Back in late September, 2015, I took a look at an early soft-launch version of Mavenfall — a free-to-play tactical turn-based card battler with some inventive new ideas. Mavenfall has now launched worldwide on iOS, with an Android release promised at some point in the near future. The gameplay and cosmetics have received a few changes and I couldn’t wait to see what’s new!
Has Mavenfall made a significant leap forward since the soft-launch phase? Read on to find out…
Let’s talk about the title first. The word Maven makes no sense to the overall gameplay and I can only assume it refers to each of the Mavens (characters) that you can unlock within the game. A Maven is an ‘expert’ of sorts, and so each of our Mavens have their own unique battle abilities and precise roles in our teams.
The basic concept of Mavenfall is to beat the pulp out of the opposing team of Mavens using any means necessary. The team with any Mavens left standing is the victor, obviously. A team will usually consist of three to five Mavens, but this can change in some of the Adventure missions.
Mavens come equipped with their own personal decks, and at first your decks will be full of weaker basic cards that just about get you through the base missions. Your Mavens earn experience points for each completed Adventure mission. They will also acquire a new arsenal of cards that will be far more powerful, which you can insert into their decks in-between matches as you progress.
Combat takes place on a beautifully detailed battlefield. Depending on your team composition, your Mavens will fall into specific groupings. Front-row Mavens are the “tankier” of the Mavens and tend to deal lower damage, but offset this with higher sustainability. Mid-range are a support class that offer buffs, heals, and other bonus damage effects. Your back-row has the lowest health of all Mavens, but can often deal incredible amounts of damage.
Having individual decks has some inventive gameplay implications. At the beginning of a match you will begin with one card from each of your Maven’s decks. On subsequent turns, you decide which decks to draw your next cards from. Do you take high-damage cards from your back row Mavens, or something from your tankier front row, as they are more likely to die first?
When a Maven falls, their entire deck is discarded and you will only be able to draw from the surviving Mavens’ decks. This lowers the flexibility of your strategies and combos that you can perform among the different Mavens. Often the skills will complement one another, such as adding damage to enemy Mavens with status effects that your previous Maven has applied.
The combat system is easy to learn and incredibly intuitive. Casting your skill cards costs the usual mana, which increases each turn. Finding the combos that you can accomplish between Mavens won’t take too long either. Collecting Mavens is rather simple and the easiest way is to go through the Adventure mode where you’ll unlock them and their abilities at a fair pace.
The only problem is the stingy energy system, which recharges at a painfully slow rate. You’ll find yourself running out quickly, and you will need the premium currency of Gems to replenish it immediately. You will also need Gems to make purchases of rarer skill cards for your Mavens. You can use the soft in-game currency of Gold to purchase common cards, but these aren’t going to cut it in the competitive Arena.
Graphically, the game is quite beautiful. We have some fantastically well drawn characters, which are complemented by awesome skill animations. The music isn’t at all intrusive on the gameplay, and this is perhaps one of the few games where I didn’t turn it off.
MODES AND FEATURES
Mavenfall suffers when it comes to different play modes and additional features. One could argue that this is getting closer to a casual card battle game than a complex TCG / CCG, and those are usually feature-rich. I think Mavenfall is more of a tactical game where combo moves and forward planning separate it from the casual genre — so it should escape some scrutiny.
Having said that, I do wish there were a couple of different ways to play besides the usual single-play Adventure missions and the multiplayer Arena. Mavenfall could easily benefit from simple things such as a challenge mode and even a drafting mode with Mavens and skill cards. That’d be amazing. (Please hear me, Blue Tea Games!)
Adventure is akin to your usual campaign modes, but without the story. Perhaps that’s the biggest feature that is lacking from this mode. You have no real reason to fight opposing Mavens, except to unlock them for use in your own team. Further battles unlock some of their better skill cards for their individual decks. This grants you better deck optimization for the Arena mode.
In the Arena you take turns against a real life opponent in an all-out battle. You can take part in a casual battle to try out your team composition and combos or take part in a ranked match which, as you can probably guess, improves your ranking if you win. There is nothing fancy to these modes except that you can accomplish daily missions for additional rewards by taking part in as many battles as you can (energy permitting).
DECKBUILDING AND STRATEGY
As I’ve said before, one of the most inventive things that I love about Mavenfall is that your Mavens have their own individual decks. You have no central draw deck and this certainly decreases the reliance on luck in order to get the right cards. However it also does come with some risks that could lose you the match.
Because there is no discard pile and no cycling of the cards, if your Maven runs out of cards, they can no longer participate in the battle. Additionally, if they are your last remaining Maven you will lose immediately. So balancing what you draw from your Mavens each turn is an additional strategy that isn’t instantly apparent.
Most of the attacks you can perform will attack the front row. However, some Mavens have access to skill cards that can attack specific targets or other rows. These are usually reserved for the mid- and back-row Mavens. Make use of these when you can because it is only inevitable that the front row will fall, and if you can eliminate the opposing team’s bigger damage dealers, you should do it.
Also you should take time to learn your Mavens and their specific attack types. The majority of them will have attacks and abilities that complement one another. One such strategy is to inflict many baneful statuses on the opposing team and then have another attack them who will gain a bonus to their attack for each status inflicted. It’s combos like these that make the matches extremely enjoyable — and that is why you’re playing after all, right?
When I played the early release of Mavenfall, there weren’t as many Mavens and the game wasn’t as polished as it is now. There are a large number of Mavens to experiment with now and their effects go far beyond what I experienced the first time around. So much so that it felt like I was playing a completely new game, which was a refreshing feeling.
Mavenfall is not a perfect game, but it is one that is worthy of your time. It’s not going to appeal to everyone, but no game does. The inventive use of decks and rows gives the game a lot of strategic depth. Playing around with different team compositions is one of the games small joys that can be experienced over and over as you unlock more content.
I did encounter a small bug or two when I played this version, which weren’t present in the soft launch. However, there is a support button for you to report any problems to the game developers and I made sure to do so. They are lightning fast to respond to your queries, which should show their level of commitment to their product. I felt immediately reassured that Mavenfall is here to stay!
Mavenfall carves out for itself a perfect space between heavyweight strategy card games and lighter, casual card battle games — neither too taxing, yet deeper than most mobile card games. It’s easily one of my favourite releases for all of 2015.
So that just leaves us one thing to consider… what on earth does Mavenfall mean? … Anyone?
For more screenshots, click here.
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