I was recently asked to review a new online game, Fantasy-Rivals. It’s a browser based collectible card game based around strategy and bluffing your opponent. I’m not normally a fan of browser based games, as they usually are extremely limited, repetitive, and cookie cutter copies of other slightly more successful games (see my review of The Hobbit: Armies of the Third Age for fine example). So I did not enter into this with the most optimistic of attitudes. But I’ve been lazy lately, so I needed something to do, and this seemed like a good opportunity to get back into reviews.
The mechanics of the game itself are pretty simple. You have a deck of up to eight hero cards. Each hero has attack power, damage, and most of them have abilities. Some abilities are triggered by other cards you have on deck, like having two cards from the same faction. Or some abilities might trigger under certain conditions, like having just been damaged (which puts you in revenge mode). You start the match with a certain amount of “mana” which you use to augment your hero cards’ attack power. Each vial of mana you use multiplies their attack power. For example, if you use two vials of mana on a card with an attack power of four, it goes up to eight. Three vials would be twelve, and so on. The card with the most power wins, and then damage is dealt to the opponent. Each match is limited to four rounds, and the goal isn’t necessarily to kill the opponent, but to end the match with the most health. This can be handy, because if you start out swinging heavy and run out of mana, you can still win the match if you deal enough damage in the first couple of rounds.
Remember earlier, when I mentioned the game is based around strategy and bluffing your opponent? That’s because your opponent has no idea how much mana you’re going to sink into a card, and you in turn don’t know what they are planning either. So trying to ration your mana strategically is crucial. If you swing big on a crappy card and lose, you’re out a lot of mana that you won’t get back. Another tricky mechanic is Fury. You can use three mana to activate Fury, which causes your hero to do bonus damage to the opponent if you win the turn. However, Fury comes with some caveats. The mana you use on Fury doesn’t count towards the card’s attack power. And, if you use Fury and the turn ends in a draw between the two heroes, the card with Fury automatically loses (something they neglected to mention in the tutorial, unless I missed it somewhere). It can pay off big time or make you want to eat your own fist.
There are three kinds of currency in Fantasy-Rivals; gold, gems, and jewels. Gold is, as far as I can tell, used solely for the purpose of trading with other players in the marketplace. If you have cards you don’t want or need, you can sell them in the marketplace in a similar fashion to an auction house, except that there’s no bidding. You set your price and people can pay it or pass over you. I started building my deck this way, buying up cheap red cards for anywhere from 300 to 1000 gold a piece. Some of the better cards can go for 100k though, so it’s probably worth it to hang on to your gold for a while. Jewels are used to buy booster packs, which contain between 2 and 6 hero cards, depending on the price and the expansion they come from. A very basic booster costs 5 jewels and contains 2 common hero cards randomly selected. Gems are used to speed up the evolution of your cards, which I will explain in just a moment. Jewels are obtained either by purchasing them with real world currency, or by earning them by completing tasks and gaining experience levels from battles.
You do earn enough gold that you can slowly build your decks on your own, so I don’t know that actually buying game currency is warranted, but I don’t know that you would ever be able to afford the rarer, more powerful cards that the expansions offer.
The artwork on the cards is great, and while some of it is reminiscent of a certain Blizzard game, most of it is pretty unique and makes for pleasant eye candy. What I really like is that when you evolve a card, rather than just tweaking or altering the existing card art, you get an entirely new picture. This might seem like a small detail to some, but for someone like me this is very appealing. It seems a lot less lazy and eyeroll inducing when developers are actually creative and they sink the time into details like this. And like I said, the card art itself is pretty cool regardless. Some games really don’t go this extra mile, which is really disappointing (I’m looking at you, Might and Magic: Duels of Champions).
Evolution is a pretty fun feature, as you can upgrade your cards and make them stronger. Each card has a star rating, and it can be evolved to its maximum rating. Cards can have anywhere from two to five stars. More powerful cards take longer to evolve at every stage. Evolution is free, although with better cards you might have a cost. Speeding up evolution costs either gems or jewels, depending on what and how much you want to spend.
Another small touch that I find appealing is that there are voice overs for a lot of the cards, so when you play them you here a little quip or a comment, like “Don’t be useless Flask.” (Flask being a little goblin sitting in a catapult).
All this is great and all, but by far the best feature of this game is that it is also mobile. You can download the game for free through android or the app store. It’s such a simple platform that it performs flawlessly on my phone, and the game was ported perfectly. No features are changed or lost, although navigation is slightly different (but not bothersome). You use the same account both on your desktop and your mobile device, so you can literally play anywhere. This is handy if you are trying to level up a lot of cards, because it can notify you when a card is ready to finish so you can start the next one. And games are quick so you can squeeze some in when you’re in line at the farmer’s market looking to buy organic hippie potatoes, or in the bathroom pretending to use the toilet to get away from your inlaws.
Okay, nitty gritty time.
The good: Fast paced gameplay that requires actual strategy. Tons of cards to play with and collect, lot’s of detail. The mobile option is great.
The bad: My only complaint is that because the matches are so short, you don’t really have much of an opportunity to actual socialize with the community. They do offer a forum and messaging, but usually when you’re playing a game online you’ll make friends mid game rather than having to go to a forum to meet people, which almost feels like a separate entity. But being that it’s a card game this really isn’t a big loss to the game’s overall experience.
Why you should bother: If you’re into collectible card games, this one is a must play. It’s fast paced and easy to learn, and actually offers quite a challenge after the first few matches. Strategy and planning is huge in this game, which means paying attention, which means it will hold your interest. And because of the ease of play, those not normally into CCG’s might find this as a great way to get started. Overall, Fantasy-Rivals is a great browser game which I am still playing on my phone every day. I plan on following it and posting a follow up review when they release the full version. With luck they will continue to update and improve what is already proving to be a good game. Video walkthrough below. Laters.
The Fantasy-Rivals game can be found at www.fantasy-rivals.com. Don’t google for “Fatnasty Rivals” like I did on accident. Gross.
Update: The cash shop is up and running, and jewels can be purchased using real money. -Matt 2-24-15