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Freemium Field Test: Angry Birds Fight is a truly puzzling turn for the series

Andrew Hayward | July 8, 2015
Free-to-play games often look appealing, but it's difficult to know at a glance whether the business model is insidious and fun ruining, or reasonable and worth pumping a few bucks into. With Freemium Field Test, we'll take a recent free-to-play iOS game, put it through its paces, and let you know if it's really worth your time (and money).

And Angry Birds Fight sure likes to match you up against higher-level players who will crush you with ease, with your quick puzzle-swiping performance playing what feels like a very small role in the outcome. No doubt, that makes the in-app purchases a lot more appealing, as they're the surest way to have a fighting chance in combat. 

The catch

Gems are the primary and premium currency here, and they are unbelievably expensive. I can't remember the last time I was so taken aback by the lacking value of an in-app purchase once I knew what it got you.

Angry Birds Fight awards a gem here or there as you progress through the various missions and boss battles, and collecting five of them lets you have a pull of the slot machine. The typical gear you earn from defeating opponents is rarely all that beneficial, but the stuff you get from the slot machine is often amazingly powerful or protective, giving you a big leg up in battle. But the free gems come very slowly, and players willing to open their wallets wide can pay for a big advantage. 

And I do mean wide: A pack of five gems--just five--costs $4. You'll pay four American dollars to play a digital slot game once and earn a random accessory for your cartoon bird warrior. Pricier gem bundles offer some small level of savings, but not much: 10 gems costs $7, a 30 pack is $18, and it goes all the way up to 140 gems for $75. Angry Birds Fight says you're saving 46-percent over the single gem price of $1 in the largest bundle, but those gems do not go far no matter how you stack it.

I snagged the 10-pack to gain a couple of extra slot machine pulls, and sure enough, the gear I won easily outclassed whatever I'd been using before. There's an obvious benefit to spending money in Angry Birds Fight, but little in the way of resulting satisfaction. The puzzle gameplay is shortchanged by the emphasis on speed and inability to think out moves, while the battles feel meaningless and randomly decided. Yes, you will win more if you pay to use the slot machine, but why bother?

Rovio likes to stack freemium elements, so it's little surprise that Fight has not one, but two different energy systems. The birds' energy bar loses one of six notches after each fight, while your ship--used for occasional monster battles, which have the same kind of pairing of puzzling and watching--has its own three-part meter.

Play for a decent stretch of time and Angry Birds Fight will start asking for gems to refill your meters--otherwise, you wait. Fight also lets you watch video ads to earn a mysterious stat boost in battle, in case the game wasn't freemium enough for you.


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