Gunshine: Open Beta and Impressions

By Alec Meer on May 26th, 2011 at 6:01 pm.

His gun isn't *that* shiny

Social networked Diablo-with-guns thinger Gunshine was a closed beta, and now it is an open beta. NEWS. Good news, however, as it means you no longer have to beg, borrow, steal or create a complicated algorithm to illegally generate a key to get in. It’s open to any and all, so long as they’ve got a browser which supports Flash. I’ve had a quick look at it and… well, it’s not horrible. I say this with some surprise, because I’ve become accustomed to games made for the Book of Faces being pretty horrible for traditional gamers like you and I (even if they are better-suited to non-gamers). Gunshine appears, so far, to be doing the right thing – making the addition of friends and spending give you better stuff and extra clout, rather than essentially locking you out unless you cough up or wait around.

As far as I can work it out from a brief blast, you can progress simply by shooting your way through and trying to improve your gear from random loot and affording stuff in the shop, or you can short-cut to mega-wow stuff by spending real-world money on in-game diamonds. Gunshine does immediately lose a little favour in my eyes by offering a $99 diamond package for those who want to go nuts off the cuff – sure, a lot of players may spend that anyway over time, but when you make such comically large purchases so visible doesn’t it rather reveal just how mercenary the game is?

Of course, Gunshine is scarcely alone in this, and more importantly it seems happy to let me play and do my own thing, rather than finding every way it can to stop me from playing until I meet one of its demands. As a free browser game, it’s pretty decent stuff – semi-3D graphics with plenty of explosions, and real-time movement and combat. As a standalone indie thing it would probably attract a fair amount of affection, so don’t rule it out because it bears the taint of Facebook. I’m only a short way in however, so can’t promise it doesn’t devolve into restrictions and vertical difficulty spikes which all but require cash or mass friend-spamming to defeat.

What is there is a similar system to Dragon Age: Legends, wherein you need to recruit NPC companions from a roster comprised of pre-fab types and characters earned by recruiting chums to the game, but so far I haven’t found myself grinding to halt, unable to do anything unless I have (or buy) the resources to recruit more mercs. Sure, it’s tougher played solo, while you’re waiting for the mercs’ cooldowns to end and bring them back into the fray, but at least there’s a range of abilities and grenades and shuriken and whatnot to dabble in and attempt to turn things to your advantage with, rather than banging your head against a brick wall of ludicrous difficulty. Again, it’s broadly similar to DA:L but it just seems that much more forgiving, and that much more interested in being game first, moneyspinner second.

This is not to say it’s a fabulous game, but it’s the first time (outside of Bejewelled) I’ve put a reasonable amount of time into a Facebook title and not wound up feeling dirty and conned, and wishing both myself and everyone involved it in its creation would walk into a fire. It’s a reasonable transplantation of the Diablo model into tongue-in-cheek contemporary gang war, replete with quests and loot, semi-open areas and just the teensiest touch of Fallout. The combat’s perhaps a little more automated than I’d like but the look and sound is such that there’s a satisfaction from felling a hulking goon or making a dynamite-laden pig explode from afar. There’s some manner of real-time co-op and PvP in there too, though none of my usual suspects have been online to try that with as yet.

I’ll have to give this more time yet to make my mind up, but right now I’m feeling as though someone is actively seeking to make social network games into game-games, rather than simply shoving wait/spam/pay mechanics into whatever theme and structure they can lay hands on. Hopefully plenty of other devs are thinking similarly, and these Facebook games we’ve so sneered at for the last couple of years could begin to leave a better taste on our refined palates. Would I buy an upgrade item/ability in Gunshine for real cash? Now, steady on. One step at a time. I can always go back to Torchlight if this gets a bit too much. I don’t feel offended that the option’s there, though: it doesn’t nag me much, the upgrades look enticing rather than simply options to continue playing, and most of all it seems to have found a surer balance between play and revenue-making, rather than made the game itself seem like merely a facade in front of a business model.

The open beta is available here, runs in a browser via Flash, and in fact you don’t have to use Facebook to get in, if you’re one of those folks who avoids or it or recently deleted your account to prove that you’ve got a principle or think you’re too good for it or whatever. You can play the basic elements solo, no social networking required.

Anyone spent much time with the closed beta? How’s it work out over time?

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13 Comments »

  1. Ohle says:

    Thanks for the write-up, Mr. Meer! One thing I love about Gunshine (yes, in the name of disclosure I am doing PR on this one) is that you can “hire” your friends’ characters even if they’re not online. So rather than having to stay up all night trying to join some sort of raid in progress, you can just click on your friend, hire them and be playing alongside their avatar. Fun stuff.

  2. J. says:

    I played the closed beta for a grand total of about two hours. Considering that I don’t have a facebook account, the game felt a bit lacking. Soloing wasn’t fun at all. The game just played like an awkward, clunky browser-based grindfest. But maybe it’s just me – the devs just got a bunch of millions in funding or something.

    • Pointless Puppies says:

      Same here. In fact, I don’t even know why it’s being described as “Diablo-with-guns” here at RPS (both this article that the one they did for the original closed beta). It’s far more reminiscent of those dime-a-dozen free-to-play Korean MMOs in terms of game structure than it is Diablo.

  3. Premium User Badge

    SimianJim says:

    I played the closed-beta for a while, but found it very limiting when you’re not buying stuff. It was very annoying finding ‘treasure chests’ or whatever they call them, that you need to pay to be able to open.

  4. JFS says:

    Closed Beta as well, using one of those fancy RPS keys that were given out at that time… not really worth the effort. The game, I mean. RPS always is. Gunshine, on the other hand, suffers to hard from the “Log in via Facebook” syndrome as well as Morbus Browserius “social” casual game disease.

    • Ergonomic Cat says:

      Not to be overly full of snark, but I have no idea what you’re saying after the first paragraph. Is this a language of critique that I’ve not encountered before, or some history I need to study?

      It’s a click-n-loot, is why it gets the Diablo-with-Guns comparison.

      Also, if you’re trying to encourage it, calling it Rappelz-lite or some such is just mean.

    • JFS says:

      Yeah I’m sorry, I guess I shouldn’t get online after coming home from a party. All I wanted to say is that the game doesn’t stand for itself, as it utilises the “social factor” a lot. I meant that in my opinion you can’t really enjoy it without pulling all your friends in, adding in your Facebook account and generally surfing the wave of the 2010′s general browser gaming direction.

  5. GCU Speak Softly says:

    Closed beta player too. Played for a few sessions and got fed up with the ‘treasure boxes’ that you had to pay to unlock which quickly became the majority of drops.

    Grindy and unrewarding. There was also a bug when I played that reset your quest level whenever you logged out which added to the ‘meh’ factor. I’m sure those people who MyBook or YouFace will find it more appealing from the ‘social’ angle.

  6. Premium User Badge

    P7uen says:

    I hate Facebook and Facebook games. Yet I use Facebook and really want there to be a decent Facebook game. Just because I think it’s interesting/possible to do.
    Might give this a whirl, can anyone confirm if it is going to spam my friends without my knowledge, or update random stuff on my news thing whenever I find a new hat?

    • fallingmagpie says:

      So far it’s not autospammed anyone for me. You get a small popup in game when you level up or get some fancy kit, saying ‘do you want to publish this to facebook’ but you just click no and away it goes.

      There are side quests based around inviting real people to play, as you’d expect. But I’ve ignored them with no downside other than not getting the reward.

      I find it quite fun. Haven’t worked out when the mercs you can hire come back though – looks like you can hire them three times for 20 minutes each then they bugger off for a while.

  7. voidburn says:

    Technically and art wise the game is pretty impressive, I found it refreshingly polished. I loathe flash games and wish they invested their time in making this work outside the browser in full screen. Music, art and environmental lighting are very well done. Too bad that 2 minutes into the game I had already accepted and turned in 10 quests losing any interest in reading the quest text… a la WoW.

    If there is one reason I will never play this game is the absurdly overdone micro-payment model. I mean, let me open one or two of those damned treasure chests before you ask me to pour money into it.. The first one I dropped had a 19 diamonds cost for it to open, and I started out with 10… that’s against any logical demoing purpose. Show me what I can get out of my money, and then I might gamble with your treasure boxes and random drops.

    A waste of talented artists and programmers, a show of clueless, marketing influenced, design decisions. Pity, the atmosphere and overall feel of the game is superb.