Ace of Spades Early Access
By Darren Henderson (DizzyPW), OnRPG Editor-in-Chief
Hello gamers with a knack for creativity and demolition. Look at Minecraft. Now back at Call of Duty. Look at your dusty Legos. Now Repulse’s Zombie Mode. Now name a title that combines all this goodness in a solid, fun, addicting package. Can’t? I can. It’s Ace of Spades, published by Jagex, and it’s coming to Steam to bring your Minecraft Shooter dreams to the next level.
So what differentiates this game from its peers? The class system was the first piece thrown in my face from the get-go that made me scratch my head. See they have four classes but two of them can be categorized as fighters while the other two are more akin to builders. While the immediate thought is to just run and gun with the physical prowess and firepower offered by the two fighter classes, the modes that give you a set period of time prior to the fighting starting to build very much favor the builder classes and their ability to quickly set-up/destroy structures to create defensive fortifications that may tip the scales in your favor. Of course there is also the tactic of starting off with all builders and then swapping to all fighters, but let's break down what each class does so you have a better understanding of the potential strategies involved in Ace of Spades.
The Soldier is your tanky front-line teammate, packing a punch with powerful rifles, hardy armor, and high hp. When the only way in is through, this class will hold it down and pave a path of destruction through well-fortified enemy positions. They also carry potentially the most devastating weapon in the game, a mini-railgun that takes a few moments to warm up and then turns whatever it's facing into swiss cheese.
The Scout offers the fastest movement and longest jumps, allowing them to specialize in recon and quickly identifying weaknesses in the enemy's position. If you're being pummeled by enemy snipers, scouts are your best bet to rush in and take them out faster than your enemy can react. However you'll have to stay on your toes as they have low hp and limited digging capability. They specialize in a rapid fire SMG for run and gun gameplay.
The Engineer forms the brunt of your defensive line or tactical mastermind of any major fortress raid. Not only do they excel at digging quickly but can set up turrets in key positions to mow down large numbers of enemies in a flash. These turrets currently must be manned but they are considering making them automated before launch. They can also set up some wicked traps with proximity mines placed on seemingly open holes in your defenses (pro tip - you can dig a small hole, place the mine, then place a block on top of it so the enemy won't know it's there until it's too late!). If using an engineer offensively, a few cleverly placed dynamite packs can level entire walls and bring your foes' perfect sanctuary down on top of their heads. They are slow and lack some of the stronger weapons of their peers and should be escorted whenever leaving their base. Though if you get stuck in tight corridors with one watch out as their shotgun and grenades pack a punch.
The Miner is to utility what the soldier is to heavy combat. While the Engineer can dig 2 blocks at a time, the miner can dig 18, allowing for on the fly tunnel creation to take your enemies completely by surprise when their floor suddenly drops out from under them. These slow moving fighters only have a rifle at their command should combat arise, but are worth at least keeping one around on the field due to their tunneling gun. This bad boy flies a long distance taking out blocks in a 9 block diameter, ideal for taking out primary support pillars or cutting off enemy troops by destroying bridges when it simply isn't an option to get an engineer's dynamite in position. It can also provide some unique escape route tactics should you need to get your group out of a bad position asap.
Movement is incredibly fluid and characters feel quite balanced even in this early stage of beta testing. I really liked how far the characters could jump and how fast they could run as it really makes for some fast-paced action in a title that you might think is more focused on building. Though the building itself is incredibly fun and offers plenty of customization of block color and lighting effects to make some pieces of art. Hopefully not long after launch we will see an editor introduced to allow players to build their own maps, though the current maps are quite varied and fun.
Each class has specific premade structures that they can quickly place on the fly such as bunkers, walls, and platforms that adds a real-time element to building defensive structures in the middle of a gun fight. It was also incredibly entertaining messing with the game's physics (and the hilarious impact it had on other players). Taking out the trunk of a tree that a sniper is hiding on to watch him fall from his perch was a crowd favorite. I also had the pleasure of building a sniper tower as high as a map would allow only to have a miner take out the base and watch me fall a good 12 seconds to my eventual death. Weapons are well balanced with the stronger weapons suffering from heavy recoil to ensure that any class can hold their own against each other. The ability to switch classes on the fly adds quite a bit of strategic value to the longer matches.
Some of the maps also have special features such as lower gravity on the moon level or capturable points for. Unfortunately the bomb the enemy's base and king of the hill modes weren't available for the demo but will be by launch. Though by far the most entertaining of the special modes was the haunted mansion zombie map in which one player starts as a zombie that can run faster and take more hits than normal players. They then attempt to convert the rest of the players to zombies as the time ticks down from 5 minutes. In our multiple playthroughs we saw everything from soldiers forming a pentagon formation and holding off zombies from all directions to miners digging deep into the ground to hide from the zombies until time ran out. Though the majority of the time the zombies would win out in the end, it was truly a great map to test not only your FPS skills but also your creative defense through environment alteration. The few times we had survives usually revolved around hiding in high towers and destroying the stairs/bridges leading to them. While the zombies can dig and find ways through the walls to overcome this tactic, it costs precious time that sometimes is all that's required for the survivors to win.
With a Steam launch date of December, players looking to get their minecraft shooter fix won't have to wait much longer. Promises of player ranking, constant dev updates, and a solid core game have me quite excited to share this title with my friends for some quick fun gameplay. Rumors of a possible persistent world that players can build, destroy, and fight for control over had me the most anxious for this game to launch. Honesty when your game looks like Legos it doesn't take long to develop extremely fun new possibilities as Jagex has always successfully banked on in the past. Keep an eye out for our full review of Ace of Spades come its December launch!