Review: The Healing Blade

By Guest Post 07 Mar 2013 0
If you're a grognard that's been on the internet for a while, you might remember The Wargamer from back when it was the village pump for the strategy gaming community. Scott Parrino has recently been given the job of picking The Wargamer back up onto its feet -- no small task, that, but one that needs doing. I invited Scott to come do a review for us while he gets into the swing of things at his main gig. -- Owen

Need to wash your hands more, bro. Either these cards are really blurry or your opponent has played the "Conjunctivitis" card.

Collectible card games are seeing a revival on tablets, which gives the player the benefit of not getting paper cuts, spilling milk all over their cards, or dealing with the odd unwelcome furry visitor. Even better: the game’s rules are automated, and give the ability to face an AI without need of finding opponents that might eventually upturn a table in the face of a loss. [Why you gotta bring up old stuff? -- ed.]

The Healing Blade is one such CCG that was originally released in physical form in 2010 and just recently got a release on iTunes for the iPad and iPhone. The premise itself is very interesting: using living manifestations of diseases and antibiotics, players must wear down their opponent to zero health while utilizing spells and items. Seeing that I have zero medical school experience, I felt that mayhaps I’d be at a disadvantage. But the Healing Blade was developed by two physician/gamers with the hope of educating the rest of us about medicine, so it can’t be too difficult, right?

The Healing Blade's gameplay is easy to understand: depending on your chosen side, you draw six cards and if you have enough ATP, you can cast them into the Sanctuary, which can then be sent to the Battlefield for combat. The “good” side, the Apothecary Healer, has the goal to defend against diseases by playing antibiotic cards. The “bad” side, Lord of Pestilence, is to send out as many diseases as possible to get through the defense to hurt the Apothecary Healer. No matter what though, the Lord of Pestilence player loses one hit point per turn, so the game turns into this wonderful experiment of attrition and desperate strategy. There are items and spells with special uses and conditions to help assist your defense or attack to spice things up a bit.

More of a mask, I suppose. I put on my robe and plague doctor's hat.

The game itself is very solid, unfortunately the presentation and interface is almost enough to turn away all but most dedicated players. As is characteristic of games of this type, you need to frequently consult the cards to read their stats and descriptions, but the low resolution of the graphics doesn't make this very convenient. There's a camera view option to look at different parts of the gameboard, or to look closer at your cards, though it's often unreadable. The in-game manual does a poor job of explaining actual gameplay, and in explaining what each part of a card represents isn’t well done. Luckily on the Healing Blade forums there is a better description of how to play the game -- but it shouldn’t be on an external source.

There is also unfortunately no multiplayer at all, not even hotseat. Your opponent will and always is an AI that has no indication if you’re playing a smart or a dumb version. The lack of a real multiplayer option is the biggest offender here, as there is some genuine strategy of human error and guess work that can make The Healing Blade an enjoyable experience.

It's a shame to see The Healing Blade in this condition. Using real-world medical antibiotics to defeat actual diseases has a unique appeal, and the attrition mechanics can make for some very intense matches. Its current form, however, it has too many demerits to hold up against some of the more polished card games on iOS. If you’re a fan of the physical game and want to pass time fighting an AI while on the move, it might be up your alley.

Review: The Healing Blade

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