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Chris Stead, Finder's game expert here. I've been covering video games since the mid-90s, and I've turned all that experience towards providing honest feedback on NFT and P2E gameplay.
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Ever heard of the God Game genre? It's a category of video games that place the player in the role of a god: no pressure. Leaning on pillars from management, simulation and strategy genres, these games tend to see you nurture and grow the plebs in your world through divine intervention. Succeed and you'll create a thriving ecosystem; fail and it's Armageddon for all.
Those with long memories will remember the God Game first gaining mainstream acclaim on the back of Populous in 1989. Published by Bullfrog Productions, it was the brainchild of legendary developer Peter Molyneux. It would not be his only entry in the genre, with Dungeon Keeper, Godus and Black & White coming in later years.
(He is even working on an NFT God Game of his own at the moment called Legacy!)
Other notable entries in this genre include SimEarth, Afterlife, Viva Piñata, Spore and From Dust, but in truth it's never been an over-populated category. Why? It's a tricky genre to get right, requiring precise balance, advanced AI and extraordinary attention to detail.
Into this space steps Hong Kong developer Foonie Magus with its NFT game, Apeiron. The Greek word for unlimited, boundless, infinite or indefinite is an apt title for a God Game. But will the end result be worthy of the name?
Chris Stead, Finder's game expert here. I've been covering video games since the mid-90s, and I've turned all that experience towards providing honest feedback on NFT and P2E gameplay.
Apeiron is scheduled to launch in Q4 2022. This follows an Alpha in Q2 and a closed Beta in Q3 2022.
The God Game traditionally exists on PC and Mac thanks to its relatively complex interface, which benefits from a keyboard and mouse. However, given Foonie Magus' history in mobile gaming, it may end up on Android and iOS in the future as well.
This oddly named developer is based out of Hong Kong and was founded in September 2020. However, it's a sister studio to Aither Entertainment, which has been around since June 2016. They share the same founders.
Aither is focused on strategy games, led by the Acid Rain series, whereas Foonie Magus appears to be a blockchain-focused arm that counts Apeiron as its first title. The developer's website talks of a dedication to the metaverse and a belief that P2E games will change the world.
The good news is that Aither is a developer that is front facing, with people who definitely exist and have experience making and deploying games, albeit in the mobile space. Indeed, CTO Gem Ng claims to have launched "over 100 titles at least".
While it markets itself as a God Game, that's only really telling half the story. The game certainly begins within this genre. Initially, when you buy a randomly generated planet – either directly or from another player – your soul inhabits the world's Eden. This makes you the god of that planet.
Its sentient citizens are called Doods, which look a little like featureless minions running about. These Doods will pray to you, wishing for divine intervention on everything from water to drink, fire to cook food, rain to grow crops and so forth. Your goal is to serve (or not) their prayers by unleashing Miracles, while enabling the growth of their civilization.
The more Doods who worship you, the stronger you get, and the more you can do with the Miracles you bestow upon the world.
Early footage shows you wielding your god powers as a giant hand, reaching into the planet to interact with it. While you don't actively control the Doods' behaviour, the AI will see their civilization react dynamically to your Godly intervention, expanding as it is empowered.
Terraforming the land, playing with the weather and bringing forth key elements allow you to get more loyal Dood followers. Fulfilling or failing their prayers will determine how good or evil you are as a god – a morality mechanic that is perhaps the most overt nod to the genre-defining works of Molyneux.
Once you've gained enough followers, your soul will manifest in the world as a unique NFT avatar. The unique look and ability set bestowed upon them is defined by how far either side of the good versus evil see-saw you landed, as well as the planet's randomly generated attributes. From there though, the game goes in a completely new direction.
Once your Planetary Avatar has entered the world, an action-RPG experience is unlocked. Each planet has a dungeon associated with it, called a Dirac Sea. Think of it as Dante's Inferno, filled with trapped souls. In it you will hack and slash your way through swathes of corrupted creatures.
You won't be alone, accompanied by Apostle Squads, which are effectively Doods that have grown into hero status. These sections are focused on combat, but also have puzzle gameplay, too.
This part of the game ties into an overarching story that connects the many planets and stars in the Axis Mundi galaxy together. That is the battle between the Cosmos and Chaos, which the players will ultimately decide. The onset of an infection known as the Taint of Chaos is the cause of this battle. As it disperses through the galaxy, it produces these enemies, which come in the form of corrupted old Gods, tainted Doods called Boods, and Chaos avatars.
Early footage shows an interesting combat system. While your avatar can move and attack freely, your Apostle Squad enters a small dungeon battlefield and auto fights the approaching enemies without your direct control. But in real time you can unleash powers and abilities. These powers are "played" in the form of Skill Cards, which also seem to have some sort of mana cost associated with them.
Once played, a Skill Card is replaced by another card from your pack, so you need to adapt your battle strategy on the fly.
This intriguing mix of real-time combat with turn-based strategy mechanics means you have an active role in battle tactics, without micromanaging every attack. At a glance, it looks like a really fun system.
The incentive to engage in these battles is to acquire item NFTs by clearing dungeons and finding more Apostle Doods to join in the battles. Acquired Dood NFTs gain in power the deeper you get into dungeons, differing in their classes, weapons, skills and body parts. Helping to clear the galaxy of Chaos will also reward you with Anima tokens.
One thing is for sure, you can't fault Foonie Magnus for its ambition and vision. This broad mix of gameplay experiences is as vast as space itself. But surely this action-RPG experience will be a phase 2, not available during the initial launch.
The end game is quite intriguing, too. Once you've attracted as many Doods as your planet allows, expanding their civilization to its maximum potential, where to next? Obviously, you can then start battling away in dungeons and building your squad and inventory there. But that will also cap out.
You can, at this point, start taking your Apostle Squad into battle against other players. This is where the PVP component of the game comes into play. This side of the game seems as if it will be a likely phase 3 addition.
Initially you're encouraged to nuke the joint – bring about Armageddon and burn the entire planet and everything into the ground. This may seem counter-productive, but making this move is how you truly level-up your godliness, and gain tons of new resources.
Armageddon effectively resets your world, but you're a more powerful God on the next run through. This is a mechanic similar to what we see in roguelikes. But don't worry, the NFTs you acquire in that time are not necessarily destroyed as you can spend tokens to carry them across to the next world as Relics.
The new planet will also be randomly recreated, so it's not the exact same experience on each run. Plus, with each Armageddon, the depths of the associated Dirac Sea dungeon – which is also procedurally generated – increases, giving you a chance to reach and rescue the souls of more powerful Apostle Doods.
As you progress through the loop of building, fighting and destroying, you'll earn more tokens. Eventually the impetus will be to find new resources by acquiring (or breeding) new planets altogether.
This is getting way down the roadmap, but the goal is to see players expand from this starting galaxy to new galaxies. Like the universe itself, Apeiron is endless. For those that make it all the way, huge PvE raid style encounters are promised, as well as "top-tier PvP arena combat" and even guild-on-guild wars.
The PvP will unfold in the Galactic Arena, consisting of 1v1 battles between players for a place on the leaderboard. The higher your rank, the more your rewards.
As every planet is an NFT in Apeiron, they can be bred. Obviously, I don't mean that in the David Attenborough context, but in the climate of an NFT game. A player who owns 2 NFT planets can combine them in a holy event called a Celestial Conjunction, producing a third new NFT planet.
It's unclear as of the time of writing if the 2 original planets will be burned in the process, but I suspect that is the case. Given you can bring Armageddon down on your planet in order to level up, clearly the developer will encourage burning of NFTs to maintain market pressure. There will also be a token cost to initiate at a Celestial Conjunction.
While initial Primeval Planets have randomly generated attributes and elemental allegiances, bred plants have traits majority earned from the parents. If players breed planets of likeminded elemental attributes, they have a chance of creating a Primal Planet, which is strongly tied to that element.
Breeding is not the only way planets are burned. Planets will age in real time, with the older planets getting better access to rare Relics and Planetary Wonders. Ageing starts slow, but gets faster as the planet ages, encouraging in-game staking. If you want, you can burn one planet to pass on its age to another, increasing its ability to access rarer NFTs. This process is called Chronomerging.
Yes, there is. It comes in the form of Seed Planets, which will be granted to early subscribers. These are non-transferable, so are not NFTs that can be sold into the marketplace.
However, what's interesting is that you will still be able to level-up to a point where you can summon an Avatar, and then use that Avatar to battle through dungeons to acquire Apostle Doods. These will be NFTs that you can sell on the marketplace. So, you can start with nothing and grind to something of value without investing.
It's not clear if you will earn any of the in-game tokens if you are using a Seed Planet. I suspect not. However, what we do know is that you'll quickly tap out on how much levelling you can accomplish for your god before you need additional planets. This is effectively the FTP ceiling.
As you've no doubt gleaned already, the main NFT in this game is the planets. However, they are not the only NFT. Players can also buy Stars, around which planets can orbit. Stars are similar to the idea of owning land in other NFT games, and will bestow upon their owners a passive income derived from those players who have rented an orbital track around it.
A Star has attributes that will bestow bonuses on the planets orbiting it in return.
When you manifest in your planet as an avatar, it becomes an NFT, too – as do discovered Apostle Doods, planetary wonders (which are either built by your Doods or randomly spawned on your planet) and special items discovered in dungeons. These will all be defined as Relics once you've brought about Armageddon on your planet – at a cost – but will still retain their utility and value.
What I don't like is that you have to continually do this. So, an NFT doesn't remain a Relic if it's brought back into the next playthrough. If re-engaged with the game, it loses its Relic status. You'll need to pay again to make it a Relic before the next Armageddon. This feels like a money grab, but may at least drive a very active marketplace and less HODL.
You can also improve the base stats of your Apostle Doods via a Holy Ritual. This has been largely left unexplained, but I suspect – like a Celestial Conjunction – the Holy Ritual will require you to burn tokens.
I can only assume, since NFTs can be sold on the marketplace, that you'll be able to summon Avatars into your world early if you pre-purchase one from another player. But this isn't clear in the documentation.
Foonie Magnus will run Apeiron using 3 tokens, which adds a bit of complexity to the tokenomics. As we see with many play-to-earn games, there is the token you earn through play, which is Anima. Then you have a governance token in Apeiros, which allows you to stake your place in the ecosystem and decision making. But unusually, there is also a third token.
It's called Ringularity and is described as a "premium alliance token". Apparently, it plays a role in the social aspects of the experience, and will come into play during the end game. From what I can see, this would tie into guild play, in both PvE and PvP battles. But I would suggest it will be a fair way down the roadmap before we see it in action.
It's Aperios and Anima that you'll be using to buy NFTs from the marketplace. However, the developer has also flagged they will be required to not just breed planets, but also to convert NFTs to Relics prior to an Armageddon event.
As mentioned, there is a free-to-play experience in Apeiron that allows players to just jump in and grind their way into the ecosystem. But there will also be a rental market as well. Owners of planets can set up a revenue share smart contract with scholars, allowing both parties to earn from any tokens generated through the length of the rental agreement.
It's worth noting that scholars will be able to level-up via Armageddons during their time with a planet, but not engage in any breeding or burning of the planet itself. What's unclear is who gets ownership of NFTs earned during the playthrough. As there is a cost of converting an item, wonder or Dood into an NFT, it'll be very interesting to see who gets first bite at it – owner or renter?
There's so much going on with Apeiron I wonder if Foonie Magus has said too much, too soon. I understand that there is a need for a detailed roadmap in the invest first, play later P2E space. But such is the scope of what is being attempted by Apeiron, I wonder if they'll ever get there.
Has the developer bitten off more than it can chew trying to sell players a god game, an action-RPG, a rougelike, multiple NFT types and 3 tokens, all at once?
I will say that the roadmap does seem very well thought out, and it says a lot that the team behind Apeiron has previous success in deploying games. We've also seen gameplay footage already that looks really quite great. If the experience continues to progress from the foundations we've already seen, the experience should be a lot of fun.
The layer upon layer upon layer of burning, minting, staking, breeding, burning again, with all the different nibbles at your token supply in between, makes it hard to judge if the economy will feel organic, or like a constant cash grab. Fingers crossed it's the former.
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