Mixing genres is not an easy thing to do, by any standard. There are so many variables and expectations that come with doing so — so many, in fact, that I’m surprised it doesn’t put developers off from trying. Cast & Conquer attempts the near-impossible by mixing elements of MMORPGs with casual card combat games in a fast-paced and feature-rich game. These are two genres that should tie in well together – given the fantasy theme and combat system — but does it work?
Is there too much going on in Cast & Conquer, or does it get the balance right? Read on to find out…
I love games that give me plenty to do and pose a decent challenge. Cast & Conquer has plenty to see and do, and the challenges that await are introduced gently and gradually so that they do not overwhelm the player. Here, you’ll play as a Hero who commands an army of Soldiers made up of various creature and role types.
Upon starting the game you are immediately thrown into a tutorial, which does need to be passed before you can progress. The game then forces several of the games mechanics onto you before you get the freedom to explore the game a little deeper. I don’t mind learning the basics, but I do prefer being able to look around at my own leisure, too. When we are finally able to look around, there is plenty to see. Some of the features are more robust than others, but the overall presentation is very good.
The style of gameplay can be described as a horizontal, lane combat system where your Soldiers advance toward the opponent each turn. If they engage an enemy along the way, they will stop and attack that enemy each turn until one of them dies. You have no control over their actions or attack targets, so initial placement is everything. The combat sequence of the game pretty much takes care of itself with the only exception being the summoning of the Soldiers.
Resources of varying descriptions appear to be the norm when discerning costs for summoning cards to battlefields. Cast & Conquer uses a timer system instead. Each card has a value in its top left corner that determines the number of turns it must wait, after being drawn, until it can be summoned to the field. This is similar to the system used in Deck Heroes. I quite like this system, but it isn’t without its flaws. Having too many longer-wait cards in your hand can put you in a perilous situation, and we’d rather avoid those!
You earn Soldier cards via a number of methods, with clearing basic missions being the norm. These are brief encounters that serve to give you small rewards and to help you get to grips with the different Soldier mechanics. These mechanics are introduced slowly, with a brief tutorial telling you how best to use the skills offered by that Soldier type. I was happy to receive such tuition, but began to find them intrusive later on. It would have been best to get these lessons learnt sooner, rather than impose them upon us later.
The sprites and animations are cute enough. I played the game on an iPad and felt that the graphical optimization was more for smaller devices, as some of the images were blurry and less distinctive on the larger screen. The sound effects blend well with the overall feel of the game, but the repetitive music drove me to the point of insanity and I had to turn it off, but this is common for games that don’t have a varied soundtrack and I always find myself turning them off at some point.
MODES AND FEATURES
This is where the MMORPG element ties in to Cast & Conquer. There are features that encourage you to participate with and against other players. Despite the distinct lack of a story, these modes are fun to play, with some of them even being played in real-time.
The Team Dungeon is the most relevant to the MMORPG genre, by being able to set up a dungeon run which allows other players to participate with you in order to defeat the dungeon boss. The battle takes place much like any other, with each side summoning their Soldiers, but in this instance your comrades are also summoning their Soldiers at the same time as you. I love being able to team up like this, and it does make the game a lot more fun than many other online TCGs/CCGs.
Leveling up cards is something that goes hand-in-hand with casual card battle games. “Alchemy” is the way in which we do this within this game (at least it’s not “feeding” characters to each other, which is an image I consistently can’t get away from when I’m sacrificing cards to level up others!). First you need to dissolve unwanted cards to get some EXP. From here we can use that EXP to evolve a card beyond its current limits. The higher the rarity, the more EXP it’ll cost to level it up. There are other ways to increase the power of the deck, such as Awakening cards, but these are reserved for the higher levels of gameplay and give you a goal to work toward.
In addition to leveling up your cards, you can also increase the statistics of your Hero by equipping them with various in-game items. This makes it feel a lot like an RPG and less like a card game at this point. Adding items can increase your Soldier’s attack, reduce the wait time to summon, and many other effects. You can even craft, combine, and enchant items via the Blacksmith. Making things in this game has been fun, and the acquisition of items appears to be fairly quick.
PvP appetites will be satisfied in the Arena. Here you can fight for Honor and Glory against other online opponents. It is probably best to ensure you have a very good deck for your level before taking on others. Although you will earn points even if you lose, you don’t get anywhere near the same amount for a win — and who wants to lose, anyway?
The obvious pay-to-win formula is rather apparent. Spending real money on Garnets (premium in-game currency) opens the doors to so many premium cards that can be earned by opening the more premium of card packs. Gaining access to more powerful cards in the early stages of the game will make the single-player missions a breeze too, and the PvP matches made rather easy by comparison to those that opt for the free-to-play model only.
There are many more features besides these and it would take an essay to cover all of them. Such is the huge variety on offer here. They contain methods of communication, pets, quests, rewards, and ways to obtain the non-premium currencies of Coins and Sapphires. As I have said already, there is so much to see and do in Cast & Conquer that you should never be at a loss for something to do. If you like your card games to be more than just “the match” itself, there’s a lot of extraneous stuff to do here.
DECKBUILDING AND STRATEGY
As you level up in Cast & Conquer you earn more card slots within the deckbuilder. Your Battle Rating will also increase by having more cards, better equipment, and higher level cards. You can construct the deck yourself or have the game generate a deck for you automatically using the cards in your possession, if you wish. It does tend to use the highest level cards and doesn’t take tactical combinations into consideration, though.
Finding the right balance will take time and plenty of pack openings. Power is never a bad thing at the start. Other than trying to find cards that work in synergy with one another, there is very little strategic depth to Cast & Conquer other than attempting to build more powerful decks with better stats through the use of training the cards, leveling them up, equipping them with items, and so on.
Cast & Conquer is the type of game that has no trouble entertaining. It has a variety of different modes and features that’ll keep even the most demanding of players engaged. What it does suffer from is unpopular pay-to-win formula. Yes, you can win games against other players and the in-game A.I. without spending any money, but climb up that ladder in the Arena and you’ll find it increasingly difficult if you haven’t spent some real money in-game. The same could be said for many, if not most, of the games we review on the site, though, so it wouldn’t be fair to punish this one too much since they are a business and are not making the game for free, after all.
The online community is well rooted and it has a huge following, so there will never be a shortage of opponents to try and beat. The graphics are visually appealing, but lack the detail and polish I’ve come to expect on a tablet device. It is certainly more suited to a mobile phone or phablet device instead. Overall, the experience playing Cast & Conquer is a pleasant one, but it’s not going to be earth-shattering. It has a few shortcomings, but it has many more positives that make it worth your time if you’re curious. I’m quite enamored with it already, and can see myself playing for quite some time.
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