Fantasy Rivals is a fantasy collectible card game developed by the same people who created Urban Rivals. In some ways, it is a re-theme of that game and its core mechanics, but it is actually a whole different game of its own. Both games revolve around a central combat mechanic that relies on psychological play, bluffing and betting with a starting pool of mana points to boost individual Heroes’ attacks. There are a range of factions, gameplay modes and deck strategies to pursue with fully integrated online play.
So how does this game stack up as a fully fledged CCG? Let’s find out…
In Fantasy Rivals, players take a deck of 8 cards into battle and face them off one-to-one by a hidden method of selection. Each player will have a Hero on the field already and have to select a second one to be played to the field. These Heroes are visible to the other player once they are played. Then each player must secretly select one of their two Heroes to be the one to go into combat, taking into account which of the two Heroes their opponent might play. Since you have some information to work with, you can attempt to pick the best Hero to overcome what the opponent might be likely to play.
When a hero clashes with another, you must decide how many vials of mana to boost your attack by. Each Hero has an attack power and a damage value. In order to inflict the damage value to the opponent’s health, you must have the higher total attack of the two fighting Heroes. Each vial of mana spend on boosting the Hero’s attack multiplies the initial attack. So 3 vials of mana spent on a Hero with an attack power of 4 will result in a total attack of 12.
Both players’ mana amounts are revealed at the same time after being chosen in secret. This is how a lot of the gameplay becomes psychological, looking at the opponent’s Hero’s stats and working out what they might be likely to spend on the card. Since players start with a total maximum, and regaining mana over the course of the match is possible but hard to do, mana is a precious resource and you have to think carefully about how much to use. There is also a way to add damage to your Hero by spending an extra 3 mana vials on top of your total attack boost (and these 3 mana do not go towards boosting your attack as well, only adding damage).
There are other considerations to take into account – for example, each round, the “Attacker” and “Defender” switch roles, and some cards’ abilities will only work or trigger upon being correctly used when attacking or defending. Similarly, many cards have abilities that will only trigger if they win, or even lose, that particular fight. This causes battles to be a really fluid situation where players are trying to trigger their Heroes’ abilities, but also bluff about what they’re doing and hopefully outsmart the opponent with psychological tricks.
Modes and Features
The single-player campaign of Fantasy Rivals takes you through a line on a map with mission nodes that you have to complete in a sequential order. These provide unique victory conditions that you must meet before being able to pass on to the next stage, such as “Win 3 games with 12 lives or more at the end” or “Gain 8 mana over the course of the match”. These can be quite difficult to pass and will usually require some deck-tinkering to attack the problem with the right tools. You’ll earn enough gold in the process to buy new cards from the card market for your decks so you can play this game entirely without putting any money into it.
The ranked and causal modes of League play are where you’ll get your PvP fix. There are also regular tournaments which you can join and play throughout the day. These carry decent prize pools and so are really worth doing if you think you’re able to compete, but you’ll find a lot of Epic rare cards here which are disproportionately powerful compared to the rest of the card pool. You can create strong decks just from lower rarity cards, and Epic cards won’t always win the game alone, but it is something to be aware of in this game. Epics are very powerful and very hard to come by.
Deckbuilding and Strategy
There are currently 6 factions available in the game, each with their own style of strategy: Abyss, Alliance, Draken, Empire, Shadow and Spectre (these roughly accord to the 5 colors of Magic: the Gathering, with “Black” being divided into Shadow and Spectre). Some focus on big attacks, trying to lose to deal damage or poison, regaining mana spent on attacks, lowering opponent’s attacks or even countering their Heroes’ abilities.
Evolving cards raises their power level, which counts against your deck total (depending on the mode you’re playing, but usually 28 stars maximum). The star level of a card also changes their stats and abilities, usually becoming much more powerful the higher the star level. It’s not always possible or desirable to have every card in your deck at the maximum star level, so sometimes it will be necessary to have some lower starred cards in order to round out your deck total of 8 cards, if you’ve already put in several high star cards.
Combat is very psychological and it will take some time to understand the best way to outsmart your opponent. Pay close attention to the attack and damage values of all Heroes available, as well as any abilities that might alter the tactical decision making process for either player. You have to try and think how your opponent is thinking, which comes with practice in this game.
One trick I like to use is to under-spend or refrain entirely from boosting a card when I know the opponent will probably over-invest in theirs. This can sometimes cause them to waste a lot of mana trying to overcome an attack that you’re not even boosting, so you’ll get them to waste a decent amount and thus have more mana yourself to control the flow of the remaining rounds. This doesn’t work all the time though as it is highly situational and often a bit of a gamble, but it can pay off well sometimes.
Fantasy Rivals has an utterly electric, exciting, tense, and deeply tactical way of resolving combat in a card game – and I absolutely love it. This system of combat can be found in a few similar games so is not 100% unique any more, however it still is one of the best innovations to happen in TCGs and CCGs in recent years. It completely refreshes the manner in which combat strategy occurs and the decisions you have to make to win. No longer will two cards go up against each other with the outcome already decided before its happened because the stats are static values that don’t change – here, you don’t know for sure what your opponent’s final attack amount will be except by inferring from the card itself and their remaining amount of mana.
It should be noted as well that a high score has been given to the sound design as most, if not all cards have been given their own unique voice acting and sound effects. This goes above and beyond what most digital card games do, matched only by big budget games like Hearthstone. The artwork style is a little bit cartoon-like for my tastes, however I understand the cost can be quite large for card game art (especially since each card here has several star levels with unique art for each level).
The only downsides I can see is that Epic rare cards are very powerful and cost way too much gold to be able to buy on the market, yet those who find them in the random booster packs have a strong advantage over those who don’t have them. Otherwise, decks can be quite evenly balanced and strong decks can be made and purchased from buying singles on the card market for a reasonable amount of gold that is easy enough to grind in the game itself.
Overall, the presentation and player experience is one of the most polished you will find in any mobile card game. It’s unique enough that you’ll find it plays differently from most other TCGs and CCGs available. I really do think that Fantasy Rivals is definitely one of the best card games available to play on on the go for mobile and tablet devices, so check it out.
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