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Freemium Field Test: Lara Croft: Relic Run is flashy, fun, and free

Andrew Hayward | June 30, 2015
Free-to-play games often look appealing, but it's difficult to know at a glance whether the business model is insidious and fun ruining, or reasonable and worth pumping a few bucks into. With Freemium Field Test, we'll take a recent free-to-play iOS game, put it through its paces, and let you know if it's really worth your time (and money).

Still, the frequent cut-scenes and busy, winding environments make it tricky to see the hazards ahead of you at times--I certainly died a few times due to not having a clear look at danger on the horizon. Given that, it can be tough to build a rhythm in Relic Run, but the game is pretty generous with its free continues--up to a point. Trying to string together an especially long run may tempt you to spend a little money, and Relic Run is happy to oblige. 

The catch 

Relic Run doesn't have any freemium barriers that block continual play: There's no energy meter, and you won't even see ads pop up without your consent. You can play as often as you'd like without paying, and that's great. But as with many other free-to-play genre entries, Relic Run offers opportunities to spend big to enhance Croft's abilities and arsenal. 

Coins and gems are the two currency types found in Relic Run, with coins found constantly throughout the stages and gems rarely appearing at all. It's no surprise, then, that the best of the upgrades can only be purchased with the latter, which can be bought in large bundles ranging from $1 (100 gems) to $50 (12,000 gems). Coins are also sold in similarly priced bundles--1,000 coins for $1 to 120,000 for $50--but you'll snag a fair amount of them simply by playing the game. 

Lara's advanced outfits--which offer a higher score multiplier and have other small perks during gameplay (like making enemies weaker)--are the most tempting gems-only purchases in the store. And if you want to set the highest scores, you'll want to grab at least one of those outfits. However, if you wish not to bother with currency conversions, the store also sells content bundles for straight cash. You can get all four fully upgraded outfits for $12, all weapons unlocked and upgraded for $15, and all upgraded power-ups for $20.

That's a lot of money to spend on perks in an iPhone game, especially when the superb recent Tomb Raider reboot for Mac is just $16 on the Mac App Store--an absolute steal for a game of that scale and quality. By comparison, Lara Croft: Relic Run delivers quick bursts of polished fun, but I wouldn't invest heavily in it. 

I spent $5 on a pack of gems to purchase and upgrade one of the costumes, as well as buy some additional continues. That seems like a reasonable amount to spend if you're playing regularly and want a small boost. (But then I spent another $5 on more gems to unlock the desert level right away. That's probably pushing it.)


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