Review: Age of Rivals05 Jul 2017 7
Review: Age of Rivals
Released 21 Jun 2017
We’re at the point now with the card collecting game genre that it’s necessary to subvert the genre - or at least bolt some kind of gimmick on the side to make it less comparable to the big hitters. CCGs typically work on the idea of building up your deck prior to gameplay - expanding and experimenting so you can take on a variety of different opponents with multiple decks ready at the helm. Age of Rivals decides to mix things up by having the deck building take place at the start of each match. Immediately the game is set apart from its contemporaries and I expect at least five developers to have nabbed the idea and shipped a game out by Christmas.
The goal of Age of Rivals is to have the most points at the end, with the bulk of these points coming in the form of ‘culture points’. Each card can contain a number of different elements, whether it be the aforementioned culture points, attack points, extra income, armor, and more. It’s an overload of information at first, and does take a few rounds to break down all the permutations.
The game is split into five sections, Build, Conquer, War, Score, End. You repeat the process four times, with the fourth round adding a final twist in the deck building phase. Building is self-explanatory: you choose from four cards, slowly building your way up till you have collected eight. Conquer and War take into account how many attack points you’ve collected, with the Score and End going through the chaos to see how many points each player has at the end.
Every thing in the game has a purpose - though some seem more subtle at first than others. It seems pointless to bother knocking the opponent's cards out until you realise the game shuffles four cards back into your hand each time. The more cards you take out means the more duds your opponent potentially ends up with.
Some cards have resources, collecting these has a twofold effect: any cards from that point on with the same resource will decrease in price by one gold coin. Doesn’t seem like much at first, but it is vital by the final round. The additional benefit is any cards on your opponent’s side with that resource will now come with a red ring around it, and a taxation cost of one gold coin that goes straight into your account.
What the game teaches you through the first few attempts - and overall is the message being sent across - is that building a strong civilisation will mean needing a balanced mix. Focusing entirely on an offensive approach is pointless if you do not have culture points to accumulate at the end of each round. On the flipside, if you solely focus on collecting points, your opponent will pulverize you in the conquer/war section. The choices you make during the first three rounds can also make a big impact at the end. You end up with sixteen cards that need to be whittled down to eight. If you’ve been going mad spending all your gold, then having to burn cards in order to afford more, you’re more than likely going to end up with three or four trash cards at the end.
The tutorial is simple and informative enough; adding a new layer to the gameplay. Though the best way of getting to grips is by playing a couple of rounds and learning from all the mistakes you will definitely make.
Faults? There’s two. The game isn’t stable - not at the beginning at least. Tested across both iOS and the Steam release, there’s something in the tutorial that causes the game to crash at any given moment, but once you’re out of there it’s smooth sailing. The other issue is luck, or more specifically where luck is placed within the game. In other CCGs, luck is primarily based on when cards will come out. You know the deck you have, you just don’t know when a particular card will end up in your hand. Here, once a round has ended, of the eight cards you have, four are burned, and the other four go back into your hand. Because of this, you can never fully implement a game plan. It’s additionally annoying if you have seven decent cards and one waste card - only to see the waste card end up being selected. The argument can be made that it means no two matches feel the same, which is true. But the game feels just enough out of your control to be noticeable, and that may turn away some players. One other small nuisance is not being able to pause the game: if you’re in a game you’re fully committed. Again, matches only take between ten to fifteen minutes, but the option to pause in-game would be appreciated.
Age of Rivals is a card game that benefits from being a video game first: the automatic adding and deducting of points, the quick change from each stage of a match, and the game applying rules and stat changes from unique cards all makes for intense and fast paced gameplay. A typical game will take around ten minutes. A recent - and greatly appreciated - update added offline play, meaning it’s a recommended and now viable option for commuting. Kudos to Roboto Games for including this, considering so many other developers decide to overlook such an idea. Also, because it’s not a F2P game, though you have to unlock cards, there’s no concern for duplicates and none of the ‘grind’ feel you sometimes get from other games of the genre.
The game certainly has a following, as it took no time in finding players online. The multiplayer feature works well, following the same structure as the standard mode. After this it has little else feature wise, but the game has enough of a learning curve that it will keep you going for sometime. Also, the AI set to hard is ruthless - FYI.
While I fully expect Age of Rivals will not hold your attention past the end of Summer, it is worth taking a look at if you’re a fan of the genre - if only to see a different approach that (for the most part) works. It has a unique look, with some interesting ideas for a genre that has shown a bit of fatigue in recent years.