Nova Blitz is a real-time, digital, collectible card game with a hybrid fantasy and science-fiction theme, featuring unique mechanics involving hidden combat and extremely fast-paced gameplay with very short timers. Nova Blitz forces players to make their choices quickly, providing a thrilling new experience not seen in the genre until now.
Currently being previewed as an Alpha release, I took a look at the latest build to see why Nova Blitz is creating a brewing storm of excitement and anticipation among TCG/CCG enthusiasts, especially since it was recently shortlisted on Steam Greenlight, and has an upcoming Kickstarter campaign as well.
First impressions are everything, and Nova Blitz has some very big boots to fill around here if it’s going to be a hit, so let’s dive right in and see how well it compares to the other behemoths of the digital TCG/CCG world. Read on to find out…
Mechanics-wise, Nova Blitz plays similarly to Magic: The Gathering, Hex, or even Spellweaver, but with the accessibility and speed of Hearthstone, yet much, much faster. The reason for this is that it uses very similar field, resource, and card systems to these games. However, Nova Blitz is a completely fresh take on these games, as instead of being a turn-based game with large amounts of time for decision-making, both players play their cards simultaneously under the tyranny of the shortest turn timer we have ever seen in this genre. This makes for a highly exhilarating dueling experience that has to be played to be believed.
The goal, as with most other TCGs/CCGs, is to reduce the opponent’s health to 0. Your starting hand will consist of 8 cards. There is currently no option to mulligan for a re-draw, and I’m not sure if this is something the developers will implement in the final version. However, due to the game’s unique shuffling code (explained later) the game doesn’t appear to ever need a mulligan, as opening hands always look good to me.
The turn is shared by both players under the same timer, and you can play a number of different cards in the main phase. You have your basic resource cards that can be played once a turn, and these add to your total energy amount that is replenished at the start of each turn. You use energy to summon Units (read: Creatures) and play powerful Abilities (read: Spells). All of these cards can be played at any point in the main phase and in any order you like. However, any time you play a card, you will give the other player the initiative for combat, and vice versa.
Units function similarly as in games like Hearthstone: they all have a cost, attack, and health value as well as any special abilities. Unlike some other games, the damage dealt to a Unit is permanent and doesn’t reset at the start of a turn. I think this damage system works much better here over the other ones that reset the damage, especially in a fast-paced game like this one where you need to think fast and it helps being able to take numbers at their face value without thinking about how they might “reset” next turn. It also adds an extra layer of strategy to the game when attacking with a damaged Unit, or using it to block an attack, for example.
What I found to be amazing about the simultaneous play is that you can quite easily bluff about having nothing to play that turn, or making it appear you’ve already played your most powerful Ability card. In one game, I waited until nearly the end of the main phase timer to drop an Ability that gave all of my opponent’s Units -3 to their health that turn, wiping all 5 of their Units from the board. I’m pretty sure my opponent was raging at this point, as they conceded immediately!
Units do not exhaust and are always ready to attack or defend in the same turn that they are played, except for when Units are played in the very last segment of the timer (a darker color on the timer bar), where they’ll get a “Can’t Attack” clause for this turn. During the combat phase, your Units can either declare an attack directly against the opposing player (which you can always do even if they have Units), or they can defend against an enemy’s Unit of your choosing.
Note that you can’t tell a Unit to attack an enemy Unit specifically — you can only declare it as a defender against that Unit, and this will only happen if that Unit is attempting to attack you, the player. Also, you cannot multi-block a Unit; only one blocker per Unit is permitted. This takes some getting used to, especially if you’re more experienced with other combat systems, but once you get the hang of it, it becomes extremely refreshing to play with. I haven’t had this much fun with a new combat system in a long time.
Rounds are quick and the action is always speedy. You will have little time to gather your thoughts and make a complicated plan in your head. Everything is done on the fly with the most amount of pressure possible, thanks to that pesky timer bar. To some, this may be a little overwhelming, but for me it was an exhilarating experience where I actually felt stressed, under pressure, and yet also enjoyed it, all at the same time. Talk about a confusing blend of emotions!
MODES AND FEATURES
I can’t say too much about the features in Nova Blitz right now. This is due to the lack of them, as we’ve only been granted a look at the gameplay and combat mechanics. Currently you can play online against a random real person, or play a practice game against an A.I opponent.
What I can tell you is that the developers have plans to include a lot of content and gameplay modes, for those who like playing competitively, casually, or both. First off, I know they plan to have a Draft mode that is run in real-time, much like the gameplay. There will be no extended periods of waiting for someone to pick a card. How this works is a bit unclear right now, but it sounds amazing. I am a huge fan of drafting and I can’t wait to see how they implement it.
Also, tournaments will be fast-paced and “open to all players”. I am assuming that they mean you won’t need to spend money on premium tickets just to be able to play at a competitive level against other players, but we’ll have to wait for more details to be sure.
They’re also going to avoid the age old problem of “Mana Screw” (not getting your resource cards or getting too many in a row when drawing) by having an intelligent shuffling system in place. There is some clever coding going on behind the scenes that means you won’t go multiple turns without being able to play a resource. It looks at how the deck has been shuffled and breaks up any long sections of resource or non-resource cards in a row and randomizes them to help with your draws. So far, I haven’t felt resource-screwed at all and yet there is still a random element at play with the order of your card draws. I love this system and just wish something similar could be used in Magic: The Gathering, where getting mana-screwed is extremely frustrating!
There will also be an in-game shop to spend real money on buying packs, but the cool thing about the packs is that you can tailor them to what you need. The developers have called them “Smart Packs”. They say a pack’s contents are not locked to a particular set — if you want to save a pack and make it a pack of the next set instead when it is released, that will work. I like this as it should keep the value of packs pretty consistent. I hope this works as well as it looks on paper.
DECKBUILDING AND STRATEGY
Nova Blitz currently offers all users a complete starter deck from all five factions: Arcane, Tech, Divine, Nature and Chaos. The Alpha also gives everyone 4 copies of every card currently in the game. Every player has access to the same cards, meaning that a lot of skill and quick decision-making is important if you want to win.
The deck builder is easy to use, and you can make a custom deck using any of the cards available. You can have as many different faction cards in your deck as you please, but will need the relevant resources to be able to use them. I would suggest starting out with the basic starter decks to get a feel for how to play the game.
Once you’ve gotten comfortable with the starter decks, try customizing a deck, such as by adding a second color. The only rule in place is that all decks must contain 60 cards, no more, no less. I should also point out that apparently during this Alpha build the length of the round timer has been extended, so don’t get too comfortable with its pace. If it’s going to be even shorter than in the Alpha, then… well… My palms are sweating just thinking about it.
Errors will be made and the repercussions of those actions will be felt immediately. Making the right choices within a short space of time will take practice and knowing your cards inside out. With time you will learn which cards combo with each another and how best to manipulate what information you give to your opponent about the plays you could be making. The game is as much about the luck of the draw as it is skill and deception.
Nova Blitz left me with an overwhelming desire to keep playing. I cannot wait for additional content to be released, including new cards and a Draft mode. The developers have told us that they do plan to release new cards for testing during the current Alpha phase, so I’ll be keeping an eye out for that, as well as the Kickstarter slated to launch on July 20th.
I also love that the developers are asking for feedback from the players after every game played. Should you come across a bug, or think you have an idea to share, they want to hear it! They also want the community to be a big driving force for the game, by developing ideas for content such as new cards or additional game features. The success of the game largely depends on the players, as they are the ones who are helping to craft it.
There are some balancing issues with a few cards that are mightily overpowered, in my opinion, but I am sure that feedback from all of the players will help balance this out. The game looks great in its current build and everything appears to work really well, with a couple of minor bugs here and there, as is to be expected in an Alpha version. It’s much better than the earlier demo builds I played prior though, and they’re getting pretty close to perfecting what they have already.
I would recommend that every TCG fan out there download the Alpha and play this game. The more feedback you give, the better the game will be. I can say that every moment I spend playing Nova Blitz is incredible and the anticipation for more is overwhelming. I only wish I had more features to tinker with, but I know they are coming, and cannot wait to test those when they arrive.
Provided the developers release a finely-tuned, flawlessly working product with a fair distribution model, I’m going to call it now — for the hardcore TCG/CCG crowd, this game is going to be the Hearthstone killer. I am certain of it. Get on board now and you’ll be proud you were in on the ground floor of this unbelievable game.
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