.

Weapons Verdict:  A nice upgrade from SGAS.  Thumbs up!

Dogfighting and Overall Game Play:
Dogfighting and overall game play in SGSR is very similar to SGAS.  I have to say that I don’t see too much difference in the physics of the dogfight in this game.  I do believe that they have made improvements on number of planes visible on your screen and it can be pretty impressive, especially when multiple planes are trailing smoke.  There is also black air bursts of flack that appear from ground fire which is pretty cool.  I have yet to fly thru one so not sure if you actually get damaged from them, but it most definitely adds to the realism.  As I said though, the actual act of chasing and circling your opponent seems very similar to SGAS.
This is supposed to be battleship row in Pearl Harbor, I believe

There are options for sunrise/sunset and night fights!

Your opponents trail smoke when hit

Flack clouds add to the realism

Fighting in the canyon is awesome!

Overall Verdict:  Overall, I have to say that I love SGSR.  The graphics alone are the best out there and a million miles above Metalstorm’s latest prelim release (Metalstorm: Aces).  The actual game play is very similar to SGAS and the structure of the game is basically a copy of SGAS, but you can tell that the developers really paid attention to detail and made some thoughtful upgrades.  I thoroughly enjoy playing it.  

However, as I mentioned, similar to SGAS, SGSR still has not dethroned Metalstorm Wingman in the 1 vs 1 matches.  MSWM still has better physics in the up close and personal dogfighting arena of 1 vs 1 matches (which amazingly, they seem to have lost in their new release, Metalstorm: ACES which I will also review soon).   SGSR is not bad in vs matches, it just does not require the skill that MSWM  demands in the 1 vs 1 mode.  Besides that though, I really enjoy everything else about SGSR and have had a great time playing it!