Infinity Wars: Animated Trading Card Game PC Review
Collectible card games (CCG) have been part of video game history for quite some time, but it seems now more than ever that the genre has spawned mass appeal, most likely due to the popularity of Hearthstone. Browsing through the Steam list of CCGs highlights that a lot of these games are free-to-play, with even the once yearly release of the Magic: The Gathering – Duels of the Planeswalkers turning into a free-to-play game known as Magic Duels. Free-to-play allows developers to lure players in to sample the game’s elements, hopefully getting them to purchase a few packs to build their decks and become hooked on the gameplay and deck collecting. With many CCGs to choose from, I was helpfully pointed in the direction of a once Early Access title that had just released its full version, meaning that was a signal to me to download and check out Infinity Wars – Animated Trading Card Game to see how it is.
Surprisingly there is a story told in Infinity Wars, as it features a single player campaign that takes players through a in-depth tutorial. At first, the tutorial can be extremely limiting, as the game is programmed to not let you do anything other than what exactly the game is telling you to do in the toolbox (I shamefully thought the game was bugging out on me when I couldn’t progress the round). The campaign starts with a group called Flame Dawn, who are currently going at it with Genesis Industries, until a bizarre portal opens up to a unknown world that has them joining forces to increase the chance of survival. The campaign includes hero characters that speak during short still cutscenes and during matches to explain the current situation. Once the six Flame Dawn missions are completed, new missions unlock with five other (eight in total featured in the main game) playable factions. This not only adds to understanding their position in the story, but more importantly, players learn how these factions play differently from each other. I can’t see people becoming invested in the game’s story, as it’s nothing more than a way to introduce players to the game’s mechanics in a flashier way than a standard how to play tutorial, but that at least makes it a fun tutorial.
Having the tutorial span across multiple missions means that once the story is beaten, you have a good idea which of the factions play styles fits your mentality, and the game offers a starter deck for each faction when completing their story. These decks can be taken into challenge mode, a set of special games that have specific rules to handicap the match, or you can tackle various difficulties of AI to test the decks. If you want to experience other card types, the game does offer pre-made decks that change over time, similar to free characters in a MOBA. There are over 800 cards spread across the eight factions, with each card filling a stereotypical role seen in the genre – characters, abilities, spells, locations – that all have their uses inside your custom deck of at least 40+ cards that can include up to three dupes. Anyone who has played a card game will be familiar with the concept of hit and attack ratings, where each card is represented with two numbers, e.g. 4/6, explaining that the card has four attack damage and six health points.
Building a deck is based on purity, Infinity Wars version of the class/colours from Hearthstone/Magic the Gathering, with each faction assigned a unique purity colour, which plays a huge role in allowing a player the flexibility in building decks. Every deck must have three commanders, which come with their own special moves to call upon from the commander zone (they can also be placed down to use in battle). The purity of the deck is based around the commanders’ faction colours. If you have all commanders from the same faction, then the deck will be strong in said purity, allowing a more focus game plan based around the faction’s play style, but also offering stronger cards that require full purity to be in the deck. Splitting the purity between two or three factions allows the chance to pick and choose useful cards from selected factions, but it also limits picks to weaker cards, since triple purity cards will not be accepted into the deck. Purity adds a distinct flavour to deck building, opening up the chance to build unique decks that some of the class limitations in other card games block. It makes playing online an interesting experience to see how people pick their decks and play to their strengths. Online seems to be working well, although, finding an opponent takes a few minutes as there doesn’t seem to be many people available.
Moving from card decks to the board is where there are twists with the game’s mechanics. Instantly noticeable in the centre are two boxes for both players labelled Defence and Assault. These zones are where cards are placed into for action once they have been taken from hand and placed into the support area in the previous turn (some cards have the ability to skip the support deployment and be put straight into either defence or assault). Cards in the assault box will attack the defence box opposite them, and if no one is in defence, then the cards attack the enemy’s fortress knocking down its health. Cards put in the defence side will not attack the enemy fortress, but act as a defence line, taking damage and giving some back against the assaulting enemy until death. It matters what order the cards are placed in, so shuffling order in defence to have a higher health card be your front line can allow for it to sustain most of the incoming damage. Flying cards can cause havoc for defence, since those can only be blocked by other flying cards. The Overseers of Solace faction are atrocious for this, as a lot of their cards are based around flight.
Planning and movement is speedy since both players have their turns simultaneously. With the support zone revealing cards to the player before their next turn to move into a battle position, the game has this sort of mental test between each combatant to see who can bluff their opponent through card positioning and potential threats to get them doing something on their next move that causes an error to take advantage of.
Health isn’t the only way to win, as Infinity Wars contains a morale metre that can be reduced to finish off the opponent. Both health and morale begin at 100, and if any one of them is reduced to zero, then the game ends. Morale is deducted when an owned card is defeated in battle. The card will have a morale rating, which is subtracted from the total on defeat. Some factions, like the Descendants of the Dragon, are made for high defence plans, reducing enemy morale instead of health through special cards that add bonus morale subtraction when their own units are defeated. This additional way of winning not only separates Infinity Wars from other card games, but throws in more complexity to give the game its own flavour, while being able to add more depth through an easy to understand concept, but one that can be easily forgotten about during early play, as it is something that needs adapting to for people who have played other card games.
By having “Animated Trading Card Game” in its title, it unsurprisingly gives its main graphical attraction. Each card, when examined, has a short animation flash. It could be of a soldier slashing a sword or an animal breathing heavily. A lot of the card artwork is hit or miss with the animations, mainly because some are beautifully over the top, while some get you asking the question “why even animated so boring?” Overall, it does add some flair to the battles, but by a few hours they become faded into the background, as the focus is deep within what is happening on the battleground between you and your opponent. The rest of the visuals are basic, but this is a card game, so it is kind of expected. Issues do arise with the menus, such as when playing full screen on a high resolution monitor (2560 x 1440), as some of the text is pushed outside of its text boxes, spoiling the presentation of the menus. I also found the deck builder to be cumbersome in its ability to display cards before selecting them to be in your custom deck.
Being free-to-play means there is a stigma that has to be fought off – is this game one of the horrendous play-to-win games that upsets its balance? Not really. Sure, if you put money into the game, you will have more cards available to you, but free currency can be earned by doing the story modes, the challenges and playing online, while also earning experience points to level up that will in turn offer more rewards and free booster packs. Is there a grind? Of course, but playing a few matches will get you a enough for a small booster pack. There are also daily rewards for logging in to earn more free currency or booster packs. A nice feature that I noticed for people annoyed at getting dupes in a booster pack is that you can trade with other players, as long as the card was earned from a booster pack and not offered as a reward from the game, but this area is something that I didn’t dabble in, as I am a hoarder of cards. Aesthetic unlocks are included to buy from the shop, such as new card backings, battleground boards and avatars, and are the only items that have to be bought with real money, but this does nothing to change how the game is played. The community manager has stated that “there will never be exclusive cards that only a select few can earn,” which should be a good sign for the future of the game in regards to earning/getting cards.
Infinity Wars – Animated Trading Card Game is a confidently made card game that comes with complexity and depth that tries to distinguish itself from the standard card gameplay that has become popular with Magic the Gathering and Hearthstone. If you are looking for a single player experience with the game’s include single player campaign, don’t bother, this is still purely for multiplayer. It’s a shame that it does not currently seem as popular as something like Hearthstone, as that hurts its online availability for multiplayer, and it is the multiplayer that brings the enjoyable and addictive matches. There is no harm in trying the game, as it won’t cost you a penny to put in a few hours to find out if you enjoy the twists on the formula that Infinity Wars offers, which I’m confident CCG fans will.