Triad Wars isn’t the Sleeping Dogs sequel you’ve been dreaming about, but it is another heaping dose of brutal martial arts action from one of the most refreshing open-world action games of 2012. United Front Games have re-purposed their familiar Hong Kong streets and engaging combat mechanics from Sleeping Dogs for an asynchronous multiplayer experience that differentiates itself by implementing the one thing that instantaneously appalls many gamers: free-to-play mechanics.
Triad Wars’ amalgamation of brutal combat and F2P mechanics begins as you choose from one of three different gang factions: the Shing Wo, Sun On Yee, and the 18k. Each gang possesses their own unique characteristics that influence how you choose to build your empire in the game’s turf manager. This allows players to establish a variety of rackets like extortion and laundering while upgrading their operations to produce income for their empire
After establishing a base of operations, players venture onto the vibrant streets of Hong Kong, which will be familiar to anyone that logged significant time with Sleeping Dogs. See, Triad Wars recycles those same assets from Sleeping Dogs while scattering various activities across the map to bring some semblance of change to your surroundings. As you put in work to upgrade your turf’s operations, however, it is hard to miss the fact that you have been dropped straight into the middle of three-year-old assets.
Triad Wars’ approach of recycling content from Sleeping Dogs is certainly disappointing, but it is probably one of the reasons that Triad Wars even exists as a F2P game. Since the primary development of Triad Wars avoids implementing fresh animations or combat dynamics, there have been ample opportunities for United Front Games to implement F2P mechanics that complement the gameplay structure of Triad Wars‘ open-world action. The only problem is that without creating unique assets for combat, animation, and the environment, it’s hard to imagine that Triad Wars can develop a unique identity that truly differentiates itself from Sleeping Dogs.
In order to expand your empire, players must conduct raids on their rivals. These rather deplorable foes are other players in the Triad Wars universe but they never actually populate your world. So, in order to complicate matters of rising to the top of the ranks, favor cards can be activated to help aid you for a limited time. Utilizing favor cards grants a range of defensive and offensive opportunities that can give you enforcers that protect your empire from raids with increased defense, more bodyguards and weaponry, or even grant you total immunity from rivals for a certain period of time.
Conducting a raid on a rival’s turf becomes a complex operation when the enemy has activated favor cards of their own. This brings a fine strategic layer over the core mechanics of Sleeping Dogs and because the game is asynchronous, it never overwhelms the multiplayer experience.
Although, if you do fail a raid or die, it won’t result from your lack of desire to fork over real world cash. It will, however, result in an automatic failure if you run out of time. So, planning your attacks becomes an interesting exercise in strategy. Should you fail a raid, your character loses Face to your rival. Gaining, or losing, Face is an important aspect of the game’s structure because it serves as a baseline leveling system that allows you to purchase new upgrades and expansions for your turf.
Before setting out to attack another player, you should weaken their turf by purchasing Intel and completing a set of three different operations to grant yourself additional bonus time for when you finally initiate the raid. Expect to boost and deliver cars, drop a few gang members, or collect a favor from a snitch by beating him senseless. Landing a flurry of punches center mass on a helpless thug and then slamming his face into the spinning fan blades of an air conditioner still manages to satisfy. The visceral brutality of Sleeping Dogs’ combat is alive and well in Triad Wars, but veterans of the franchise will be disappointed to discover that this old dog hasn’t really learned any new tricks.
United Front Games should let the combat of Sleeping Dogs evolve rather than stagnate in a puddle of free-to-play cash grabs. Luckily, the team already mentioned plans of implementing various fighting styles into the game via favor cards, which provide unique bonus activated for a set period of time. The brevity of favors provide an incentive to drop cash on the various purchasable packs in the store, but United Front Games is doing a solid job ensuring that the game never forces you to pay. There is a balance that surely encourages you to spend money, as all F2P games do, but you won’t be missing out on the core experience if you choose to never open your wallet.
Triad Wars’ F2P model never interferes with your ability to develop your empire, either. This is important because it allows you to focus on playing the game. You know how you’ve been cracking skulls and rib cages in order to build a stronger empire and expand your rackets? Well, all that work increasing the amount of cash you accumulate can be pushed further by converting your fat cash stack into Triad Wars’ most valuable currency: gold. Yes, gold is what you use to purchase clothing for your avatar, vehicles, weapons and favors to aid you on your quest for dominance.
Gaining massive amounts of income, in combination with your increasing Face, provides your empire with a higher conversion rate of cash into gold. The conversion process takes twenty-four hours, so being able to increase the amount of gold you can convert at once is certainly what drives the F2P ecosystem of the game. The longer you can stay in the game, the faster you’ll build your empire, and if you’ve already taken out the raids for this session, maybe, just maybe you’ll spend money to buy a favor card that resets your rivals.
Since Triad Wars relies on the casual nature of F2P games, its persistent world capitalizes on that gnawing desire to log in daily and complete raids, manage your rackets and spend your hard earned cash. Triad Wars appeals to those same desires that any addicting F2P game does (I’m looking at you, Candy Crush and Clash of Clans). Logging in briefly makes it hard to deny how Sleeping Dogs’ combat and F2P mechanics are blending so well.
Triad Wars provides an intriguing variation of a familiar experience, but it will be hard for fans of Sleeping Dogs to fully invest without adding more than just a new layer of F2P mechanics. Luckily, Triad Wars is still in closed beta and with plenty of development time ahead of United Front Games, it stands as a solid foundation waiting to be cultivated into an empire of its own. With a little bit of luck, that future will include significant updates to the core combat systems, animations, and environments that made Sleeping Dogs stand out three years ago.
If Triad Wars peaks your interest, be sure to register for the closed beta and make your own informed decision. Or, you can just take my word for it. Triad Wars is the beginning of a brutal F2P empire. Sure, it won’t ever be the sequel to Sleeping Dogs that the world desires, but it is the sort-of prequel that you probably never knew you wanted.
And prequels aren’t that bad, right?