Dark or Light

From Casual to Whale: 5 Key Lessons from Spending in AFK Journey

Steven Weber Updated: Posted:
Editorials 0

Over the past decade there has been a paradigm shift in the way game companies have monetized their games. From the days of simple subscriptions to cash shops, we’ve now hit upon a sect of gaming where cash is not only king, but it completely segregates the haves and have-nots in distinct ways that you never really understand until you’ve experienced both sides of the coin. Over the past several weeks I’ve decided to go all-in and see how far spending could take me, and what I learned were lessons that are in stark contrast to what most players experience.

I’ve always believed that spending a little money on a game you enjoy is warranted if it brings you joy. I’ve spent many hours in games like Genshin Impact, Honkai Star Rail, Marvel Future Revolution and my latest jump into the hero collector pool, AFK Journey. I’ve spent some money on each of these games, traditionally sticking to time-based unlocks such as daily reward bonuses and season passes. This time, in AFK Journey, I decided to go a different way, and I ended up spending a little more than I usually would. The amount wasn’t astronomical, but it was far more than what most players pay. Here’s what I learned from my experience.

What You Buy Still Matters

Unless your funds are endless, what you buy when you decide to spend really matters. In AFK Journey there were numerous limited-time packs on launch. Some of these packs were decent values, while others didn’t seem that great. You really need to understand your goals early on if you want to make the most of what you plan on spending. For example, AFK Journey not only had limited time packs for launch, but they also had time-sensitive packs. Once you obtained enough copies of a particular character, you would get a pop-up notification with a huge bounty of character tickets (to pull more characters) and some level-up materials.

These packs were arguably the best value you could find in the game, despite them being incredibly predatory (which I’ve warned against numerous times). Normally, I wouldn’t spend on these, but this time I did, and it was the fastest way to gain power and new characters. These packages turned out to always be useful. On the other hand, there were other packs that just didn’t make any sense, including the rate-up packs where the characters themselves weren’t that integral to getting through any content. Initially the rate-up character Vala was a pretty good value, but the next character, Florabelle, doesn’t have as universal of an appeal, especially when fan-favorite character Cecia already claims the top spot as a ranged summoner (thought Florabelle’s summons are admittedly more tanky).

While you can save any overflow rate-up tickets for future characters, you can't use them on anything else aprat from the rate-up characters, so if you're spending money on these packs, you're hedging your bet that something, someday, will be worth rolling for. In other words, you still need to be informed on what you’re spending on, or else you’ll just end up sitting on tickets you can't use which may as well be throwing money away.

You Become Popular

When I was ranking as one of the top 50 in PvP in Guild Wars 2 there were a lot of people that ran in the arena circles that knew who I was, knew what classes and builds I generally would use, and knew the basics of my strategy for certain maps. In online games like AFK Journey, however, there is no amount of strategy that can overpower heavy spending. Extreme power simply rises faster, and before you know it, your name is plastered on the top of the leaderboards.

Nothing special must happen apart from increasing your character’s power faster than others can. That means, in AFK Journey, if you want to hit the top of the Dream Realm boss battles, you simply need to have a strong DPS team that hits harder than anyone else, and the fastest way to do this is to spend money. In PvP it means ranking up your characters and getting abilities that others may not have yet. Despite reaping heavy rewards by spending money, you also have your name plastered everywhere on the rankings, and people tend to reach out to you a lot more for tips or to ask for help. Who would have guessed that being in the top 10 of all rankings in the game will get you notoriety?

You Get Headhunted

When I started AFK Journey I joined the first guild that would take me. I didn’t apply to numerous guilds or try to find the top guild to join. Instead, I picked an open guild that allowed me to join immediately. As a random beginner guild, it wasn’t well coordinated, and players would filter in and out. As a “top player” my presence certainly helped the guild grow, but it wasn’t long before I had messages in my inbox asking if I’d like to join some of the top guilds on the server.

Better guilds obviously point to better rewards, and after some careful consideration, I jumped to another guild that was far more active. Working alongside the new guild, we were suddenly ranking in the top 3 on the server, and in turn, my rewards increased. Guilds weren’t the only ones to reach out. Other players requested I join their communities outside of the game, some of which I became relatively active in. Most of the people I met were really cool, and it was fun talking through strategies with them as we took on more challenges.

Money Doesn’t Buy Everything

I may be ranking in the top 10 in most game modes, and I may be months ahead in terms of progress to most other players, but AFK Journey still has some things that money can’t solve. There are many examples of resources that you can’t infinitely pay for, such as training manuals, gold and wondrous powder. At times, you may have a chance to purchase a minimal amount of these resources, but in most cases, you’ll be time-locked on what you can buy and when.

Sure, you can buy everything in the cash shop, and it will likely put you way ahead, but there will come a point where at best, you’ll run out of cost-effective packs, and you’ll be left with the low-value packs, which won’t really progress your Resonance Level even if you do eventually rank your characters up enough to unlock Paragon levels. At that point, you’re spending money just to spend money, and you won’t be able to circumvent the clock to progress if you’re trying to rush through the story or rank up your Resonance level.

It's Lonely (And Boring) At the Top

It has been just a few short weeks since AFK Journey launched, and spending some coin has already allowed me to surpass the initial max level of 240, complete the entirety of the story, and battle my way through 1125 stages in the AFK arena, earning the maximum daily allotted rewards for that game mode. Developer Lilith Games put out a new set of end-game challenges called the Abyss, with another 300 levels, which is essentially the last bastion of content available to the few that have managed to get to this point.

While I’m currently stuck on level 268 due to a power disparity, apart from throwing myself at that one level, or completing my dailies, which only takes about 20 minutes a day, there’s nothing left to do. Few players are around my level, and even for those that are or have surpassed me, they only seem to log in for a few moments a day to get their rewards, and then move on to other things or level separate accounts. Meanwhile, many of my guild mates are still battling it out, asking for assistance, and scraping by as they continue through their journey. Sure, there comes a point where even they may get stuck, but they have far more options, with the ability to ask for assistance, or something to look forward to the next day, when the dailies reset themselves and they have the chance to break through to a new power level.

Eventually, more content will be added to the game, but until then, there isn’t much keeping me around, which is a common problem with MMOs and MOGs when players burn through content quickly. I certainly wouldn’t have been in this predicament if I simply played instead of paid, but it also would have taken me several months to get to where I am now. Even if it might be a little annoying to get stuck every now and then, enjoy the journey as much as you can or else you really will spend much more time AFK.


Steven Weber

Steven has been a writer at MMORPG.COM since 2017. A lover of many different genres, he finds he spends most of his game time in action RPGs, and talking about himself in 3rd person on his biography page.