Review: Lost Portal02 Nov 2016 19
Review: Lost Portal
Released 17 Feb 2016
Lost Portal came out early this year and though we've mentioned it a couple times on Pocket Tactics it hasn't had a proper review. It's high time to fix that. Lost Portal is an RPG, complete with cool maps of the world, and a story to pull you through it. When it comes time to battle rather than rolling dice and calculating damage, Lost Portal becomes a CCG. You build a deck and duel your foe in a Magic style contest.
You start Lost Portal like any RPG—by creating a character. Your character is a wielder of magic—wizard, sorcerer, magi…whatever works—so you aren't choosing a race or class. The biggest decisions here are color affinity and ability scores.
Color affinity defines what kind of magic you wield and the identity of each is very similar to Magic. Black is death magic and red represents fire. Blue is all about the pursuit of knowledge while green feels a closeness to nature. The color you choose will determine your starting deck and the cards you'll play.
There are four abilities in Lost Portal: Health, Agility, Wisdom, and Intellect. You'll assign points to abilities during character creation and as you gain levels. The abilities and their interplay with the CCG side of the game are one of the major mechanics of Lost Portal and worth giving some consideration to. Health increases your starting life total, Agility increases your chances of going first in a duel, Wisdom increases your starting aeons (same as mana), and Intellect affects your minimum and maximum deck size. Each ability has four other benefits earned at 15, 20, 25, and 30 (the max score). These benefits have a relatively dramatic effect on duels.
You start the game in a small fishing village called Boradir. Once a part of a grand empire the village has been cut off ever since "The Fall" and is now overrun with orcs, trolls, and other unfriendly creatures. The town once had a magical portal which allowed fast and safe travel but it has long since been destroyed. Luckily, you're on the scene and might be able to reconnect the portal network for the good folks of Boradir and beyond. Your reasons are your own: Maybe you are a do-gooder, maybe you need the gold, or maybe you just want to explore the wider world. No matter the motive, you have no choice but to chomp down on this story hook, it's the only game in town.
In Lost Portal you will interact with non-player characters and obtain quests. Some quests fall in line with the central portal storyline, and others are the good old fashion monster slaying, peasant saving type. The overarching narrative will lead you beyond Boradir to new and more challenging areas and will naturally yield gold and XP as a reward for completing them. The gold can be used to obtain new cards from the merchants sprinkled within towns and other maps who will also buy your unwanted cards. Cards are also found as a reward in dungeons.
The game world and narrative aren't as deep as what you'd expect to find in a full-blooded RPG. Then again, they aren't the primary selling points of Lost Portal. They do provide a meaningful framework for the real reason to play: building decks and fighting duels.
The CCG portion of Lost Portal will feel very familiar to fans of Magic: The Gathering. When you encounter an enemy during your adventures you will square off against them in a duel. Your powers are represented by a deck of cards. You play aeons (mana) of different colors which fuel your powers and allow you to play cards from that deck. Cards are most often creatures, but can also be equipment, spells that destroy or otherwise remove creatures, and other effects.
Each color of card has effects that match that color's identity. Black has ample creature removal and very deadly creatures in combat. Red has direct-damage spells and creatures that deal damage outside of combat. Blue features control effects card-draw spells. Green sports the biggest creatures.
Deck building is really fun and a big draw of Lost Portal. Thanks to a recent update, you can have up to five different decks for your character and can swap between them based on the duel at hand. This is helpful as certain strategies work better against specific enemies.
The deck-building UI could use some love, but it is certainly functional. There are filters to see cards by color, type, and rarity. You drag cards between your deck and library, or can tap to open the card and increase or decrease the number included. There's also a "Stats" screen that shows you the breakdown of your deck by type of card, color, rarity, and cost.
Once your deck is ready and an opponent is sighted it is time to duel. Each turn you will cast creatures and other spells based on your available aeons. There are seven tiles on each side of the game board and when you cast a creature you must choose one of the tiles on your side for the creature to occupy. Creatures have both attack and health numbers, which work exactly how you'd expect based on almost every other CCG ever. When you end your turn combat takes place and all of your creatures will attack and deal damage to whatever is opposite them, another creature or the opposing duelist. You don't choose individual attackers; everything goes, starting from left to right on the game board. Blockers do not deal damage to the creatures attacking them and damage carries through the current turn. This makes the exact placement of creatures a critical consideration in Lost Portal.
Most creatures also have special abilities. Many will be familiar to Magic fans: Overwhelm is the same as Trample, Rush is Haste, and Reckless Assault is Double Strike for example. There are also more unique abilities, such as Might, which gives a creature +1/+1 at the start of every turn, and Necrotize which requires an aeon card to activate and drains one life from the opposite creature or player and gives it to you, and adds one aeon to your aeon pool.
The frustrations of Magic are along for the ride too. You'll face mana flood and famine, a dearth of creatures and removal when you need them most, and the many and varied effects of variance. There is no mulligan rule in Lost Portal so your starting hand is your starting hand.
Despite this, I've found myself liking Lost Portal more than the traditional "PVP" collectible-card games in my collection. Duels tend to be fast, three to five minutes, which makes the game perfect to play for five minutes or two hours. There are no IAPs, one price unlocks all the content and all of the cards are either won in duels, found in dungeons, or can be purchased from a merchant. The developer is supporting the game and has been making fixes and adding content all year. He also plans to add expansions of new towns and surrounding dungeons (complete with new enemies, bosses, and cards) at a later date and these will require an in-app-purchase.
Lost Portal is a very fun and well-designed game. It provides a great CCG experience wrapped in an interesting RPG story. Best of all, it scratches the Magic itch without draining your wallet. This game might very well sit next to Card Crawl and other hall-of-fame games on my iPhone forever. Go get Lost Portal on iOS now!