Today I have some updated impressions of Kingdom Hearts Unchain X, referred to hereafter as KHUX, (pronounce that any way you like). Though I’ve not finished the game, I do think I now have a good feeling for it as a whole and can make a fair valuation. Also, KHUX doesn’t really have an end, as new missions and events are added to it regularly. My earlier impressions of the game, which were published last month, can be read here. While KHUX is a fairly good game, many of my updated impressions on it are negative. I was willing to give KHUX a pass on its shortcomings in the early days of my playing it, but the more time I put into it the more its flaws stand out.
As of the time of publishing I am on story mission 335, but the story itself has not progressed significantly since the publishing of my previous writing piece on this game. You travel back and forth across a small number of Disney worlds battling back the Heartless, but only a few things of importance have happened so far. Maybe I have misplaced expectations for what I should get story-wise out of a mobile game, but I’m unsatisfied with how little story I’ve gotten. Kingdom Hearts games are known for their narrative, convoluted as it may be, so to see a game with the Kingdom Hearts name attached to it delivering such a shallow story is all the more disappointing.
Because there’s so little story, the 335 main missions I’ve played so far have been mostly me playing the same small maps over and over again, but with slightly altered objectives. KHUX is generally fun, but nowhere nearly fun enough to justify the sheer amount of grinding the game forces on you. If it felt like the grinding was getting me somewhere within a reasonable amount of time I would be willing to overlook this problem, but given the paper-thin story I already mentioned, I instead seem to be getting nowhere fast.
KHUX also doesn’t do the best job of explaining how everything in the game works. While much of the game is simple and east to understand, there are a number of important things the game either tells you rather late or not at all. Before playing KHUX I would suggest quickly reading through a guide so that you don’t make any dumb, irreversible mistakes, like selling a Cid medal because you weren’t sure what it was for.
The last thing I want to discuss with regards to KHUX, and this is going to be the main focus of this post, is its free-to-play nature. Being free-to-play is not an inherently a bad thing, and I personally have nothing against free-to-play games, but as I’ve had time to think over how KHUX works I understand more and more how the game is designed to incentivize the player to pay money for it. Everything in KHUX is centered around jewels, the primary currency of the game. You earn a slow but steady supply of jewels as you play the main story missions of the game, but many of the game systems of KHUX are structured in such away as to deplete your stock of jewels and encourage you to buy more using real money. The most obvious example of this is with the medals you attach to your Keyblade to increase its power and give your character various special attacks. While you can just work with the various medals you acquire over the course of playing missions, the best medals in the game come from purchasing medal packs, which normally cost 1,000 jewels or more. Another method of depleting your jewels is with the AP system. Each mission you play costs a certain amount of AP, and after playing multiple missions in a row you’ll run out of it. You recharge AP at the rate of one point every three minutes, a rate slow enough that a player’s impatience can easily get the best of him, and if you don’t want to wait you can spend 100 jewels to fully recharge your AP. Similarly, in most missions in KHUX losing all your health is not an automatic game-over, but instead you have the choice of either returning to the mission select screen, and thus lose anything you had already gained in the mission, or you can drop 100 jewels to fully restore your character’s health bar and special attack gauge and keep going with the mission. The way KHUX preys on player impatience, though, might best be exemplified in the game’s special missions. These special missions are be played to earn important things like Evolve Medals and Keyblade strengthening materials, but each special mission is only available on a certain day of the week. You can wait for that day to come, or you can spend some real money and unlock all of the special missions for a full week. In today’s society of short patience and even shorter attention spans, I could see a decent number of players opting for the faster options in KHUX by paying rather than waiting.
Having said all that, I completely understand why KHUX is structured the way it is. The people who made the game need a way to get paid for their work and in KHUX they’ve created a clever method of extracting funds from players. If anything, I have to commend them for their shrewdness and understanding of human psychology.
|Spending 100 jewels once is not big deal, but repeated purchases quickly add up|
Despite the somewhat insidious nature of its free-to-play design, I would still recommend KHUX to any fans of the Kingdom Hearts series. While the game does try its best to get you to spend real money on it, if you’re patient you can still play it and enjoy it, all without paying a cent. I personally have spent a grand total of $0.00 on KHUX, keeping to my commitment of not spending any money on mobile games. With my upcoming move next week I am hoping to get back into the groove or regularly playing and writing about console games, so this will likely be my last post on KHUX, but I may still play it from time to time.