Angry Birds 2 iOS Review
Even though a lot of people were more than happy to say a huge number of things – both good and bad – about the original Angry Birds, it was a game that never got much emotion out of me. It was neither the most impressive mobile game I’d seen, nor was it the harbinger of the gaming apocalypse some believed it to be. It was simply a good time waster to have at hand. It was a mindless game to play when waiting. Whether it be waiting in a car, waiting at the doctors, or waiting for a TV show to start, Angry Birds was there the few times I needed it. Then, when something moderately more important would happen, I would not give the game a second thought for the day.
Angry Birds 2 succeeds where the original failed, as it at least made me care. It actually made me feel intense emotion. Sadly, those could be best described as various forms of sadness, hatred and anger.
If you don’t already know, unlike its numerical predecessor, AB2 is billed as a Free to Play game – and this is where all its problems stem from. Stem is too kind of a word to be honest, as it reminds me of bright beautiful flowers. What we have here is more like an annoying persistent weed. How AB2 has chosen to monetize directly causes parts of the game to become substantially less enjoyable, and that is a massive issue. It uses all the tricks F2P games are renowned for – recharging timers, recharging lives, and in-game currency. As I have said in the past, F2P is not inherently a bad thing. Depending on how companies arrange their internal knobs and levers, some games can become compelling, and even fun to play. What I usually watch out for is how long a F2P game takes to start throwing up roadblocks to halt advancement, and how annoying it is to remove them. AB2 almost instantly fails at both of these tests.
If you bested one of the more challenging levels in the first game, you usually just scraped by – and at times that could be satisfying. All of this goes out the window this time round. Instead of hand-built levels, the game now uses an RNG system to offer different layouts every time you load/retry a level. The system alters both bird lineup and tower design. As any Angry Bird aficionado will tell you, different birds have different skills, so this new setup means if you luck into the right set of birds versus the right tower players can nab an easy win. However, the opposite happens more than you’d expect for a totally random choice. Whereas the original usually felt like it was giving players just enough tools to get the job done, AB2 constantly feels like it is giving far too little. Player’s are now regularly asked to swim against the current in constant hope they luck into one-upping the system.
The annoyances grow. With the randomness in play, sometimes beating levels feel like an impossibility. Now let’s add in the fact the game has a timed lives system (30 minutes per new life), and things get bothersome. If you regularly come up against sets of towers you cannot topple, your lives will tick down until you have none. You are then left to sit looking at a countdown, unable to play. Of course, Rovio would rather players buy crystals, and exchange them instantly to get more lives. Let’s not beat around the bush here, AB2 is despicably built in hope players fail, and go on to spend money. In game, there are more ways to spend crystals (read: money) to try and nudge the odds in your favor. If you almost beat a level, but just fall short, you can spend some crystals to unlock a new set of birds to attack the remaining remnants with.
At least there are no adverts plastered all over the game. Instead players are enticed to optionally watch 30-second video clips in return for one extra bird, or one extra life. However, the amount of times you can do this is limited. Also worth noting is that the game now has spells. Spells are limited but very powerful. They can deal huge damage to a level if used correctly. Whilst spells initially look like a clever addition, like everything else their inclusion is tainted. Everything about AB2’s difficulty seems tailored into coaxing players to use up their free spell allocation early, so they might end up buying more down the line. One final note is that levels in AB2 are now multi-tier. You no longer knock over a single tower to beat a level. You have to knock over two, three, and sometimes four in succession. Run out of birds, patience, spells, crystals and/or money on the last leg, and back you go to tier one to start again.
In F2P games I will happily hand over some cash if a game makes me believe that it will somehow make the game better. I find Coin Doublers are an efficient way to hand over a small amount of money to developers as a thank you for a job well done. All transactions in AB2 are simply there to remove the multiple annoyances put before you. I will not pay solely to get the crap you artificially put in my way out of my way, and damn you for putting it there in the first place.
All of the above is made even worse when you realise gameplay in AB2 is an improvement over its many predecessors. The simple act of blowing up structures has never looked and felt as good. The visual fidelity, and overall presentation of AB2 is strides above what came before from the company. “Much more expressive pigs” might be a stupid phrase, but it is yet another improvement on show. Looking at fiendish pigs, seeing their eyes dart back and forth, and watching them gasp as you fire your bird from your catapult makes the zgame feel much more alive. Whirring fans and colourful portals now litter the playfield to direct your birds into and around as you aim at the swines. There are now infrequent boss fights too, which are basically pigs with a bigger health bar. Gameplaywise, there are a few moments when everything comes together, you hit the right block on the right tower causing a Rube Goldberg machine-like series of explosions as everything around you falls, pigs explode, and you feel a few seconds of actual joy. Sadly, joy is not something that comes around too often whilst playing AB2. The usual internal feeling is a knot in your stomach as you see your hobby twisted and exploited by businessmen to make a quick buck.
I have no idea how the development of this game progressed, but based solely on my time with it, I have made up a narrative in my head. There are obviously some highly talented people working at Rovio, as AB2 can play great, sound great, and look fantastic. I applaud all these people for what they’ve done. However, I feel like their work was callously undermined by higher-ups at the company. Their decisions make AB2 the perfect example of how F2P can ruin something that could have been great. Angry Birds 2 is not only pay to win, it regularly borders on being pay to simply advance.
Greed is rotting away the core of Angry Birds 2. Where as the original organically grew into a huge money spinner, everything about AB2 seems like a vile cash-grab right from the start. Sure, companies have the right to make money – they need it to continue making games afterall – so I really should have no issue as Rovio does its damndest to get its slice of the pie. However, business decisions are at the forefront of every move this game makes, and that feels wrong.
The Wolf of Wall Street paints a friendlier picture of people obsessed with money than what I’ve seen here. At least Leonardo DiCaprio’s greed was openly apparent in that film. Rovio hides their unending asshole tendencies behind the guise of vividly coloured adorable avians, in hope the majority won’t notice the atrocities unfolding behind a horribly stained curtain. Angry Birds is no longer the ultimate time waster, it now feels like a soulless service built solely to harvest money, and is happy to screw its players in as many ways possible to get it.