When it comes to the big question of whether in-app purchases are good or bad for iOS gaming, opinions are mixed. Many argue that IAPs are not a bad thing, and if you don’t care for the title you are not forced to spend money. On the other side of the argument, some see IAPs as an egregious attempt to make a quick buck. I’m stuck somewhere in the middle.
In a game you like, spending a few dollars on IAPs usually isn’t a bad decision. We can’t expect to play games for free and get the full-experience in return. It comes down to the simple idea that developers need money to make games, and if they don’t bring in dollars they won’t be able to make more games or support their existing ones. IAPs aren’t always welcome, but they’re fine when they’re done right.
Why the tangent on IAPs in a review of Iron Force? Because Iron Force is nothing but in-app purchases. The game is so IAP-dependent it took me a week to play 50 short matches. Playing matches is dependent on a gas tank (akin to CSR Racing) with each tank of gas allowing you to play three matches– approximately ten minutes of gameplay. Once your tank is empty, you have to wait 30 minutes for a complete refill or use 10 diamonds ($1 worth) to refill automatically. I’m not a math wiz, but that breaks down to 30 minutes of actual gameplay for every two hours or $12 worth of diamonds for two hours of gameplay. You do earn diamonds while playing, but they accumulate very slowly: After 50 matches I had 13 diamonds.
To simply review a game based on stats and figures isn’t completely fair. I paid $15 for the PS Vita version of Limbo and beat it in three hours. I don’t have any regrets because the experience was so immersive and enjoyable that price per hour didn’t matter. Unfortunately, Iron Force is not so immersive or enjoyable. It’s bland and boring. The four maps are small squares with inconsequential buildings. A firefight between tanks turns into whoever fires first wins. There is virtually no strategy– even hiding behind a building will leave you susceptible to rockets. Attempting to evade the gunfire is futile, because your tank moves at a snail’s pace and fires at even slower rate.
Iron Force is obviously a game about tanks and as expected there are tanks to choose from although I use the word “choose” liberally, because there really isn’t much choice. It takes diamonds to get access to all but one of the tanks. Prices range from 20 diamonds ($2) to 1,000 diamonds ($75, but currently $50 with a bonus promo). That’s right, $50 for one tank. That amount of money doesn’t even give you unlimited gameplay.
There are opportunities to earn cash, which does allow you to buy one tank, but the cash is primarily used to upgrade tanks. Upgrades via cash come rather easy, but without diamonds you’ll have to wait up to three hours for these upgrades to take place. I upgraded all features of my tank and could barely notice a difference. Upgrades were even more negligible when competing against top-tier tanks, making the $50 tank almost a must to be truly competitive.
Iron Force is a game that is mired with gameplay issues, but these issues are trumped by an offensive in-app purchase system. Expecting gamers to pay $12 for two hours of bland gameplay and then $50 for a tank is not going to win many arguments in support of in-app purchase in iOS games.