I’ve never spent considerable time with a collectible card game, I tried Hearthstone earlier this year after seeing everyone rave about it for so long, and I didn’t get the attraction. I’m not going to proclaim that The Elder Scrolls: Legends, the new CCG set in the Scrolls universe is going to keep me playing for months on end, but it looks fun, to a newcomer at least.
As a well versed player of digital CCG’s Faeria is a game that instantly feels familiar to me. Upon launching the game up for the first time I find myself looking at the cards and even before I play my first game everything makes sense in terms of understanding the mechanics of the cards, which although under different names are shared with other digital CCG’s I’ve played in the past. What’s different about Faeria is the use of an environmental board on which the cards in your collection can be played and can move around before entering combat. This simple addition adds a whole new level of tactical thought to a game which already has all the layers of a normal digital card game. The combination works so well that I found myself sinking 4 hours a day over the first weekend of playing.
A typical game starts with an empty board and hexagonal shaped ocean pieces on which you place your land. Depending on which faction you build your deck from you can either place mountains, lakes, forests, deserts, neutral land called prairies, or a combination of any and all of these types. You can then place your creature cards onto these lands. Your creatures can only be placed on your own lands although they can be moved onto opponent lands after they have been on the board for 1 turn or more.
From here it’s basically a game of chess with your creatures facing up against your opponents. It’s important to note there are also four Faeria wells at the corners of the board. Faeria lets you use your cards and abilities and controlling these wells can sometimes be critical to winning either long games where your opponent will run out of Faeria if not managed properly, or rush games where you will be placing a lot of creatures and using a lot of event (special ability) cards within the first few turns.
Matching your card choice to your play style is also a large factor of success and it’s important to know what all your cards abilities are and how you can best play them. This of course takes time experimenting and refining your deck when you think something’s not quite right, or not exactly how you want it to be. Whether you play defensive, rush, or go for a deck themed around a particular feature like ranged combat or a focus on efficient trades it’s important to have a game plan.
Once you’ve had a good look at the cards and have drafted a deck you’re happy with, it’s time to get into the thick of the action, and there’s a few choices of game types to be made. Firstly you should be focusing your time in solo mode, where you unlock all of the codex cards (basic game cards) by defeating AI opponents from each of the factions; water, desert, forest and mountain. Once you have done this and refined you deck with any of the new cards you should head into battle mode. Here you can play against other real players in ranked or un-ranked play. Un-ranked is a good way to test new or experimental decks you have been creating, while ranked mode, going from 25-1 and then onto God rank is the ultimate test of your deck crafting and playing skills and stands as a mark of your commitment and skill with the game. Pandora is another mode players of CCG’s might also be familiar with and is also known in other games as draft mode, or arena. This has yet to be implemented in Faeria but is very near and from what I’ve heard will work much in the same way that it does in other games.
As you gain ranks and level your character there are certain awards that can be picked up. Gold for buying booster packs, card crafting material and avatar pictures. There is also a shop in which you can buy all these things and booster packs, but the good thing about Faeria is that in this early stage with not too many cards it’s strikes me as not very pay-to-win, which is of course a great thing. As the game progresses (as with all CCG’s) the struggle will be in keeping up with all these new cards and the change of the meta game towards these cards. That moment is not upon us yet and if you wish to get into Faeria I would say get in early and try to keep on top of the cards as much as you can.
At the moment Faeria costs £17.99 on Steam and with this you get 20 booster packs, 10 entries in to Pandora mode when it becomes available and exclusive aesthetic item for your god. Eventually it will be free-to-play but then the bonus for supporting development during early access will be gone. Assuming that Pandora entry is about 100 gold and ignoring the exclusive avatar items, this would have cost you 3000 in game gold, which takes while to farm though quests, so to get this quick boost as soon as you start the game feels worthwhile to me.
The Good and the Bad of Faeria
So you’ve probably heard enough about the in’s and out’s of Faeria to decide whether it’s your kind of game or not, but as a whole is the game worth playing or not? Let’s start with the positives.
Positives – The beautiful art style, familiar feel, smooth gameplay, the fact that it’s not pay-to-win, is easy to pick up and hard to master and lacks in RNG compared to other CCG’s are all great but fairly small reasons why you should play this game. The main three points for me are that: 1 – Faeria already has a great community of players who are all willing to help you understand the game and craft better decks and can chat to you thanks to the forum link you find in game. 2 – Faeria has a uniqueness about it in that it has an almost board game feel but it actually a CCG. The mix of evolving environmental board and chess game of your cards on this board is brilliant. 3 – Faeria even in this Early Access stage receives regular updates to balance the cards that people are playing every day. This is a great way to keep the community feeling in touch with the game and the changes that are happening whilst also receiving all the normal bug fixing and so on you would expect for a game in Early Aceess.
Negatives – Considering this game has only just entered early access on Steam there are actually very little negatives about it. This is probably in part down to the community and the open communication the developers have with the community, allowing them to suggest feedback and directly send screenshots or reports of bugs to a live developer and a team of moderators. However in the spirit of fairness I feel it would be unjust if I didn’t mention the minor negatives I have found with the game so far. 1 – There is a running battle log at the side of the screen, this is helpful but only has a history of a few turns. It would be nice to be able to scroll down this list and see what happened previously as occasionally your opponents turn can be comprised of several different moves, attacks and spells and the log quite often doesn’t even go back a full turn. It could also do with a little more explanation. Sure a creature attacked, but who did it attack? Quite often the target of spells and attacks are not shown. 2 – When opening booster packs and finding new cards, there is no indication of where these new cards are when you go back to the drafting stage. It would be nice if there was some kind of highlight that showed where these were for new players who were not acquainted with all of the games cards yet. 3 – There is currently no player interaction while in game. No emotes, no chat between friends, nothing. While some players may enjoy the silence it would be nice to have the option to chat to friends if you wanted. 4 – As the player base of Faeria is just taking off, matchmaking can be a bit unfair at times. You can be placed with an opponent five ranks above or below you, or even face the same opponent twice in a row. I assume this is because of the smaller player base and I’m sure it will be rectified in due course. It’s not like it happens all the time anyway!
If your interested in checking out Faeria further I’ve included a gameplay video below where I detail a couple of strategies for playing and talk about some other aspects of the game.
Faeria can be purchased for £17.99 on Steam, but will become free-to-play in September.
Magic 2015: Duels of the Planeswalkers – The Verdict
I still remember accidentally discovering Magic a few years back whilst trawling the latest videos on YouTube. The video I watched that day showed two players using physical cards of many colours whilst they talked a lot of jargon and not very much was explained to the viewer. After a couple minutes of sheer bewilderment I had skipped onto the next video thinking to myself “That doesn’t look like something I would enjoy”.
Little did I know how wrong I was.
In the few years since watching that video my ageing brain has become more accustomed to the type of games that involve more depth and tactical thought. I have also since popped my CCG cherry with a fairly recent and highly addictive game that I will try my hardest not to mention or compare with during this review. If you know me or follow me on twitter you’ll definitely know which game I’m talking about. In any case I thought it was about time I tried one of the oldest and most loved CCG’s of modern times.
For anyone such as myself that is entirely new to Magic, you’ll be happy to hear that quite a bit of Magic 2015: Duels of the Planeswalkers is explained and tested before you start the game proper. Hidden away in the slow and rather clunky feeling menu system there is a handy help section that describes the basics of cards, combat and building your own deck. There is also a skippable tutorial section that consists of five quests and a boss that help you learn the game by practising different predetermined scenarios. Reading and completing these sections set me off on a firm foot for the campaign and I would recommend this for any beginners.
Gameplay in Magic 2015 revolves around the use of different colours of cards; black, blue, white, red and green, each with their own theme. There are also neutral cards that can be used by anyone with enough mana to do so. These coloured cards consist of five different types. Land cards, which generate mana used to cast various spells and summon creatures. Creatures, which can attack your opponent and block damage from other creatures. Enchantments which affect a creature for as long as it remains in play. Sorcery spells, used to cause damage or counter opponents spells. And finally artefacts, cards with various different enhancing abilities.
Still with me? Good.
When tackling the tutorial boss you’re given a choice of two card colours that you wish to base your first deck on. This choice is permanent so think carefully before making a decision as not all the colours blend perfectly. I chose white, which focuses on healing and small creatures; and green, which focuses on larger creatures with powerful attacks.
During the campaign you unlock five different planes or levels with different encounters and a boss in each one. After winning each encounter you are given a booster deck of cards that hopefully (but not always) improves the quality and effectiveness of your deck or any future deck you choose to make. This process is rather slow as a booster deck may only contain two or three cards of the colour you need and they could be doubles. While not actively encouraged, repeating sections to farm for cards or buying booster packs via the store is certainly needed if you want to make any kind of progress in a reasonable time frame. Mulitplayer also suffers a lot from the slow card unlocking and microtransactions, meaning again that you’re either forced to buy premium content or sink hundreds of hours into the game if you want to make any kind of progress here.
There also seems to be a distinct lack of game modes in Magic 2015. While the campaign consists of different encounters, if you struggle at a certain point there is no where else to turn except multiplayer. Multiplyer consists of 1v1 and three or four player free-for-all and while all these game modes are enjoyable the first few times, you soon discover your deck is under par and that multiplayer is somewhat of a pay to win event.
Magic 2015 has kept me entertained for a good ten plus hours now and the initial £7 game price has probably earned its weight, at least in my eyes. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed learning about the mechanics and tactics of the game and enjoyed trying out the multiplyer modes. However I doubt veterans of the series will consider this price tag quite the same value. I’m happy taking things at a slow pace for now but won’t be long before they’re opening their wallets to strengthen decks with booster cards, and that’s a shame as Magic 2015 started out promisingly. The campaign progress, the multiplyer battles, they all grind to a halt as soon as decide not to spend any more money and that shouldn’t be the way for a game with a base price instead of being free-to-play, and for me this is where it falls short.
I can see myself jumping back into Magic 2015 occasionally for a change of scene and when I’m in the mood for a more tactical battle, but to be honest this was never going to keep me away from Hearthstone…
…dammit I was so close.
The Verdict – On target
Platforms Available – PC, Xbox 360, iOS, Andriod
Platform Reviewed – PC
Please see this post for more on our scoring policy. Steam review code supplied by PR.
Hearthstone Gameplay Guide – Arena, Ranked and Casual Modes
Back in January I gave my favourable first impressions on Hearthstone’s closed beta phase. Now that open beta is in full effect and streams of new players are experiencing their first foray into Hearthstone I thought it was high time for some more content and some further insight into the game. For this article I will be focussing on the three types of gameplay found within Hearthstone; Ranked, Casual and Arena. I will briefly cover what you should expect to achieve in each game type along with some basic tactics, playstyles, deck lists and a video of my attempts at each area.
Casual mode is the first game type that any player should acquaint themselves with. Here is where you unlock the heroes for each class and where all of the basic cards can be collected by advancing each class to level 10. Casual mode itself consists of two game types; The first against scalable AI of your choosing and the second against a live opponent in unranked play.
Playing against the scalable AI is a great way to introduce yourself to all the heroes and get to grips with how their various unique cards and abilities work without unsettling yourself too much. Once you unlock a few heroes it’s a good idea to pick one or two that you feel more comfortable playing and stick with them until you’ve really got the basics of the game nailed down.
Once you’ve built up some knowledge of your class by playing the AI, and have reached at least level 10, you can begin to construct your first deck, which is always a hard thing to do. You’ll have a few cards that you know work well with your playstyle and a few that are random picks. The great thing is that you can experiment and change your deck around as you gain more experience and more of an idea of what you want to do with your cards on each turn. There are also various deck guides that explain what the best cards are and how to use them effectively.
Below I have posted a video of a Bloodlust/Windfury Shaman deck I created and tested out in unranked mode. The deck is not perfect by any means but the general idea is there and as I’m playing casual the win ratio is likely to be higher which is handy for completing those daily quests and earning a bit of extra gold.
The general idea of the above deck is to build up as many minions on the board as you can, remove your opponents taunts and then wait for the opportune moment to use Bloodlust and then Windfury on your highest damage minion. This tactic often results in one turn kills but is vulnerable to rush and taunt heavy decks. A link to the deck list can be found here.
Ranked gameplay is generally considered as Hardcore mode within Hearthstone as this is where the serious players go to show off decks they have honed to perfection after hours of trial and error and many changes to their cards. Make no mistake there will always be gimmick decks and players who play inefficiently with their cards, but these you will usually find languishing around the bottom of the leagues.
If you’re serious about wanting to advance through the ranks and become a better player you need to be flexible with your hero class, flexible with your play styles and above all, knowledgeable. I would suggest checking out a couple of the pro players YouTube channels or official websites as these are often crammed with useful tips and examples of gameplay techniques that can help you better understand the mechanics of the game. A prime examples of someone to watch is none other than Hearthstone’s first professional player Trump. His Twitch channel, on which he regularly streams can be found here and his arena tier list here.
Below I have included a video of my attempts at ranked gameplay with a control mage deck. While I succeed at three out of the four games, it’s fair to say that the victories are far from the walkover that you would expect from unranked gameplay.
The goal of the above deck is efficient trades, control and flexibility and can be quite aggressive especially if you manage a turn one mana worm followed by a few spells. It can work equally well as a control deck however, as the high health minions coupled with spells and the mage’s hero power make for some efficient trades. As you can see from watching the video above the games are a lot closer and it’s often the case that just one wrong move can cost you the win later on in the game.
Arena is where most of the fun is to be had (that is when you have a spare 150g to enter) and is also where you can potentially maximise the use of your gold. To explain that a little better, buying a pack of cards costs you 100g, whilst entry to the arena costs 150g. The rewards from arena if you win enough games can be around two packs of cards plus 200g and the minimum reward one pack of cards. So if you think your skills are up to the test, paying the initial extra 50g can make things a lot more worthwhile in the long run.
The idea of arena is that you play to either a maximum of twelve wins or three losses, which ever comes first. Depending on the amount of wins at the end of your run, your reward will differ. You use the same deck of 30 cards for your whole run and these are chosen at random just before you start your first game. Unlike ranked or casual gameplay, in arena all of the games cards have a random chance of being available for you to choose putting players on more even grounds in the respect that a new player would have just as much random chance at getting good cards as a veteran.
Below I have included a two part video of me creating and playing an arena deck. If you click through to YouTube on the first video I have included in the description, my reasoning behind choosing the cards that I did.
Arena runs can vary dramatically in how they are played out as sometimes you will get a class you don’t play very often, or just not have very good cards. Other times things can go in your favour. Either way it’s good to learn which general cards are efficient to play in arena and try to stick to these with class specific cards on top. It’s a bad idea to try and select cards that would work with a gimmick deck such as a murloc rush down deck as what you will often find is one or two murloc cards showing up and then none for the rest of the deck.
Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft is one of those games that a lot of people might not understand or gel with immediately. If you have no background with Blizzards Warcraft games then learning the ins and outs of classes, abilities and how best to play might take a little while longer, although a background in CCG’s (collectible card games) of any form will certainly help. As a person who played World of Warcraft for around five years, I knew from the instant I saw my first game that I wanted to play it for myself as it brought back memories of time spent on many of my characters, but still posed something of a new challenge as far as gameplay was concerned. But enough of my nostalgic babble, I suppose you want to know just exactly what Hearthstone is.
Hearthstone is a strategic digital CCG, based around Blizzards popular Warcraft games. The aim of the game is to lower your enemies health (from thirty) to zero using a pre-compiled deck of thirty cards with different stats and abilities. Each card has a mana cost and you start the game with one mana crystal, rising by one each turn to a maximum of ten. As is the case with most strategic card games (digital or otherwise) knowledge of your opponent and their abilities is key, but that mostly comes with practice and experience with different situations.
There are nine classes in the game, each with class specific and neutral cards that can be used to adapt your heroes deck theme. For example as a Mage you could construct a rush-down deck that consists of direct damage to the enemy hero and spellpower minions used to increase that damage to a maximum. You could alternatively construct a turtle deck (defensive) that allows you to restrict the use of your enemies cards against you, reducing the damage you take whilst slowly chipping their health away. For each class there are many themes of deck that can be constructed and with nine classes at hand there really is a wide variety of outcomes that could appear in every game.
There are also three game modes to be considered; Casual, Ranked and Arena. Casual gameplay consists of practice games against scalable AI of your choice and also includes a multiplayer portion, where most players gather to grind gold and test out new decks they have created. Ranked mode follows much the same structure as casual multiplayer except that each win and loss will move you up and down a ladder. The lower your ranking, the better a player you are generally considered to be. Ranked gameplay is generally considered as hardcore mode as most players participating in this ladder system will have honed their decks to perfection and will rarely make mistakes. If you enter into ranked mode unprepared, do not expect to go very far.
For me Arena mode is where the real fun is to be had, and is essentially a way to make maximum use of your gold (in game credit) whilst testing your skills to the max. Buying a deck in Hearthstone will cost you 100 gold and consists of five randomly chosen cards. Entry into Arena costs 150 gold, but gives you the chance to win more than one deck, along with bonus gold and dust (used to craft individual cards). The minimum you can walk away with at the end of a bad arena run is one deck of cards, so the choice is yours to spend the extra 50 gold and gamble with the chance to extend your collection or play it safe and just buy decks.
Part of the reason why I enjoy Hearthstone so much is that I have almost never played exactly the same game twice. With 439 cards to chose from there are so many different options for every class that the potential for gameplay is almost endless. There is an addictive side to the game, as you only start out with a basic card roster. It’s only once you have levelled up your characters and played a few arena games that you will be able to craft some proper decks and by that time your hooked to the flush gameplay, RNG of the card draw and the chance to prove your skills at all levels of the game. Blizzard are dedicated to balancing this game as well as they possibly can and have already implemented several patches based on feedback and statistics. I for one am very interested to see what the future of this game has to hold. Did I mention it will be free to play upon full release? What more could you possibly want?