This article is part of our Monetisation Month 2020, brought to you in partnership with AudioMob.
Welcome to The In-App Purchase Inspector– our regular look at free-to-play mobile game monetisation from the consumer's perspective.
In each instalment, we consider how well a developer has designed its in-app purchase retailing to work alongside the overall gameplay and metagame experience.
This time we're looking at Traplight Games' free-to-play strategy title Battle Legion.
More than a decade old, mobile studio Traplight Games was established in the Finnish city of Tampere and was originally better known for its user-generated content-focused racing game, Big Bang Racing. Four years on and the developer has returned with Battle Legion, which has players assembling a customised legion of fighters to take on a rotating line up of armies.
Described by Traplight as a "mass battle multiplayer spectator game", the majority of the player's time revolves around selecting fighters, levelling them up, and positioning them on the battlefield in preparation for the next onslaught. This is conducted by the user swiping their finger on the right-hand side of the screen, which subsequently spins like something from a game show before presenting the next encounter.
Naturally, a tutorial section intros the experience, with nine encounters made available to show players what they will be doing going forward. Here we are introduced to the numerous currencies within Battle Legion: Shards (Eternite), Gold, Gems, Bonus XP, and Auto-Spin Tokens. It's a lot to take on board and immediately seems overwhelming.
Shards are used for buying cosmetics, while Gold is used to upgrade characters (although, it still requires Shards too). Meanwhile, Gems allow for premium items to be purchased and to skip Wagon timers (essentially loot boxes), Bonus XP provides more experience points upon success in battles, and Auto-Spin Tokens will keep fights ongoing without any input until the next milestone or reward is reached. Basically, you arrange your squad, send them off into battle, and leave the game running until the next achievement is unlocked.
On top of this, there's a Season Pass available to pick up for £4.99 ($4.99), which with each victory earns more XP and pushes towards the next rank, as well as daily bonuses for further XP and rewards.
There's clearly more to unlock further down the line too, with the introduction of Powerstones after a fighter reaches level four. From the approximately three to four hours I spent with Battle Legion, the different number of currencies felt unnecessary and could have been slimmed down for ease and simplicity.
It's curious whether the number of currencies available was implemented to make players think they always have something at their disposal. However, it's worth noting that Battle Legion is a slow game - at least from its first few hours. Simple ranking up of units is strenuous, seemingly trying to incentivise the exchange of real money for extra Gold just to make the whole ordeal faster.
Battles can't be skipped or fast-forwarded whatsoever (even if you make a mistake) meaning all you can do is wait. The Auto-Spin Tokens help to move things along a bit quicker, but increasingly result in defeat due to a lack of upgrades. Multiple strategies were tried and tested to ensure a victory, yet the outcome still resulted in another spin of the wheel... or battlefield.
Another avenue for monetisation arrives in the form of optional rewarded ads. These are actually reasonably generous, with three accessible to watch every six hours, from extended ads that you can skip after five seconds to longer 30-second ads that are non-skippable.
On the other hand, notifications feel the opposite, and immediately become intrusive - after reaching rank two, the offers begin to appear in their droves. Starter Packs, Welcome Packs, Season Packs, thanks for turning on the game packs, can you leave me alone packs? It's very excessive and become more common once the initial introduction has ended.
The aforementioned Wagons that act as loot boxes in-game can be unlocked either by spending Gems or by waiting via a timer. Of course, Gems can be spent to remove the timer and open the four-wheeled vehicle to grant the goodies, but it still feels part of the overall nature of Battle Legion to slow down the player from progressing and give into the monetisation mechanics just to speed up the gameplay.
Battle Legion has an overwhelming number of currencies which is hindered by its slow gameplay that quietly urges players to spend more to get ahead, though with what's on offer there's no reason why you would want to.
Monetisation Month is brought to you in partnership with AudioMob. Find out how rewarded audio can help you monetise your games better - get in touch!