Here’s our concern with freemium games: Over the last few years, the gameplay in freemium games has gotten much better, from clicking and waiting in Farmville to running and shooting in Eliminate Pro, Gun Bros, and now Six-Guns. But while the gameplay has improved, these freemium games consistently leave out the stories, characters, and variety that we associate with top-tier games.
Six-Guns is set in the old West, an open-world environment filled with dry mesas and dotted with farms. However, there’s no story to introduce the main character, and his “quest” seems to be little more than to level up, unlock new weapons, and replay the same few types of missions.
Six-Guns is best when you play it in small doses. Each mission takes just a few seconds to find– just open up your minimap, select a scene, and fast-travel on over. Then you’re instantly dropped into a showdown with gunslingers, an underground jailbreak, a horse race, or another similar scenario. It doesn’t matter why vampires are invading the farm, or who the damsel in distress is– these are just arenas for you to level up your cowboy skills.
There aren’t even any ghosts in this ghost town.
The ability to fast-travel to different activities makes Six-Guns ideal for short, frequent bursts of gaming, but it also leaves us wondering why Gameloft bothered to construct a larger game world as well. Activities in the outside world usually involve hunting for collectible items, or destroying all the Indian dreamcatchers hung around the environment. There aren’t very many NPCs to talk to, and the world feels strangely empty as a result.
It seems that Six-Guns could have been a much more detailed, deeper game, with a main character that we actually cared about. But jumping from scene to scene, with no rhyme or reason, left us feeling confused and bored by the eventual predictability.
Six-Guns does offer a lot of replay value, in that you can replay each mission dozens of times. Each time, your task will be a bit harder, and enemies can take and dish out a lot more damage. But the environments will always stay the same, so you’ll end up leading prisoners through the same catacombs again and again.
Covering the entire experience is a user interface that feels like it’s designed mainly to make money for Gameloft, and not for the convenience of the player. When you’re low on health, a prompt to trade premium currency for health potions appears on the screen– and doesn’t go away until you die or beat the current mission. After every mission, you’re greeted with the same request to turn on push notifications, and you won’t be able to store more than a few items or ammo boxes before being asked to buy a larger knapsack.
Reach for the sky!
Sure, it’s a free game– but that shouldn’t mean playing Six-Guns should be an irritating experience. Despite the great graphics, it’s hard to get lost in this game the way we got lost in Gameloft’s Modern Combat 3 or NOVA 2, mainly because of the constant requests to pay more money for a health potion or box of ammo. The careful elements of game design, like where to place the power-ups, are replaced with constant reminders about in-app purchases.
Maybe someday we’ll get to play the game we imagine Six-Guns was meant to be– an open-world cowboy game that combines Red Dead Redemption with an original storyline, retrofitted for mobile touchscreen devices. Instead, it feels like a loosely-connected series of cowboy training missions, not an alternate world where you can step into someone else’s dusty boots.