Astral Towers, An In-Depth Review

7.3 TCG RATING
Gameplay: 8/10
Sounds: 7/10
Graphics: 7/10

Easy to get into and learn. | Nice mixture of puzzle and combat mechanics.

Tower matches can occasionally take a lot of time to finish.

Windows and iOS.

iOS: Regular Pass - $1.99, Master Pass - $2.99. | PC: $9.95.

May 1,2010

English, Russian

Astral Towers is a fantasy card game mixing strategy and puzzle elements available for iOS and PC. In Astral Towers, you play a mage who must build and upgrade your Magic Tower to be stronger and produce more effects for you while attempting to destroy your opponent’s Tower to win the game. Mages will summon creatures and play devastating spells from five different elements to do this.

There is also a story campaign mode that has more of a puzzle approach to it, or you can play matches online against other people and locally using the hot seat mode.

The game is fast and simple, but is it a decent game overall? Read on to find out…

Menu screen

The menu screen of the game.

Gameplay

In a game of Astral Towers, you will select creatures, spells, towers, siege units and other upgrades to build using your elemental power income which you earn 1 of each per round. The goal is to upgrade your Magic Tower to be stronger while bringing down the health of your opponent’s Magic Tower. There are five elements in the game: fire, ice, nature, death and craft, the last of those being more orientated around building structures and upgrading your tower with protective enchantments.

The strategy of the game comes with deciding which upgrades to apply, as each element has a few levels of tower upgrades that each bring their own effects and add new elemental cards for you to use in the game, but at the cost of no longer being able to upgrade the tower with any other element’s upgrades. When you upgrade the tower in a certain element, it will also give you a few more spells to use in the match, although you can’t be sure of what you’ll be given until it’s already upgraded.

The playing field is a grid of two halves, each half controlled by a player. In the central slot on the back row is each player’s Magic Tower. The five slots around it are the front and back rows where you can play units. Creatures come into the game with HP (Health Points) and attack power. Creatures will not recover HP unless their own or another card’s effect heals them. Placement of units is important because they will have either Melee or Ranged attack: with Melee, they will only attack units in the front row, and with Ranged, they are able to attack across the whole board.

This brings us to combat, which is quite unique in this game. Each round, units will attack unless they came into play this turn. They will attempt to attack the nearest possible unit to themselves, and this doesn’t always end up being the unit right in front of them. It might be diagonal, or two or even three rows down and to the side. Units will always attack whichever is the closest to their position though. This adds another layer of strategy to the game when placing your units onto the play grid. Units also don’t deal damage to each other at the same time, so you might be able to kill a unit before it can strike back in their own turn.

The first player to reduce the opponent’s Magic Tower to zero HP wins the game.

Match in progress

Here, the player’s Tower has been upgraded in the Death element, expanding their selection of Death cards for the rest of the match.

Game Modes

There are a few game modes in Astral Towers. Firstly is the single-player story campaign, which helps you learn the rules and strategy of the game. However, it should be said, this mode is essentially quite different to playing a fully fledged “tower” game against the computer or another player. There are a few reasons for this.

The campaign is a tailored experience that strips away a lot of the features of a full game and gets you to earn them slowly over the course of the whole campaign. You also do not start with a tower, but rather a hero character who is exploring and trying to investigate what has gone wrong in the game’s world with so many bad monsters overrunning it. As your character progresses through the map, you’ll face unique challenge matches which bring much more of a puzzle element to the game.

Campaign map

The story campaign’s map, which provides paths that you can explore to earn new cards and strengthen your hero’s stats.

Each campaign game is a repeatable experience that will always play out the same way, so you can improve your tactics if you don’t get it right the first time. The enemy will carry out the same actions in the same order and you must utilize the resources and cards you have collected so far to pass the challenge. Often what is required from you is an exact (or near-exact) sequence of cards which you must work out and use, otherwise your character will die from too many attacks.

This mode is really enjoyable because you’re able to learn the strategy of the game while slowly building up a huge arsenal of cards. The campaign games are very short, so they’re addictive because you want to keep trying to defeat the next one.

You’re also able to play AI matches against the computer using the full “tower match” experience, selecting between 3 difficulty levels for the AI’s intelligence. The only other modes available are online multiplayer in the online league and a local hot seat option which lets you play with someone else on the same device.

Quest story match

A campaign game where the hero starts off with a small number of cards to use against puzzle-like matches.

Strategies

Astral Towers is not really a true trading card game per se; it is more of a strategy card game because it selects the cards for you when you start the match. Therefore the strategy of each game is determined after you’ve already started, by looking at your cards when you begin.

Each element has a range of cards that might be present in your Spell Book when you start the match, so it is a semi-randomized set that you are given. However this is where a lot of the strategy of the game comes in, as you cannot be certain exactly which spells and creatures of each element you will be given for that particular match (unless you’re playing the campaign, where your hero slowly builds up a set range of spells to use over the course of the story).

Therefore you need to look at what spells you’ve been given, think about which cards work best with other cards and start to form a strategy as to how to defeat the opponent including which elemental tower upgrade you want to go for.

The game is also about resource management so you’ll need to think hard about the value you get from each card you play, as some provide more value than others for their cost. One of the better units is the Nature card ‘Dryad’, as it has a Ranged attack of 2 and will attack each other enemy unit once per round. This means it could be dealing up to 24 damage each round. You just need to make sure its protected so the best place to put it is in the back row behind some other protective units in the front.

Another strategy is to go for units that deal a lot of damage to towers and attack towers only, such as the Ice Drake which ignores creatures when attacking and the Dwarven Trebuchet which deals double damage to buildings. This is a risky strategy but can often pay off provided you have enough protective units in the front to cushion the blows from enemy creatures.

Spellbook List

The Dryad is one of the best units in the game because it attacks each enemy unit every round, giving the best value for the resource cost.

Final Thoughts

Astral Towers is a worthwhile experience if you enjoy the strategy of trading card games but don’t want to get trapped with needing to buy and collect cards or put a lot of thought into constructing decks. Since the cards are generated from each of the elements at the start of a match, all you need to do is work out what your strategy will be for that particular game. This is especially the case in the campaign mode which really feels like a light RPG game as you go through it earning new cards and increasing your hero’s power.

The art is really well done and has an almost cartoonish appeal to it, while the sound design is also impressive. The soundtrack provides well-written fantasy orchestral tracks in the background while most of the cards come alive with their own unique sound effects. It adds a nice touch to the game overall.

I enjoy the puzzle elements of the campaign, while the full player-versus-player tower matches are also really fun and challenging because you have to alter your strategy each time you play it. You should check this one out if you like to jump right in with very little setup and get deep into some strategic gameplay. It’s well worth a download, especially since you can get it on your phone or tablet to take on the move.

For more screenshots, click here.

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Zac Phoenix
Author: Zac Phoenix View all posts by
Zac Phoenix graduated with First Class Honors in Philosophy, Religion and Ethics and has been playing strategy card games since childhood. He has a keen interest in the underlying mechanics and player interactions of trading card games, as well as tabletop game design in the digital space. He also designs card games in his spare time.

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