Afterland is an Alice in Wonderland-inspired casual card battle game with a dark twist, featuring a whole cast of spooky, nocturnal creatures.
It is said that there was always a delicate balance kept by the White and Dark Rabbits. The White Rabbit has fallen, and the dark armies of the Dark Rabbit are trying to eradicate all light from the land. It is up to you to restore and free the creatures of light.
Is there enough light for Afterland to shine among the competition? Read on to find out…
Afterland is visually amazing. The aesthetic of the game is dark and eerie with an Alice in Wonderland look and feel. There are characters that look like they could come from the fairy tale, but are a little more twisted. The artwork is very similar to that of Tim Burton. The cards have been hand drawn by some very talented artists and the user interface is incredibly simple and elegant. There is a story behind the game and the narrative is told as you progress, but the shorthand version is that you need to restore light to Afterland before the Dark Rabbit shrouds it all in darkness.
All of these ingredients got me incredibly excited about playing Afterland. However, that excitement was short lived once I started to get a little deeper into the game.
All of the cards in Afterland have basic attack and defense stats called Magic and Protection, respectively. There are several card types contained in the Afterland. The first are the Carnies, which are also split into different faction and family types. These families have different artworks but often similar effects are shared between family members. The main purpose of the family type is aesthetic, rather than filling a line-up with them. You’ll more than likely fill your line-up with your most powerful cards instead of one family or faction type.
Souls are a secondary card type that gain power by having multiples of the same Soul card in a stack. You collect these through the Journey mode. If you lose a battle with Souls in your line-up, they are defeated permanently until you replenish them with more from the Journey mode. Both the Carnies and Souls can have a short- or medium-range of attack. The short-range cards attack directly in front of them (or to the left and right if nothing is in front) with the medium-range cards being able to attack the second row.
The final card type is potentially the most powerful type, but takes up more than one slot in your line-up: Creatures. You can free the Creature cards by completing paths via the Journey mode and then acquiring keys to free them. Creature cards have the farthest range of all card types, but have a flaw to balance out their power. They have lives that are reduced when your line-up is defeated in battle. When their final life is lost, they go to sleep. Once they wake up you can place them back in your line-up again.
Despite the depth that is afforded to the card types, the game lacks the same depth when it comes to strategy in battles. Afterland is the type of game that plays itself. Being a casual card battle game, you relinquish all decision-making during a battle and your only way of influencing the outcome of a battle is through the deckbuilding, which works on placement as opposed to drawing.
Once you’ve chosen your line-up and their placement, you can use these to battle in any of the modes. The way these battles play out is exactly the same each time. Your cards choose their own target to attack with no input from you. Your placement will determine who their first target is, as they will always attack directly in front of them until you diminish the rows and columns of cards your opponent has. It does look like a complete free-for-all, but there is some semblance of structure to the battles. The only thing I couldn’t work out is the order of attacking, as it did appear to be completely random.
MODES AND FEATURES
There are two primary battle modes and a single build mode for editing your deck (line-up) in Afterland. All battles in Afterland cost stamina and there are two types. One is reserved entirely for the path exploration of the Journey mode and the other is for PvP battles. You can get far more exploration done than you can with PvP battles, as the consumption is far higher for PvP battles.
The Journey mode has a couple of different elements, but the primary objective is to free Creatures that can then be added to your line-up. You can explore paths for a Creature and battle against random dark Creatures using your line-up. As you go through, you can obtain keys or Soul cards and some Candy (used for upgrading your cards). You need a number of keys to finally free a Creature, and some can be obtained through the meditative path section of the mode. The other element of this mode is more PvP, with you battling other players for their numbered keys.
The other PvP mode is called Protect. Your victories here will earn you points which are then combined for daily and weekly tickets. These tickets will give you Candy and card packs to help build your collection. The same stamina is consumed in these battles as with the PvP battle in the Journey mode.
As always, there is a shop where you can buy any of the premium currencies of Candy and Fish Heads. Candy is used to upgrade your cards. Upgrading them increases their level, Magic, and Protection statistics. Lower rarity cards have a lower maximum level compared to the rarer cards. You can also sell additional cards you don’t want for more Candy, but you are better off combining cards instead to create more powerful versions of that card. You can also purchase a single card via the shop. These vary in their purchase amount with the higher cost card packs containing a minimum rarity card.
I was disappointed to see two micro-transaction purchases contained within. Considering the game was a successful Kickstarter project back in 2013, I assumed that the game would have had more free or grindable content. You can earn Candy by defeating other cards, but the accumulation rate is relatively slow. I think premium purchases are likely the only viable way of really advancing in this game, currently.
DECKBUILDING AND STRATEGY
There is no “deck” to build in Afterland. Instead you have three rows of five to fill with your Carnies, Creatures, and Souls cards. The majority of your line-up will contain Carnies and as you unlock Creatures you will certainly want to accommodate them. Your deck is restricted by an overall cost which increases as you level your profile. Each card cost can be seen when selected and the overall expenditure-versus-limit is seen at all times.
Keep the range of the cards in mind when you place them. Short-range cards should always be in the front row, with the stronger cards being on the outer columns so that they can get more shots off. Don’t worry about losing the weaker cards you placed to reach the cost limit. These should be seen as cannon fodder so the stronger cards can survive longer and thus do more damage overall.
Frequently upgrade your cards to improve their statistics, and focus on your rarer cards first as the cost to upgrade is the same no matter the rarity. The only additional expense comes from their levels beyond those of a lesser rarity. Combining cards can make use of your duplicate cards, but don’t combine a card you have already upgraded as you’ll lose its progression.
If I’m honest, I was fairly disappointed with Afterland. The game has so much promise and it feels as though the theme, artwork, and feeling the game gives you is wasted on such a simple battle mechanic. There should have been more complexity — instead, we are given a rudimentary casual card battle system that is less sophisticated than other games in this genre, such as Deck Heroes.
If the game had more content beyond the current modes, it may give it more life. For now, Afterland is as casual as it gets. You are restricted by the energy used to compete in PvP battles and have to play the Journey mode to hopefully level up in order to replenish it. Otherwise you will have to wait in order to try and get high enough on the ladder to earn the Candy and packs.
I do feel this game might find an audience with a more casual crowd, especially those who are very much into the aesthetic. If you want an interactive art collecting story, this is a good one. If you’re looking for a fully fleshed out card game, your expectations will not be satisfied here. Keep that in mind if you are willing to try it out.
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