Ace of Spades mixes construction and destruction, building and blasting, being a multiplayer FPS that draws its very blocky inspiration from Minecraft. Steve first dug into this for us back in November and described a game where, sadly, the construction aspect was a little redundant beyond the game’s zombie mode. That same month, I tried a little Spading myself and found that, outside of the high-bandwidth security offered by a LAN, all the destructible terrain made play a little laggy.
Since then, the game has received two major updates which have included changes to the netcode and, let me tell you, Ace of Spades is coming along nicely.
As well as a smoother playing experience, I’ve seen players making a more constructive contribution to the game, quite literally. The Capture the Flag mode, which Steve didn’t have a chance to try, is particularly suited to players throwing up improvised barricades and, in one game I played, trying to outright encase the flag in stone, burying under what must’ve been tonnes and tonnes of blocks. It’s a valid tactic and demands your enemy to attack in force with backpacks full of explosives if they want to succeed, something that almost creates in-game set pieces when a host of enemy troops arrive.
In the same way, I’ve found that tearing down scenery also serves a purpose beyond the simple thrill of destruction. On one map, called Dragon Island, my team found defending a lot easier once they’d torn down the bridge that had been providing easy access almost straight to the heart our base. It was a lovely bridge, I’ll concede, but needs must in times of war.
Players are beginning to make better use of the game’s capacity for building things up and tearing them down again, not least because there are simply more players out there trying more things. Back in November, playing online meant joining servers that were often half-empty, but now dozens of European servers are hosting hundreds of players even in the middle of the day. With more people involved in more games, players are starting to get a handle on what does and doesn’t work. Tactics and strategies are starting to emerge and we’re beginning to see more coherent and, I’ve got to say, much more exciting games. Crafty players mine item spawns, while resourceful engineers team up to dig enormous, map-length tunnels to the enemy base.
Best of all, there are many more maps and game modes in rotation compared to when I last played and kept finding myself bouncing my way around the moon again and again. Across several additional maps, Ace of Spades now offers me a zombie horde mode, a demolition mode, team deathmatch, the control point capture mode that is “multi-hill” and a diamond mining mode, which has you digging away for gems and trying to lug the things back home for points.
That said, there’s a few features that I’m desperate for the game to promote or improve upon. There’s still a little bit of lag in the netcode, with players sometimes jumping from spot to spot in game, and mouse control also needs to be smoothed, as it’s presently very jerky and precise aiming is practically impossible. Trying a “Ranked Match” from the game’s main menu, I landed right in the middle of a pixellated (and quite charming) map of London, playing in diamond mining mode, only to find that nobody else was around. And never has been since. With nobody else joining ranked matches, how can I prove my superiority?
Then there’s the mapmaking, which seems to have been sidelined. Those who have been following Ace of Spades for a while might also be familiar with some of the custom maps that are out there, and may well have downloaded an earlier version of the game that came with a map editor. Well, unless I’m missing something, I can’t find a map editor included as part of the Steam copy I have and I’ve instead gone hunting for mapmaking resources.
The game has tremendous potential for mapmaking and customisation and back in November designers Jagex ran a mapmaking competition, but custom content doesn’t seem to be receiving much emphasis right now and I don’t see any servers running custom maps online. Still it looks like Jagex are considering making use of the Steam Workshop, which could really expand the scope of the game.
Most importantly, amongst the trio of Minecraft-style shooters that include Guncraft and the cutesy Brick Force, Ace of Spades is simply the best right now. It’s building a community, it’s growing its potential and it’s becoming a slicker, sleeker gaming experience. It will be the block blaster to watch this year.