Berserk: the Cataclysm, An In-Depth Review

7.4 TCG RATING
Gameplay: 7/10
Sound: 7/10
Graphics: 8/10

Card battle MMO with lots of modes and features. | Easy to learn and get into.

Automated combat may deter a more hardcore TCG/CCG audience.

Browser-based

Free to play with in-game purchases.

August 12,2013

English, Spanish, German, French, Czech, Polish, Italian, Turkish, Russian, Japanese, Thai, Korean

Berserk: the Cataclysm is a browser-based fantasy MMO card battle game with Squad building, card collection, long campaigns and lots of PvP content. You will also take control of floating islands, attack other players in an attempt to expand the size of your’s, as well as defend it from incoming attacks. 

Card combat is carried out automatically, so most of the strategy lies outside of combat itself in the construction and selection of which Squads to send into battle, which are essentially 8 card mini-decks that are then merged together when you go into battle. The audience for the game is largely a casual one, but there are a lot of other features in the game which make it compelling, keeping you coming back for more.

So what’s inside this game? Let’s take a look and find out…

The main combat screen where you’ll watch the combat unfold.

Gameplay

Berserk: the Cataclysm joins the crowd of browser and mobile-based fantasy collectible card games that use an automated method of combat. The player does not actually choose any actions or play any cards themselves once a battle has been initiated; instead, you choose which “Squads” of 8 cards you are sending into the battle and these are randomly shuffled and dealt to your hand.

Once in the hand, cards have a timer which ticks down each turn. When this reaches zero, the cards will play themselves to the nearest available slot at the left-hand side of the battlefield. Troops have an attack value, Health and other special abilities which will automatically be triggered depending on the circumstances. They then attack whatever is in front of them, or if there is no Character opposite, will attack the enemy player (referred to as an ‘Ungar’ in-game) and try to reduce their Leadership Points (essentially life points) to zero.

While this is happening, a range of abilities will trigger depending on conditions being fulfilled – you don’t get to choose if or when this happens. They’re either passive, or need something else to happen before they activate. Depending on the speed at which you watch the match (which can be changed from a value of 1 – slow – to 5 – lightning fast) you’ll get to see how things unfold, but you won’t have any say in the matter. Just cross your fingers and hope yours cards are (a) strong enough and (b) came out in a lucky enough order to be optimally played to the field.

As a CCG veteran, I have to say that I struggle with this kind of gameplay where I’m used to having more control over my units and actions. I feel like there is very little engagement for me as a player after I’ve picked my Squads to send into battle. After a while however, you find that the excitement comes in the random element of the game, watching which units come out to fight and hopefully in a good enough sequence for you to win the game. It’s not like other TCGs/CCGs, but it presents it’s own kind of excitement this way.

Furthermore, this gameplay has the advantage of being more newbie-friendly. It appeals also to an audience of players that are more interested in the overall progress of developing their card collection and micro-managing the game’s various other features like Islands, Towers and so on. So let’s look now at what these other features are to explain what more there is to this game other than the automated fights.

card-view1

The large view of a card shows that there are quite a few stats and abilities in the game – it’s just a shame that you don’t have more control over them in combat.

Game Modes and Other Features

In Berserk: the Cataclysm, there is a very long and extensive single-player campaign which ensures that you won’t run out of quests and missions to do for a very long time. A very large continent world map opens up into smaller regions, and each part of it contains its own map with a series of quest fights. There are actually two more campaigns you can purchase to unlock as well. This is quite a lot of content to sink your teeth into.

There are some “Missions” which you can pay coins to activate. These are a little bit like wagered challenges – you’ll pay a bit of money upfront, and in return, it gives you the possibility of earning a much greater reward in return but at the cost of defeating the objectives set in a limited amount of time. This is an interesting way to challenge the player in a single-player mission when there is an added element of “risk” involved – you might not be able to carry out the mission in time, and actually lose the coins you put up in the first place. It adds a greater sense of urgency to the task at hand.

quest-missions

Pay 15000 and earn back 45000, but only if you can win 15 battles against barbarians within half an hour. The clock is ticking…

There are also daily campaigns which are quests that you will be given if you log-in everyday and completing them will deliver rewards. These are things like “fight a random player 3 times”, “add a random friend”, “fight a bot”, that kind of thing.

Achievements are also another way of earning in-game currency: you’ll have to complete tasks such as “Win battles using only one Squad”, or “Liberate your friends’ lands from Barbarians”. There are several “Ranks” you can achieve in each Achievement: Apprentice, Acolyte, Master and Mage, and with each of these comes an increasingly larger prize of coins. This is one of the ways in which this game is entirely possible to play for free, if you desire.

Trying to meet the requirements of these Achievements is a good way to earn in-game currency.

Furthermore, in the Laboratory of your Tower, you can merge together cards of the same kind into a stronger version of themselves. This is called “Evolution” and there are several stages of Evolution for each card. Sometimes the card gains attack or health points, and sometimes they gain a whole next text ability (see the following image).

This helps with a sense of progression among your card collection and it definitely makes the game feel a bit less static – things change and evolve, getting better and stronger. This is one of the advantages of digital CCGs over paper CCGs because you can’t get this sense of card evolution properly in a paper CCG.

card-evolution

Evolving two Tandid Archers together results in a Stage 1 Tandid Archer that has gained a new text ability, ‘Precision’. This is a good way to make your cards feel like they are getting stronger over time.

Clan Wars and Island Struggles

Clan Wars are another aspect to Berserk: the Cataclysm that could end up potentially very addictive if you get passionate about it. When you join a Clan, you are then able to take part in large scale conflicts against other Clans in an attempt to take over cities on a large map. These cities are actually governed by a strict series of strategic connections and positions.

Attacking and holding these cities creates “Chains” of controlled territories, and one of the big aims is to maintain your own chains while attempting to “break” up the chained territories of enemy Clans. You also have to set up garrisoned Squads to defend your Clan’s controlled cities. I haven’t really seen this in an online card game before – it’s an interesting and surprising element to the MMO side of the game and it really adds to the sense of large scale conflict that you are a small, but important, part of a on-going political struggle.

Clan wars maps

The Clan Wars aspect to the game really opens up a social, almost political struggle on a grand scale. It feels like a board game and plays like one, too.

However, possibly the most detailed feature of Berserk: the Cataclysm outside of the main combat and online clan wars is an Island game mode where you must expand your own little grid of floating islands by going to other players, attacking their outer tiles and hopefully stealing them if they don’t come online and defend them before a certain amount of time has passed. I find this kind of thing exciting, but I also find it to be source of anxiety while I’m away from the game – “Oh no, what if people are stealing parts of my island??”

This is the kind of feature that keeps you coming back to a game time and time again. Of course, there are paid-for “protection” power-ups you can use to stop this happening, but it will cost you coins and/or premium currency to do this for a set period of time and takes the fun out of the sense of danger of being under attack. You also own a Tower which you can level up with all kinds of upgrades and other add-ons. Portals open up in your Tower which lead into other players’ island worlds for you to attack.

Expanding and defending your island is a big part of the game, but also likely to be a source of offline-anxiety because of other thieving players’ attacks.

Deckbuilding and Strategy

In Berserk: the Cataclysm, Squads do have to be built according to some particular rules, which ensures there is some thematic continuity of a particular Squad. Squad-building is also almost entirely the whole strategy of the game, so it’s the meatiest aspect to pre-combat preparations.

A Squad has only 8 cards and the first must be a Hero – your one and only Hero card permitted per Squad. The Hero will also set some of the other restrictions, like whether you’re allowed to use Equipment and Terrain cards or not, and if so, how many. Otherwise, it’s going to be mostly Character cards that fill up the Squad.

Once you pick a Hero, the game will only show you which Characters and other cards you are allowed to use with that Hero based upon its Element. For example, the Swamp hero ‘Snirk’ will only allow Swamp and Neutral characters, and no Equipment and Terrain cards.

One of the other strategic points of the game is that when you start a fight, sometimes the amount of Squads you’re allowed to use will change, between 1-3. If you need to pick 2 or 3 Squads, then it’s usually a good idea to build Squads that can work together, share their abilities, or somehow benefit from cross-Element powers. Otherwise, keeping them the same Element is a safe bet since there are abilities that will help or somehow interact with other cards of the same Element.

You can also buy some pre-made Squads in the Shop and these are a good addition to your collection as they are strong and synergize well.

Final Thoughts

Berserk: the Cataclysm is going to divide opinion based on what kind of gamer you are, I think. A potential problem with Berserk is that it sets itself up to appeal to a niche market, those that like fantasy collectible card games, and then reduces many of the elements of gameplay that makes those games appealing to that particular market. Not being able to play cards, select attack targets yourself and so on take away a lot of the appeal of this genre for its audience, even if it does have some really quality artwork for each of the cards. Therefore it takes a bit of a “mental shift” to see that the excitement and strategy of the game is involved with building successful Squads no matter what sequence they come out of your deck, and that it does take skill to construct and select Squads.

Furthermore, there is a much more casual market out there that enjoy the aesthetic and idea of complicated card games but don’t want to invest the time in learning a complex system or don’t feel they have the necessary skill to be good at such a game. This is where games like Berserk: the Cataclysm excel, by providing an opportunity for that audience to play a game where they get the best of both worlds. Combat is automatic and all you need to do is initially set up your Squads and select which Squad(s) you’re going to be sending into that particular battle.

There are a lot of other aspects to this game, such as Island cultivation and capturing, Tower management, single-player questing and so on. It’s likely this mix of other rich features that will keep you coming back for more. The Clan Wars feature alone is really unique and quite fascinating, giving an almost “board game-like” feel to the way in which it is played.

There really is a lot of content to sink your teeth into so it’s not all about the combat. It has a bit more of an MMORPG (Massively Multipler Online Roleplaying Game) feel than most online card games because of this and thus those wanting a card combat game will MMO elements will certainly find this worth investigating. Try it and see what you think.

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.

  • Johannes Rice

    Wow, this is, without any doubt, one of the worst “card games” i have ever played!
    Its browser only, theres an energy-system, you can buy advantages with real money in PvP (!) and the strategy is close to none…

  • Johannes Rice

    There has been a huge PvP-update in the meantime.
    Please consider re-reviewing the game in its current state…

  • G B

    Pay-to-win. Would not recommend.

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