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The rules have changed: Paying for Super Monday Night Combat


As free-to-play games are constantly changing, traditional reviews can't really do them justice, so Joystiq relies on a series of unscored review diaries to record our experiences with them. Today brings part three of our Super Monday Night Combat diaries. Read part one and part two if you haven't!

With free-to-play games, the big question always boils down to, "How free is it, really?" Super Monday Night Combat is no exception. Fortunately, the folks at Uber Entertainment engineered Super Monday Night Combat so that players don't have to drop any money. To date, after over 100 hours of playtime, I've spent around 8 or 9 dollars – and they were completely unnecessary expenditures.

Gallery: Super Monday Night Combat (In-Game Purchases) | 3 Photos

Half of this money went toward costumes, and half of it went toward a limited "boost" in my combat credits – the in-game currency used to purchase certain items. The latter I didn't really need, but I was so close to completing my strategic loadout that impatience got the better of me. Shamefully, I purchased a small boost for a few dollars that would net me double combat credits for a set number of matches. You can also buy boosts that combine increased experience and credit gain. These boosts can last up to 50 matches or two weeks, depending on how much you're willing to pay.

Purchasing credits is not mandatory, though. After every match, players are awarded experience and combat credits. Combat credits can be used to purchase characters, endorsements, and products that modify skills and abilities. The rest of the store – weapons, taunts, and flair (vanity pins and mustaches) – can only be bought with actual money. Some items can be bought with combat credits, while others can be bought with either combat credits or money.

Combat credit payout is tied to performance inside of a match. Performance varies from person to person, but I found that in a very unfortunate game I'd earn around 100 credits or less. We're talking a lost match where I earned double as many deaths as kills. On a good game – having a positive K/D ratio and winning the match – I'd earn a few hundred credits. As in other MOBA titles, your first win of the day will net a special bonus to your payout at the end of the match – an incentive to play daily.

Characters can be bought with both combat credits or money, with the price being tied to a given character's difficulty of use. The Assault, SMNC's equivalent to a soldier class, is relatively cheap, because he's easy to use. The sniper, however, has a higher learning curve and is more expensive. Characters range from $2-$7 in real money, whereas the cost in credits ranges from four to ten thousand.

Costumes can only be bought with money, typically ranging from $0.99 cents to $15. Costumes tend to be highly varied and amusing for most characters – there's a Solid Snake getup, and astronaut gear, for example. Personally, I found myself purchasing a zombie costume before anything else. Gotta stand out and make a fashion statement on the battlefield, you know?

Endorsements, items that increase the performance of player attributes, can cost between 100 and 5,000 credits. Products, which bestow new abilities, cost from 2,000 to 4,500 credits. Lastly, pieces of flair cost from $0.99 to $2 but, remember, they have no in-game use other than cosmetic enhancement.

I'd say that the only "necessary" purchases are characters. Without buying a character, you're at the mercy of whatever Pros are on free rotation. Even so, the free options are ample and the weekly rotations mean that players with patience can be rewarded.

Characters are balanced in such a way that those without endorsements or products still have a fighting chance. Earlier in the beta, the menus were convoluted enough that I didn't even know how to equip anything, yet I remained a capable player. Granted, players who are fully equipped will be noticeable on the arena, but the advantages aren't overpowered in my experience.

Typically, the more powerful products are only activated under certain conditions, and mastery is required to fully take advantage of them. 'Health Inverter' for instance, transforms 12 percent of all damage back to health but only if you are under 20 percent health and over level 5. Endorsements, meanwhile, may improve some skills and abilities but worsen others. I largely felt that players that swept the floor with me did so by virtue of their skill, and not because of any unfair advantage.

Admittedly, vying to fully equip a character with items unlocked solely via freely earned credits will require a noticeable time investment. It's difficult to hold this against Uber when players can be competent without a full compliment of equipment, or without having to spend a dime. Additionally, the game will occasionally award you an item at random at the end of the match, including rare, expensive items.
The verdict, ultimately, is that Super Monday Night Combat is as free as you want it to be, so long as you're willing to invest the time. I've enjoyed the game enough thus far that I ended up spending the necessary time without even noticing it.

Later this week I'll bring it all together and wrap these diaries up with an overall assessment of Super Monday Night Combat. Make sure to check it out!
Sound fun? You can install Super Monday Night Combat on your PC via Steam right here. You can also read part one of the SMNC review diaries here.

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