Elements, An In-Depth Review

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

Familiar gameplay with new ideas. | Tons of creative freedom with deckbuilding.

Dated graphics and lackluster card art. | Gaining 'Electrum' gets tougher as you progress.

PC, Mac, Linux

Free-to-play, with donations possible to earn rewards.

May 26,2009

English

When a game is so successful it is only natural for other companies to want to release similar games. Elements The Card Game is one such game that has cloned some of what Magic: The Gathering has to offer. Elements is a free-to-play, fantasy collectible card game where each player is an Elemental – a spirit being comprised from one of 12 elements.

These elements are the building blocks of nature and the world around you. In your decks, they grant you particular skills and the ability to control powerful creatures. You will then use these to take on other players and specially crafted A.I. decks in order to become an Elemental Master.

Can Elements stand up to the greatness of it’s inspiration, or is it just a poor imitation? Read on to find out…

Main-menu-screen

Elements has been around a while now, and this is visually apparent with it’s slightly dated looks. The game does play better than it looks though, I promise!

GAMEPLAY

Elements The Card Game plays in a very similar way to that of Magic: The Gathering, but is far more simplified. Gone are tapping and turn phases — instead we are given a fully automated system with extra gameplay mechanics that give it a little more distance from it’s inspiration.

Each turn comprises of playing resources (called Quanta) and an end phase that resolves attacks and any permanent effects. This keeps the game simple to play and even a complete novice should have no trouble getting into the game, while still preserving strategic depth. The only problem I could see is that the game doesn’t do too good of a job explaining what is going on at first. I had to figure out some of the mechanics myself so that I could come up with some strategies to work around particular quest decks.

On your first start-up of the game, you will choose which Elemental Mark you want. I chose Death, because Zombies and Skeletons are too cool to say “no” to! The game does have a tutorial duel where you can learn the ropes and simple processes such as how to play your Quanta-generating Pillars, Creatures, Spells, and Permanents.

The chosen Mark gives you one of its element in Quanta each turn, regardless of whether or not your draw into your other Quanta-generating cards. This avoids being in a complete “mana-screw” position (or should I be saying Quanta-screw?) — a welcome mechanic, as we do not get a chance to mulligan bad opening hands. I would sometimes open with all Creatures or an abundance of Pillars, as is the nature of such card games.

Quanta-and-attacks-happen-at-the-end

Gather Quanta and attack at the end of each turn. This is a completely different way of doing things and I think it’s very innovative and fresh to play.

Obviously we need Quanta to be able to cast our other Creature, Spell and Permanent cards. The more powerful the card the higher the Quanta cost. In my Death deck, my Skeletons only cost me one Quanta each, whilst my mighty Bone Dragon costs me ten. If you streamline your deck into one element, these castings are fairly easy to accomplish after a few turns and a good opening hand. Mixing elements can make your deck more formidable, but less consistent. Striking the right balance between power and consistency is the struggle felt by every TCG/CCG player out there, isn’t it?!

I liked the addition of Weapon and Shield cards, which are Permanents. The weapons will deal damage to the opponent every turn and some come with added effects triggered by spending Quanta. Shields can protect your life in a number of different ways. The mixture of different ways in which we can attack and defend ourselves makes the game slightly more interesting than other Magic-inspired games that I’ve played.

Several things occur at the end of the turn. Once you have played all of your desired cards, you can end the turn by pressing your space bar. Creatures that are able to attack will do so, attacking the opposing player directly. The only way to stop direct attacks is to have a Shield equipped or have a Creature that directs attacks towards it instead (a kind of “taunt” or “guardian” effect). Any damage that gets through is subtracted from the life point total, with the objective being to reduce the opponent’s to zero in order to win.

Quanta are gathered at the end of each turn too. This is the complete opposite of what happens in other games where the resources are always gathered at the start of a turn. Any weapon damage and other effects, such as Poison, are also subtracted from the opponent’s life at the end of a turn too. It is easy to lose track of what is going on at times, but the game does show you how much damage is going to be dealt each turn by highlighting part of the life bar in yellow. I found this to be crucial information, especially in those tightly-fought games.

The-arena-explained

The Arena is an asynchronous online PvP mode, of sorts. Here you’ll play a pre-constructed deck made by an opponent and try and beat it. If you do, you’ll be rewarded with Electrum, and maybe even a card!

MODES AND FEATURES

Elements has a few nice additional features that add to the overall fun on offer here. The daily Oracle spin will reward you with a card and Electrum (the in-game currency), in addition to a few other things. Daily rewards have a draw to them that makes people want to come back to the game each day in order to see what they’ll be rewarded with.

Cards can be bought and sold through the Bazaar. Selling the cards you don’t need will help you strengthen the deck you do want to make, and a quick Google search can turn up some great deck recipes for you to try and build.

The PvP modes are separated into different categories, for regular and enhanced cards. Your first engagements are likely to be in the PvP 1 mode against regular decks. As your deck and skill grow you should check out PvP 2 and perhaps invite a friend along to battle in the PvP Duel mode. Further online play can be found in the Arena. You can make a deck that will face off against other players, and if you win, you will be awarded with Electrum and an increase in your score.

Quests add more rewards and each one increases in its difficulty to complete, though the rewards are scaled well so it makes beating them well worth the effort involved. The game also features a way to communicate with fellow players with the built-in Chat option. Each time I checked this out there were plenty of players conversing with one another and even sharing deck ideas with one another. Such camaraderie is rarely seen in more competitive card games, where people are less inclined to share. I was pleased to see this function added when many other games do not bother to do so.

Deck-editor-screen

The deck editor is very simple to use and building a deck takes mere minutes. I only wish that I could see all my cards at once without being restricted by the element I’m looking at.

DECKBUILDING AND STRATEGY

Elements’ deckbuilding is sleek and efficient, but lacks the visual flair seen in other titles. Clicking cards in and out the deck is done with ease and you can then sell unwanted cards at the Bazaar. Each element is shown down the left side and your Elemental Mark can be changed here. The fact that the Mark gives you one Quanta of its element per turn can mean that you could mix in other Element cards with the prime Pillars being the same as your deck choice. This enables a dual-element deck without having to sacrifice other cards from a deck and running more Pillars than you want to.

Your currently-owned cards can be seen via their corresponding element. I would have preferred to see all of my owned cards at the same time regardless of element, but that is just a personal preference. It didn’t hamper me from building my deck as other elemental cards were just a click away.

Forming a deck with a strategy is the key to winning on a regular basis. Simply throwing strong cards together will result in a fast and painful defeat. Strong cards cost more Quanta to summon, so you need some smaller ones too. A Weapon or damage-over-time cards will also reduce the opponent’s health in addition to attacks, as these ignore Shield effects. Poking damage through like this often won me many games because some of the Shields were too powerful for my Skeletons and Spiders to get through!

Schrodingers-Cat

Ever wondered where Schrodinger’s cat went? Well, wonder no more. It found a home in Elements!

FINAL THOUGHTS

Elements got off to a shaky start at first because I was unable to decipher what was going on some of the time. It all felt a little random and almost as if the game played itself and needed very little player interaction. Then came the realization that I did have some control with my deck building and could trigger some Creature effects during the main playing phase. Once I was over the simplicity of the game I actually managed to really enjoy myself playing it, as it plays differently enough from Magic to have its own identity.

One clear downside is that the card art does feels a little primitive and the lower budget shows here, clearly unable to afford the same artists as bigger games, or like those funded through crowd funding websites. It doesn’t matter too much though as the board is rather small, so amazing art would go to waste here with such a small resolution on offer.

It’s certainly not on the same level as Magic: The Gathering or Hex: Shards of Fate, but it is an excellent gateway into such titles because the game offers the player a very entry-level experience with resource management and costs, without the need to remember to tap cards, interrupt plays with instants, or calculate damage between attackers and blockers.

If you’re looking into perhaps picking up any of the aforementioned games but don’t have much TCG/CCG experience, you should try this one first, as the others can be quite daunting initially! Furthermore, if you’re a fan of those other games and are looking for something similar but different enough to present some new ideas and strategies, you can’t go wrong checking out Elements The Card Game if you’re willing to forgive that it isn’t the flashiest game around.

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

    What disattacted me personally, is the unability to block, which makes games a rush for the opponents’ life…

  • Aleksandar Salma

    I played this one long ago on Kongregate and surprisingly the developer of the game (one guy) is still active on the official forums patching the game and there is small but strong community which is even designing new cards for the game, I think that really great and the game deserves more recognition!

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