Although it may seem an expensive game, it is actually a relatively cheap way to get involved in NFT investments
Axie Infinity, inspired by Pokémon, has grown to become the number one non-fungal game, or NFT, in the Ethereum blockchain, with over 7,000 active monthly users in the chain.
This week saw the launch of its $2.97 million Axie Infinity Shards (AXS) governance token sale at Binance Launchpad, so Cointelegraph went deep and tested the game to see what all the fuss was about.
Choose your Axies
To start, you need at least three Axies. These are the creatures you will collect and use in PvE (player versus environment) and PvP (player versus player) battles during the game.
The cheapest individual Axies available on the market at the moment cost the equivalent of just over $20 Ethereum ( ETH ). This means that you currently need to spend as much to play Axie Infinity as you would to buy a state-of-the-art console game.
Keep in mind that the attributes of your Axies also mean the difference between winning and losing battles, so you will almost certainly not want to buy just the cheapest you can find.
Now you may be thinking, „who in their right mind would spend over $70 on a game of Pokémon that is not famous?
However, this may not be a totally fair comparison. After all, you don’t have the opportunity to potentially make a living playing Pokémon.
Pay to win to win
Instead, Axie Infinity belongs to a new generation of games that was only possible with blockchain technology. These combine elements of Pay to Win (or perhaps more generously, Invest to Win) and Play to Win, which I am officially coining through this document, Pay to Win, or P2W2E.
In many ways, these games have more in common with investment in Bitcoin News Trader than, say, the latest Call of Duty blockbuster.
Your initial investment buys a ticket to a world where your own time, skill and effort can influence its value, rather than the whims of traditional cryptomorph markets. This is an attractive proposition for many players.
Those who are only interested in playing may prefer to wait for the full launch, which will also include a free-to-play mode. Funds raised during the sale of tokens will be used to develop the game from its current alpha state for a conventional release in 2021.
Developer Sky Mavis kindly donated three Axies so I could test the game. This covered each of three main functions: a tank to absorb the blows, a fighter to cause serious damage, and an agile Axie for fast attacks.
Let’s take a closer look
This is where it gets a little more complicated.
Each Axie belongs to one of six classes (plus three so-called secret classes). They are divided equally to (approximately) correspond to each of the functions mentioned above. These then follow a kind of rock-paper-scissors scenario where each function is strong against one and weak against the other.
In addition, each Axie has six body parts, which can also be one of the six classes. The combination of these body parts determines the general statistics of Axie and which cards he will have available to play in battle.
You will find that „purer“ Axies are often preferred, as skills and statistics tend to accumulate, creating stronger „experts“ rather than generalists.
Forward into battle
This section will focus mainly on the PvP element of the game, as it is where most of the skill and action is. The PvE adventure follows the same (ish) battle format, although it basically results in tripping levels to overcome increasingly difficult AI opponents.
At the start of a battle, your brave three-Axies team, armed with only three energy points and six playing cards, takes on the opponent’s team equipped in a similar way.
Each turn allows you to spend energy points playing cards. Most of them require one energy point to play, but some require more and some are totally free. You only get two new energy points and three new cards each turn, so use them wisely.
The cards have a defensive and offensive score, along with additional effects such as healing, buff and energy. They can come into play if certain other parameters are met, such as combos, buffs and last positions.
The order of play is determined by the speed statistics of the Axies, and the target of each card is usually the Axie closest to the attacker. However, these two things can change with the application of certain card effects.
Like many of the best games, the mechanics is easy to understand but difficult to master.
Victory is … very difficult, in fact!
After warming up by beating some AI villains in PvE, I decided to dip my toe in the PvP arena.
Although by no means completely useless, my donated AI (and my ability to manipulate them) were no match for the thoroughbred (and proprietary) creatures I faced in battle.
Time after time, the proverbial backs of my Axies were returned to them on a virtual plate. More discouraging, it seemed that each team I faced was faster (so I went first), stronger (so I could receive/deal more life points) and had more energy (so I played more cards).
After a lot of perseverance, however, I managed to win a few rounds. I would love to believe that this was due to the development of my mastery of the game, but to be honest, it was probably due to some rookie colleagues.
I’m in the mood for love
Winning battles gives you Small Love Potions, or SLP s, which are necessary to create new Axies.
Each Axie can cross at most 7 times, with an increasing number of love potions needed for each subsequent procreation attempt.
Virgin Axies (like mine) require only 100 SLPs to procreate, while the seventh son (or daughter if you prefer) of an Axie costs 1,300 SLPs. Please note that this is done per parent, and you need two parents to tango, so to speak.
The shape of the resulting Axie bundle of joy will be determined by the genetics of the parents, who have dominant, recessive and minor genes for every part of the body.
I accomplished the mission of breeding at least once and after about 5 hours of playing for two days (getting my daily task right twice), I got the 200 SLP I needed and 43 extras for good luck.
Then I read this guide about breeding and quickly decided against it.
If I didn’t feel bad enough holding creatures (although virtual) hostage and making them fight each other for money, giving in to what was basically equivalent to eugenics was a step I wasn’t willing to take.
Gaining a crust
Fortunately, small love potions can also be exchanged for free at Uniswap. The 243 SLP I currently earn is worth about $7 (although prices skyrocketed a few days ago, which would have yielded $20).
Similarly, I could simply swallow my pride (and most of my virtual moral values) and use the SLP to create the Axies I have, selling the perfectly imperfect offspring for a minimum of $20.
Split between my five hours of play, that’s $4 an hour. Not a scary salary in the United States and Western Europe, but still quite respectable in many countries, and an absolute fortune in parts of the developing world.
This is something genuinely incredible and a literal turn of events. Forget about sponsoring a goat to a needy family at Christmas. Buy some Axies! Together with a cheap Android smartphone, the disadvantaged can now become totally self-sufficient.
[NB: the game is also available on Windows, Mac and iOS devices]
Axie Infinity is the most curious thing, as it seems the beginning of a truly new paradigm.
The gameplay won’t surprise you, but there’s certainly enough fun to be had. And the deeper into strategies and tactics you go, the more addicted you can become. The game is still in alpha and there are new elements still in development, like land ownership.
My experience was a bit frustrating at times, but I wasn’t really playing with the spirit I intended. Also, the cards are still being balanced at the alpha stage, so it should be easier for beginners (at least those who are prepared to invest a little money) to start with balance.
A message on the Discord channel of the game suggested that $200 was needed to make the game really fun. I would say that an initial investment can be about half of that if you are prepared to work a little more.
The fact that even my few hours of groping in a bunch of battles produced a rather decent and surprising return.
More investment, research, and skill can generate big profits. The most expensive Axie sold so far was sold for 200 ETH ($75,000), but there are some listed in the market for over $1 million.
Blockchain games are growing, and Axie Infinity gives us a tempting glimpse into what it can become.
It may not be the game that brings hardcore players to blockchain, but it certainly does a great job in making investing in encryption and NFT fun.