Capitals - Free Word Battle (Free) by NimbleBit LLC is a new turn-based word game with the added element of strategy and board game mixed in. If you enjoy both word and strategy games, then this is like a match made in heaven. It’s like Letterpress merged together with Kindo.
On my iPhone, one of my favorite ways to pass the time is through a word game. Ever since Words with Friends, it seems that turn-based word games online has been a rising trend, though it has definitely slowed down a bit in recent years. As a person who writes for a living, I get a lot of enjoyment out of word games, even though I seem to lose more games than win when it comes to playing with others. Still, I play the games to have fun and maybe learn some new words, so I always jump in on the latest word game. When I heard that NimbleBit was coming out with a word game, I was intrigued due to the interesting hexagonal board layout and the conquering concept, with neither of these being done in word games before. Now that it’s available to the masses, does it live up to the hype?
Visually, Capitals is beautiful due to the flat aesthetic that has been a popular rising trend in terms of design lately. If you’re a fan of this kind of look, then you will love Capitals. The colors of the game are nice, with a bright white background that makes the player tiles stand out due to contrast. The animations when tiles get taken over and new letters pop up on the board are smooth and fluid, and the sound effects are bubbly and charming.
There are two different ways to play a game in Capitals: Game Center for friends or auto-matches, and single device pass-and-play. While the meat of the game is in the online play, there’s a huge flaw in the system: NimbleBits decided to go with an energy system, and it’s somewhat stingy.
You start out with three hearts, and starting a multiplayer game takes up one heart. While the hearts refill over time, the timer for one heart is way too long for what it is — in one hour, you can only start three games before you have to wait again. However, you can keep playing moves in a match without using up hearts. You can refill all of your lives for $0.99, increase the lives to five for $4.99, or get infinite lives for $24.99. You can also customize your player icon, but for the full customization experience, you need to pony up $2.99 to save a basic color with an icon glyph on top.
While I dislike freemium games with a passion, I don’t mind too much if the energy system is fairly reasonable. However, I think $25 for infinite lives in a word game is a bit much. Most games these days will offer limit-free play for maybe five dollars, tops. I hope that they can reconsider the pricing on their energy system, or at least give us more lives to start out with. Not to mention it’s silly to charge $3 for just making an icon to represent you in the game.
Going back to the gameplay, Capitals takes place on an oddly shaped board that gets filled up with hexagonal tiles. At the start, there will only be two small areas in the upper left and bottom right, and these represent the territory of each player. To expand your area, just spell words and begin to spread your color on the board. To spell words, you can choose any letter tile that is available, even if it’s on your opponent’s side. However, your territory will expand only if you include tiles that touch or lead back to your own capital. After each turn, more letter tiles get added to the board, opening up new possibilities. The first player to capture their opponent’s capital will win the game.
Capitals also has support for statistics, in case you wondered how many total games you’ve played or won are, and what your longest word was. There’s also Game Center achievements, and you can log in to your Facebook account to find friends to play against.
I had played Capitals for a while during the beta testing phase, and I loved it in the beginning. But then I saw that they incorporated an energy system, and my heart began to sink. Now that it’s out for the public, I am disappointed to see how they restrict capital customization and give you so few lives to start with, in an attempt to coerce you into buying more. It’s a shame, really, because I love the gameplay itself, as it is a nice differentiation from the other turn-based word games out there.
Capitals is just another example of a great game that can be flawed with an annoying freemium model.
If you still want to check out Capitals for yourself, it’s available on the App Store as a universal download for free with in-app purchases.