CCG Week: Deckstorm Duel of Guardians12 Sep 2016 8
Pocket Tactics is holding the first of what we hope will be many 'themed weeks'. This week, we're going to be looking at CCG's, and the myriad of games that have cropped up in a post-Hearthstone world. Sean kicks us off with a look at Deckstorm: Duel of Guardians.
Brevity and CCGs are things I rarely mention in the same breath. And when I do it's a complaint about the latter lacking the former. Apparently the guys and gals at DeNA share the same qualms. Deckstorm, their recently released CCG, boasts that its matches will remain strictly below the five minute mark.
Players square off on either side of the field with fifteen card decks with the objective of depleting their opponent's deck. Each match is three rounds (aside from a few in the campaign), at the start of which you draw five cards. You can discard some of the cards if you wish and doing so will draw random cards from you deck at the start the round to replace them. Oddly enough for a CCG after the round commences you are able to see the cards in your opponent's hand. There is no player health and turns are taken in a semi simultaneous way. Out of the five cards you draw you place down three, each of them will be placed down at the same time as your enemies so it becomes a game of attempting to guess your foe’s strategy. Each card attacks its immediate opposite and if it doesn't have one then it'll attack the next one along. Cards have attack and health values and at the end of each round of attacks cards go back to their owner’s hands. Any damage they took on the field is carried over for the duration of the match.
After that description it's rather hard to avoid the inevitable Hearthstone comparisons that will be drawn between the two. At the end of the day since its release Hearthstone has become what World Of Warcraft has been to MMORPGs for over a decade. At first glance the games do share a lot of similarities but scratch below the surface and you'll find enough differences to show you that Deckstorm is by no means a simple copycat. For starters, cards level up through XP earned through battles which boosts their stats and spells. Deckstorm’s equivalent of card abilities are called spells. They help spice the game up a fair bit as pulling a couple off at the right moment can easily turn the tide in your favour. You have attack, healing, buffs and a few spells that do two of the above. Spells level up independently of their cards and have different rates at which they can be used depending on the card and how you’ve built your deck. Lastly each card has a speed rating, the combined speed rating off your hand determines whose cards attack first except for when one player is out matched. Cards come in your usual CCG types (e.g. fire, water, earth and so on) and you play them off of each other using the tried and true rock-paper-scissors system. Outmatching an opponent means each of your cards is a type effective against its direct opposite. For instance if my side of the field is (from left to right) two fire types followed by an earth and my opponent’s field is two earths followed by a water type, since fire beats earth and earth beats fire I’ve outmatched them and my cards attack first.
DeNA’s senior producer Roger Royce has been quoted a couple times in describing Deckstorm as a customisable CCG that allows you to upgrade your deck though a variety of different ways. It comes equipped with a pretty hefty campaign whose difficulty curve is actually a curve rather than the usual F2P spike. You can also upgrade your deck through both XP you earn through battles and gold, the standard currency, which is handed out fairly liberally. In the campaign things are a little easier as you can see the AIs cards before you confirm your hand. Like all CCGs there are booster pack and decks you can shell out actual cash for but it appears that all cards in game are earned through play as well. Deckstorm’s premium currency soul gems can be bought or earned via events and challenges and so on. The game also solves the age old problem with booster packs where you end up having numerous duplicates of common cards. Duplicates are fused together, increasing the card’s max level. All in all I would say DeNA have opted for the better F2P ideology where at it’s worst the game will really make you want to buy something instead of just hamstringing you for not shelling out cold hard cash.
I’d say my biggest worries with Deckstorm would be balancing and the UI. It falls into the age old F2P problem where after the tutorial you are instantly bombarded by a string of screens and text. You have to slog through them at the game’s behest and it skips over a few important details unless you decide to go back over them later. The issue with balancing is that due to the levelling system and the fact that there is no system that limits you playing your three most powerful cards at once. This means that experienced players can trounce their newer counterparts regardless of actual skill level.
A few other minor issues I have include the game’s lacklustre soundtrack, some of the images being in unacceptably low resolutions for no conceivable reason and a widely reported issue on start up where the game won’t always sync properly. For the last one the fix seems to be just exiting the game and leaving it for a bit before trying again.
So in summary is Deckstorm a good game? Yes definitely. The quickness of the matches along with the fact that it’s based more on pre-empting your opponent rather than chaining together card abilities definitely sets it apart from the competition. But if you’re reading this as someone who has tried games such as Hearthstone or Gwent already and they left you cold to the genre this one probably won’t change your mind. Going back to the Hearthstone comparison Deckstorm has enough of its own ideas to stand on its own but not enough to make it unique or new.