Apr 26, 2011

Clash of Mages HD

Review by Joshua Buergel

As I mentioned in my review of Highborn, I am a sucker for fantasy themed games. I’m also a huge fan of board and card games, so when I found Clash of Mages in the Market and learned that it was a fantasy themed card game, I knew I would be giving it a try. Since they touted tablet compatibility and I was looking for more things to put my Xoom through the paces, I bought the HD version. I later discovered that the HD version isn’t compatible with my Motorola Droid, so this review is based entirely on the tablet version. There is nothing in the game that would lead me to believe that the phone based version would be a problem, however. Before discussing the game play, it’s worth noting that the graphics for the game on my Xoom are attractive, and the controls are simple and effective.

Clash of Mages is a dueling card game between two players, where you win by destroying the other player’s tower. There are six cards at the bottom of the screen, which are a shared pool between the two players. Each card has a cost, expressed as the amount of blue (potions), green (something...orbs?) or yellow (gold) that you have to spend to play the card. You gain one of each resource a turn, and there are cards you can select to gain more. In addition to your current totals of the three resources, you also have the height of your tower and the strength of your shield. If your tower drops to 0, you lose the duel.

Despite being a fairly simple card game, Starwind Games did manage to make it pretty confusing. The help screen provides just the barest level of instruction, and doesn’t tell you what any of the icons on the cards mean. I did figure it all out through experimentation, but a help screen that had at least the definitions of the icons would have been useful. As it turns out, there are three different kinds of attacks. There are ones that always hit the opposing tower, which are somewhat rare and never seem to go above two points of damage; there are attacks that only hit the opposing shield, which are inexpensive; and there are attacks that can hit the shield or tower. Those attacks are the most interesting, since the way they work is if the opposing tower has any points on its shield, the entire attack will hit the shield, even if there are points left over (such as a four point attack on a one point shield). That makes managing your shield important, and keeping an eye on what attacks are out and how they might interact with your shield is an important factor in victory.

There is a brief campaign game, encompassing seven fights at three different AI levels, along with the ability to play single fights with the computer AI (at any of the levels) or other people. I haven’t tried any play versus a live human, but I did play through the campaign against the AI along with several one off matches against the toughest AI player. The AI does an OK job, although I have only lost twice to it, and one of those was the match where I was figuring out the icons. I’m concerned that the AI might not present enough of a challenge in the future, though. On at least one occasion, the game could have delivered the killing blow to me but elected to play a different card. Duels take roughly five minutes to play out against the toughest AI.

qrcodeOverall, I liked Clash of Mages reasonably well, but I don’t know that it’s going to be a long-term game for me. The duels feel like you’re on a seesaw much of the time, not making progress, and the AI doesn’t seem like it presents enough of a challenge to continue being interesting. If the card game were more complex or the AI more difficult, it would be more engaging. As a quick filler type of game, it’s not bad, and I do like a few of the subtleties of the card system. I’m going to give it 3 stars as a game that isn't going to be a mainstay, but big card game fans might want to give the light version a try.

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