Review: Berserk Evolution21 Aug 2013 0
The words come out of nowhere, and carry with them a cheery indifference--nay, a near enthusiasm--that utterly bewilders. You're sitting there, taking in the rules of collectible card game Berserk: Evolution, adjusting to the interface and just starting to ponder strategy when a busty, blank-faced sorceress(?) chimes in: "Battle goes automatically."
Battle goes automatically. Battle, goes. Automatically. It just does. You know. Battles. Going. Automatically. The game. Automatically. Battles. AUTOMATICALLY. All of them.
And so, maybe... five minutes in, the latest from Nival, Inc. betrays itself as yet another free-to-play--adapted from a Facebook game, no less--playing without a full deck. And the worst thing is, it probably didn't have to be this way.
But first things first. Yes, much like fellow collectible "game" Transformers: Legends, Berserk: Evolution doesn't let you do anything with its assortment of colorful cards. Battles are completely hands-off, barring the option to use a fast-forward slider to get through bouts quicker, which says tomes about the design here.
For many, those aforementioned "features" probably makes Berserk: Evolution a wash by default. No worries. That sentiment indicates only that you are still sane. Just don't walk away thinking there wasn't some potential here (even if it's a potential that was tricked down the wrong alleyway by some con artists, knocked over the head with a roll of coins in a sock, and carted away in a cage to adorn the bedchamber of some squicky crime lord's Farmville estate.)
Here's the works: rather than having decks of a traditional sense, Berserk has "squads," collections of seven cards themed around one of the game's Magic-aping elements. Forest cards, some plains-looking guys, mountain-dwellers, the evil deathy things--it's exactly what you expect.
Battles against opponents can vary in size, from one-squad skirmishes to three-squad, uh... bigger skirmishes. Cards, drawn from your larger pool, have different cool-down timers that must finish before they're put on the playing field proper. A heavy hitter with a strong attack and health scores might take 5 turns on the bench before it gets placed on one of your seven in-play slots. Meanwhile, an agile, but weaker, elf archer might only take three turns. Opposing cards facing off attack each other every turn, and if a card is in front of an empty square it deals damage directly to the opposing Card-Master Wizard-Person. Doing that last bit all the way to zero is how you win.
Sounds okay, yeah? Like any other well-meaning claimant to the Magic throne? Sure. But, again, keep in mind that the player doesn't control any of this. Cards are drawn, automatically. Played, in whatever order their respective timers indicate, automatically. Placed in the first available slot in the battle, automatically. "Hey, it's seems like there's a component of area control in this game, considering that blank spaces are the real liability. Can you place cards so as to try and exploit blank spaces in an opponents line? You know, balancing the risk of leaving an area of your own undefended versus the reward of attacki-" Nope. Just sort of happens.
The auto-play is all the more baffling considering Berserk: Evolution actually has cards with neat abilities that could be used tactically, unlike Transformers: Legends, where the lack of player input made sense considering cards in that game were really just numbers as far as the combat was concerned.
Here, many of my Viking-esque mountain cards get bonuses when deployed next to other cards with the same "formation" ability. Some of my elven soldiers get a bonus whenever I have more cards on the table than my opponent. A few of my neutral cards (usable in any type of squad, it seems) deal damage whenever they're attacked. All of these would be great, if, once again, the player had any control over when cards are played and where they're deployed. But yeah. No. At best you could try, I suppose, to stack your deck with as many cards of the exact same type as possible, but that could be... costly.
Trying to keep faint praise going... think of other positives... oh! The art. The art on the cards is pretty nice. Again, very much like Magic: the Gathering, but with a Renaissance feel. Lots of neck-ruffles, that sort of thing.
And then there's almost every other thing. Does the pricing seem a little too high for boosters packs which range from "one shite card" to "four probably okay cards which don't fit any of your squads"? Yeah. Does the multiplayer component really matter when, in essence, both single and multiplayer modes have the same AI? Not really. Does the island metagame, where you can try and take over other players' plots of land so as to generate more income (with which to buy cards) seem unnecessarily complex? Sure does.
After winning my first bit of land (by, I think, challenging an opponent and then waiting something like 18 hours for them to fight the cards placed in my garrison, a combat which I never actually saw or received notice of), Berserk: Evolution demanded that I spend some silver to appoint a frigging governor for my new hex of desert. Arranging appointments to high-level government positions, yet I can't be trusted to play with my own toys without an adult watching.
Berserk: Evolution is sadly, like so many other games of its ilk, a title that treats play like an inconvenience indulged only to hide an esoteric economy of addiction and time-wasting. All promise, no payoff. I think somewhere, deep, there's some creativity in this game. It's a shame we're not allowed to touch it.
The game was played on the iPad for this review.