As a nice surprise last week, NetherRealms Studios released the Injustice iOS game two weeks before the console release (April 16th). Is this just another blatant cash grab on the iOS? Well, that’s a bit obvious isn’t it? I suppose the question is then, does the game have any particular merit of it’s own?
Injustice: Gods Among Us for the iOS shares some traits of the regular console release — it’s a fighting game and it features DC Comics heroes and villains fighting each other. Other than featuring character models and animations from the game, the similarities pretty much end there however.
The game is part fighting game, part collectible card game, with other elements thrown in. The fights are one- on-one, but you create a team of three from the character cards you have available. Tapping and sliding your finger performs combos on your opponent, and each version of each character has 3 special attacks they can use with the various levels of their super meter. You can block by “holding two fingers” on the screen, though you will still take chip damage. I found blocking the most peculiar of the controls; it won’t detect it unless the two fingers are spread, making your thumbs the best option here. Characters will level up as they participate in fights, which increases their stats and opens up new special attacks to perform.
The first big elephant in the room is that this game is free-to-play, but has the option to purchase things as most free-to-play models do. The game thankfully limits you to purchasing coins, the game’s in-game currency, which can also be obtained from battles. You can also purchase the starter pack for $4.99, which gets you three uncommon character cards. This is a very generous boost, but you can only purchase the starter pack once.
The shop also lets you use your coins to purchase booster packs, in common, uncommon, and rare varieties, as well as individual cards. Buying booster packs is the better deal, since you get a character and two upgrade cards per pack, but they are randomized. Individual character cards can cost as much, and most times more than the booster packs they can come in, but the trade is you get a character you want. Coins are also spent on support cards, as well as upgrading your cards with stronger or more powerful abilities, and recharging energy when/if you run out of free recharges.
After level 10 or so, as enemies become more and more powerful, and can easily kill a character with limited or no upgrades with a single special attack, even if they block. This makes upgrades a must, so coins are important. The player can earn coins through completing or replaying missions. If playing without spending money is the goal, replaying the same missions over and over is the easiest, if not drollest option.
The alternative is to be incredibly clever with your team, and earn more coins by completing the newest available mission without copious amounts of grinding. Different characters have particular strengths and weaknesses, and many difficult match-ups can be solved with a little quick thinking. For instance, Lex Luthor has the ability to drain part of an enemy’s super gauge with only one bar of his own super gauge. This can prevent a brute like Bane from ripping through his armor in one massive blow if he keeps ahead of him on meter. However, this won’t work forever, as while Bane is on the field, his team on the sidelines is building meter as well, so you still have to watch for the inevitable tag out. This is pretty tricky to keep ahead of, and so grinding or paying for coins is almost inevitable.
The other big elephant in the room is the cross-promotion with the console version. Setting up a WB id will allow you to unlock content on the console version from the iOS version, and vice-versa. Honestly, this is why I was interested in it in the first place, and I’m sure plenty of others were as well. Most of the rewards are just icons and backgrounds for your multiplayer tile in the console version. The only major exceptions being Batman’s Batman Beyond skin, Harlequinn’s Arkham City skin, and Bane’s Knightfall skin. The creators were very crafty, however, as you can only purchase coins in $3, $5, $10, $20, $50, and $100 increments. $10 is enough to buy the cheapest Joker card to unlock Harlequinn’s skin, and maybe a few other cheaper cards. $20 is enough to buy Batman’s cheapest card, but not enough to buy the Joker too. Bane’s requires obtaining 30 different character cards as well, making just buying the skins incredibly expensive. This also sets up the biggest conundrum in the game, which is what to spend coins on. Save up to buy the Joker, or take a chance on getting him or Batman in the cheaper booster pack?
That describes the conundrum of the game itself really? Is it worth picking up, and if so worth spending money on? Despite the issues with blocking controls, it controls pretty well, and I would recommend the iPad version for anyone with large thumbs though, for this very reason. It can get redundant and repetitive at times though. Also, unless the developers plan on updating the cross-promotion rewards as they go, I don’t think many will stick around after they’ve unlocked everything they set out to get. Otherwise, if you need a fix before Injustice comes out next week, this will definitely keep you occupied. Since it’s free-to-play so there’s no real reason not to try it out if you’re interested.
Review based on iPhone and iPad version of the game, which was played for 7 hours in several separate play sessions.