The mobile game that came, saw and conquered my wallet

Recently, I have been borderline — actually a lot — obsessed with a game called Marvel Future Fight, produced by South Korean game-maker Netmarble. Usually, my interest in mobile games is fleeting, and the longest I have devoted to a game  before this was probably a month or two, when the Pokemon Go craze was still around. My preference have always been computer games, from the olde days of Counter-Strike, Diablo and Warcraft 3. But I digress.

Marvel Future Fight is a mix of player-vs-environment (PvE) and player-vs-player (PvP), where you go through a series of story missions, special missions and boss battles to recruit heroes to your team. At any point, you can do battle with three heroes in a tag team format.

I discovered the game in 2015 and lost interest after a brief period of playing because a) I wasn’t patient enough to understand how the game worked; b) I was more interested in Hearthstone (which is still fantastic, by the way). About six months ago, I was bored enough to give the game another try and can’t seem to leave it behind. Like all other mobile games, this has an in-app store where you can buy power-ups, energy stacks, crystals and gold coins — it’s pretty dangerous because it can suck you into spending a ridiculous amount of money in quick succession without even realising it. There is, however, a perk. The more money you spend, the higher your VIP level increases and once you hit VIP level 10, the daily rewards are really good, especially if you are a committed gamer.

This is what my team of recruited heroes look like: overall, I managed to recruit 98 out of 116 heroes in the six months that I’ve been playing. To acquire a hero, you need something called biometrics, bios for short. Once you have enough bios to recruit your hero, you do three things: you level her up (max. 60), you increase her rank (6 golden stars) and then her mastery level (6 red stars). Following that, you upgrade the hero’s gear levels — which determines how much damage they can deal, how well they can withstand attacks, their skill cooldown levels, recovery rate etc. Once you have maxed out your hero’s gear levels (max. 20), you can then advance her to a Tier 2 character  — the ones with the yellow-and-gray border and blue circle in the picture above. There is an obvious short-cut to the hard work and grind needed in order to achieve Tier 2 with a character; you can buy a mega advancement ticket from the store but that’ll set you back a $100. And I am absolutely guilty of having done this on two occasions. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Let’s talk characters. My favourite? Doctor Strange. Why? Because he is, without a doubt, the most overpowered character in this game. At his full mastery level — which is ridiculously hard to achieve — he can deal out an insane amount of damage and he has a skill that renders him invincible for a few seconds while dealing a really high burst DPS. Once you maximise his gears to level 20, skills (max. level 6) and ISO-8, and have the new uniform from the Doctor Strange film, then you’re pretty much all set. I use Doctor Strange to solo the high level gameplays that deal out large amount of XPs (needed to level up) and in the other two slots, I put the relatively new, low-level characters. The result? They can level up from say Level 1 to Level 45 within a minute.

But acquiring his character is ridiculously tough. Unlike other characters, Doctor Strange is a native Tier 2 character from the moment you acquire him and his base level is 10. To get him to six star mastery level, you need complete about 40 odd missions. The premise starts like this: “Doctor Strange as been critically injured in the ambush on the Sanctum Sanctorum. We need to help him recover.” It took me the better part of six months to complete the missions because some of them require a lot of grind in order to acquire the materials needed. But the end result is always worth it.

ISO-8 is interesting. There’s a whole backstory that is explained when you start the game and make your way through the early storylines. You collect these through various missions, and from very generous gifts from Netmarble from time-to-time, and roll what is called an ISO Set Bonus. Depending on the combination you receive — Power of Angry Hulk is one of the best attack sets according to people on Reddit —, your character gets additional power-ups. Comic cards are another way to add to your characters’ stats. You collect various levels of comic cards and combine them to achieve the maximum six star level that adds things like extra energy attack, dodge, defense penetration etc. Obviously, as you can see above, my Doctor Strange is nowhere near as good as what others have already accomplished — it’s still a work-in-progress for mine but the delight in playing him is tremendous. Most of the time his skills don’t make sense to me; I just press buttons randomly and watch him decimate everyone in most PvP and PvE battles.

Let’s talk about what I really like about this game: first, as a staunch Marvel fan, this game appeals to me on a very fundamental level. Who wouldn’t want to abandon their adult responsibilities and immerse in this fantastical role playing marvel (pun excused) at least a few hours everyday? Rhetorical question aside, the content of this game is pretty darn good. I am not sure what kind of licensing agreement they have with Marvel, Marvel Studios et al, but by the looks of it, it’s pretty extensive.

Many of the characters get uniform upgrades, often based on the latest Marvel films. For example, my Captain America and Iron Man both have the latest Civil War uniforms, while you can see Doctor Strange’s uniform is the one from the movie. Visual appeal aside, the uniforms also boost character stats, though not very extensively.

Content and gameplay makes or breaks a game for me. Take Pokemon Go for example; my interest in the game died pretty fast because the game involves catching a set variety of Pokemon. Even though the makers recently introduced more Pokemon types, the basic gameplay hasn’t changed. Marvel Future Fight, on the other hand, has more than 10 different types of gameplays split between PvP and PvE modes and a ton of accompanying storylines to go with them.

For example, my favourite bits of the game are taking out Thanos and his Black Order in daily boss battles. There are two ways of doing it: you go solo in what is called World Boss Raid, where you line up three main characters and six support characters to take on Proxima Midnight, Black Dwarf, Corvus Glaive, Ebony Maw, Supergiant and Thanos himself (in normal and Infinity mode). Or, if your characters aren’t advanced enough, you team up with other players in World Boss Invasion: your characters are automatically upgraded to their highest levels (skills/gears/rank/mastery/tier) and together you attempt to defeat the World Boss du jour.

With most updates, they also add new characters and new character uniforms. The latest addition to the game was Kid Kaiju from the Monsters Unleashed special. And boy is he fun to play! In the update before that, they introduced Dormammu, who I think comes a close second to Doctor Strange for being an overpowered character. The game also gives out very generous rewards every day you log into the game; plus on special occasions they will have additional rewards each day. Oh you can also join Alliances where you get additions boosts to your character stats, some rewards and participate in Alliance Battle.

Overall, this is a pretty darn good game. Hopefully it’ll stay this way for the immediate future, although my bank balance might weep in a corner. ¬_¬


Yer a wizard, Harry!

Last Sunday, I visited a small Harry Potter exhibition at the Philatelic museum. The exhibits were collectibles loaned from dedicated Potterheads and other enthusiasts.

Anyone who is remotely familiar with my interests know Harry Potter features near the top 3. Always. The books were a huge influence in shaping my reading habits and approach towards literature – particularly the science fiction and fantasy genre – when I was growing up.

At the entrance to the exhibit, which was contained within this tiny room.

There were themes in each of the seven books any teenager in the noughties could relate to – dealing with bullies, having a choice in life, nurturing friendships, being humble, coping with death and most of all, as cliched as this sounds, the importance of love.

My introduction to the series came in 2001, when someone bought me a copy of the “Prisoner of Azkaban.” Beginning in the middle of the series, I wanted to know who was Harry Potter, why was he so special among wizards, why was he living with the vile Dursleys, why was Sirius Black jailed if he didn’t kill Harry’s parents. More importantly, why were James and Lily Potter killed? Quidditch, I thought, was the coolest made-up sport ever.

I worked my way through the book in two days and immediately went in search for more at our local library. (e-books at that time were something that happened on Star Trek, probably.) When I was caught up with the “Philosopher’s Stone” and the “Chamber of Secrets,” the waiting game for the next instalment began.

“Half Blood Prince” is my favourite book because it builds up wonderfully to the finale everyone knew was coming in the final instalment. It does so by taking the focus away from Harry for a change and sheds light on Voldemort, the Black family and Snape. While waiting for “Deathly Hallows” to be released, I spent many hours over at the Leaky Cauldron message boards debating about Snape’s motives for killing Dumbledore, who was R.A.B (totally called this one), and which were the other Horcruxes? 

Musings aside, this was also a good opportunity to bring my new Canon 80D out on a field test. The exhibit was in low-light condition, which allowed for plenty of tinkering with the settings. I like to shoot RAW in manual mode because that’s the best way to learn, even though many people swear by the aperture priority mode.

The manual mode constantly makes you calculate and re-calculate your settings before you hit the shutter. You become more familiar with how aperture, ISO and shutter speed affect your picture in various light conditions.

The lens I used was the EF-S17-55mm f/2.8 IS USM, which is pretty decent for close-ups. The 80D has a APS-C sensor, which doesn’t as well as a full frame sensor in low light conditions, but it gets the job done without breaking the bank!

Few weeks ago, I took the camera out to the WTA Finals, which was another good environment to shoot in, given lighting and distance from the court. That’s for another time.

Dismal year for blogging

This is my first blog post of 2016 and it would suffice to say this had been a terrible year in keeping up with blogging commitments.

Looking at my scribbled blog topics I had put down in a diary at the start of the year, I grossly overestimated my plans – to post at least once a week, if not more. It amused me this evening when I logged onto the blog for the first time in several months to see the site still gets a handful of odd visitors here and there.

The genius of blogging topics is that they are rarely outdated – except for the one elaborate draft that is sitting on this blog titled “2015 year in review.” With less than eight weeks to go till this year finishes, I will strive to check off at least some of the topics I had planned to muse on.

The year so far had been eventful and interesting – two safe choices of words to protect against offending the sensibilities of the internet! From a working perspective, I have finished my first full year in journalism where I saw and wrote about several epic stock market sell-offs, made my first overseas trip to Hong Kong to attend a technology/start-up conference and began to dabble more into technology news reporting and writing.

On the flip side, I had planned an elaborate 15D/14N family trip to Norway to take in the breath-taking views of the fjords and watch the ‘Midnight Sun’ from the charming Lofoten Islands and spend three-days on board one of the Hurtigruten coastal vessels. The plans did not materialise after my mother’s health took a trip south. (She is all healed-up now but was asked to exercise extreme caution by her doctor to avoid injuring her back once more.) My next aim? Bring the folks to Northern Norway (Tromso and up) and the Finnish Laplands to enjoy the Aurora Borealis – in sub-zero temperatures! Because who can resist the dancing charm of the Northern Lights, eh?

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