Out Now: Living Boards and Gelatinous Cubes Edition10 Mar 2017 7
A feast of interesting games are out now for iOS users, but sadly a famine for Android fans. The obvious headliner is Faeria, a promising CCG that's out of beta and released for iPads and where much of my time this week has gone! That's not all; we've got puzzles, platformers with gelatinous cubes, post-apocalyptic adventures, old-school RPGs, a tower defense game in disguise, and more Ascension.
Let's start with what is undoubtedly the biggest game-launch news of the week, and one of the games in our 2017 guide, the collectible-card game Faeria. The CCG market is huge and, at present, dominated by Hearthstone. Every year contenders rise and fall and it has become clear that to take on the top dog your CCG better have something unique, a gameplay twist that'll give you a chance. Faeria is one of three CCGs coming to mobile this year that I believe have that chance to attract a sizable player base, survive, and even thrive. Its twist is what the game's creators call a "living board."
In Faeria, the battlefield is more than a place to hold creatures; it is a hexagonal battle map. You play land each turn to build a path toward your opponent's orb on the other side of the map, protect your orb, or to accomplish other strategic objectives. Your use of land to manipulate the living board and control the battlefield ties directly to the type of deck you opt to play and your overall strategy in the game. An aggressive deck, for example, would be best supported by a plan to build directly toward your opponent. You can only summon creatures on lands you've played and most creatures do their damage up close and personal. Control decks, on the other hand, will want to play defense by cutting off access to their orb and secure lands adjacent to the board's four Faeria wells. Faeria is used to cast spells, much like mana in Magic. If you have a creature adjacent to one of the wells at the start of your turn you get one extra Faeria. Multiple wells is a great way to ramp up for more powerful creatures.
Faeria looks great and plays pretty well on my iPad Pro, though some of the UI is finnicky and could use some tweaks. The game does require an iPad 3 or newer and won't work on an iPhone, which I feel is the right call given the importance of the living board (I didn't even like Hearthstone on my iPhone 6S Plus). Unfortunately it is not yet on Android, though it should be coming soon, though you can get a head start on your Mac or PC. The game is free with the usual CCG in-app purchases (chests instead of packs) and if you are a fan of the genre it is well worth investing some time and seeing what you think, especially if you're burnt out on or otherwise uninterested in Hearthstone. The living board ads a very compelling dimension to the usual deck building and spell slinging aspects of a CCG and ads quite a lot to the game. We'll have a full review soon, including analysis on the value of chests.
If you're looking for a lighter game with a relaxing soundtrack and challenging yet laid back gameplay look no further than Float. In Float you maneuver a flower along a stream by tapping near it to propel it forward. You must dodge obstacles that become increasingly difficult as you advance through the game's eight stages. The music and graphics are both simple but appealing and Float is well worth the price of admission if you're into zen-like games.
Kingdom: New Lands (iOS)
Kingdom: New Lands is a side-scrolling strategy game that is ultimately a tower-defense game that also has the trappings of RTS, simulation, and puzzle games that make you think you're playing something much different. In it, you play as a constantly mounted monarch—there's a lot of riding—who must gather gold, grow a cadre of loyalists, build a city, and defend it from monstrous threats. Failure is expected and learning from that failure so you can try something new is at the heart of the game. Tof gave Kingdom: New Lands four stars when reviewing the Nvidia Shield version and while I haven't played enough to know whether I agree, I can say I like the simple but attractive graphics and fitting soundtrack and audio effects. It's easy to make mistakes in prioritizing your resources, especially the first few tries, but eventually a stronger strategy will emerge. Check it out if you don't mind some failure as you ascend this kingdom's learning curve.
Mushroom 11 is a platformer with a unique movement style that is instantly understandable but also very complex. You push an amorphous ooze thing through a harsh landscape of rugged hills and underground tunnels, lava, dangerous creatures, and other hazards. You can squish the blob into tight spots and sacrifice bits to the surroundings because it replicates quickly and will regrow whatever is lost. There are a bunch of chapters of this ooze's story with increasingly challenging obstacles to get past. It feels a lot like controlling a super nimble gelatinous cube and I'm sure glad none of my D&D characters ever ran into this particular strain! Mushroom 11 is a fun and different take on a platformer and worth a look if you dig that genre.
The world ended 20 years ago. That's when a disease called Green Lung started killing people and it hasn't stopped. There's a vaccine, but not enough of it and doses are given out via lottery. That's the setting for Shardlight, a third-person point-and-click adventure game that just released for iOS. The story starts strong and the puzzles aren't too terribly difficult, which I like better because nothing makes me swear off this type of game like getting stuck within ten minutes. The game's pretty dark, because post-apocalyptic, but there's quite a lot to explore and do and the art style and voice acting are good.
The Deep Paths: Labyrinth of Andokost (iOS)
The Deep Paths: Labyrinth of Andokost is a first-person RPG with a throwback style. It's been out on Steam for a few months, with mostly positive reviews, and is out now on iOS. It was briefly released a couple weeks ago but then yanked back to address some bugs. In the game you assemble a party of four to delve into the Labyrinth of Andokost to battle creatures, acquire loot, and investigate an ancient myth turned reality in order to protect your city. The game is definitely old school, from the graphical feel to the grid-based movement and use of puzzles. Combat is face-to-face without any positioning of different party members. It's also pretty tough and party wipes against what seem to be easy odds are not uncommon. The game's trailer gives a good idea of the look and feel.
A new Ascension expansion has made its way to the game's digital platforms…War of Shadows is now available. Here's the blurb from Playdek:
A new darkness seeps into New Vigil from the Void, intent on restoring despair and desolation to a world that has forgotten it. The four factions recall their veteran heroes and reawaken the great war machines of the past, as they plan their first in the chaotic ebb and flow of light and dark. The War of Shadows has begun!
Sounds shadowy. The expansion features some new Heroes and Constructs that require paying both resource types to acquire, but hold huge power. Cards will also gain additional power as the balance between Light and Dark shift. The expansion is playable as a standalone game for one to four players, or can be played with the base Ascension game and other expansions. War of Shadows is $4 from the game's in-app store. Ascension is a great game and quite popular around these parts.
That's all for this week's top picks. Seen anything you think we should have included? Let us know about it in the comments below, and feel free to share your own thoughts on anything we've mentioned today!