Looking For Moby Dick
I’ve seen my fair share of gacha games; Hunter: Master of Arrows is just another branch of the poisonous tree that gives mobile games a bad name. Where some titles, at the very least, offer enough of an incentive to play via passable gameplay, this title barely offers that. It feels more like an experiment on how far one can take microtransactions, an attempt to catch the biggest “whales”—people who spend an exorbitant amount of money on digital goods such as loot boxes. It’s even published by WhaleApp Ltd. Oh, the irony!
Any free-to-play game worth its salt needs solid to great gameplay in order to keep players playing. That’s the definition of a successful game. Does Hunter: Master of Arrows have that? I’ll put it this way: I’ve been having a hard time staying awake.
Combat revolves entirely around movement. You don’t cast use combat skills, you don’t tap on enemies—you do nothing but move, and you never stop moving until everything is dead. Attacking enemies is done automatically and your target will almost always auto-lock to the creature closest to you. This is what I like to call “passive” gaming. You don’t play a very active role in combat, aside from positioning. And because of this hands-off approach to gameplay, there’s very little reason to progress.
With that said, skills are admittedly the best part of Hunter: Master of Arrows. Every level-up, and sometimes at the end of a round, you’re reward a single skill. Some of these skills change the way projectiles work—rather than continuing to shoot a single arrow at a time, you can equip a skill that splits each arrow into three. Additionally, each arrow can be imbued with bonus effects such as poison, freezing, critical chance and damage. I had the most fun creating different combinations based on the weapon I was using (the overpowered boomerang). Contrary to the title, it isn’t all about arrows.
You can enhance your ranged abilities further with equipment and perks such as totems. Elementals, for example, are little pets that help you out by dealing damage to monsters. Perks add permanent stat boosts to your character like increased survivability or increased damage. Thankfully, perks can be bought with gold, but the stats they raise are picked at random.
Keeping Players Leashed
Everything has been lovingly monetized to one degree or another, and I say that with a heavy dose of sarcasm. Hunter: Master of Arrows took the Raid: Shadow Legends approach to currency. There are three currency types: gold, gems and energy. Gold doesn’t buy anything but upgrades. However, in order to buy upgrades, you need scrolls specific to the items you’re upgrading (e.g. armor needs armor scrolls, weapons need weapon scrolls). You would think these just fall from the sky, but alas, they do not. But if you’re hurting for scrolls, you can buy them with premium currency or hope they drop when the game decides you’ve been a good boy. Scrolls can’t be bought with gold, unfortunately.
Gems are premium currency used for opening chests and buying large caches of gold. On occasion keys can drop, providing an alternative to using gems, but they’re few and far between. Gems, keys and scrolls are rewarded daily after playing the game for two hours, so I just let the game run in the background. Daily, weekly and monthly tasks also reward all types of currency and keys. It’s an opportunity to hoard your stash if you aren’t planning to spend money, which I don’t recommend.
Then there’s energy. What’s it for? To play the game, silly! By spending a small amount of energy, you’ll have the opportunity to run through each of the various stages. Don’t have energy to use? Tough! You can’t play then. Gating players from playing without the required amount of energy is a concept both ridiculous and questionable—a half-baked attempt at squeezing more money out of players when they eventually run out of energy. Don’t you worry though, because you can buy more with gems or watch a 30-second ad that rewards half as much and is on a three-hour cooldown or wait until energy is accumulated over time. Isn’t that great?
Everything this game has to offer is designed around stifling progression. Want to spin the Wheel of Fortune? Watch a 30-second ad. Want to open a mediocre chest—the free one? Watch another 30-second ad, then it goes on cooldown for three hours. Need scrolls? You’ll be grinding all night. Even the second boss feels intentionally hard for the sake of preventing you from progressing.
What Hunter: Master of Arms sets out to accomplish is perpetuating the idea that free-to-play games need microtransactions and gacha tactics to be successful. Look to Riot Games’ League of Legends for an excellent example of an honest free-to-play model. Rather than develop a great game for the long run, potentially building a community around it, monetization seems to be WhaleApp’s goal. Unfortunately, there isn’t a lot of solid gameplay and certainly not enough to warrant spending money on.
Not Even Close
A free-to-play game needs solid gameplay to keep players coming back. Hunter: Master of Arrows doesn’t provide anything substantial. Instead, what you get is a social experiment at how far publishers will take egregious microtransactions.