The popularity of vampires has come and gone over the years, but thanks to the Twilight, True Blood and Vampire Diaries films/series, the theme has experienced a resurgence. Nightbanes takes advantage of this popularity by offering us a free-to-play CCG (Collectible Card Game) experience full of vampires, werewolves, and other abominable creatures.
Nightbanes was originally released as a browser-based game but later expanded to include Steam and Android. The game has received constant updates over the course of its life and these have been received well by its many fans. Nightbanes uses the “lane combat” battle system employed by many digital TCGs/CCGs, but wraps it all up in a highly polished client with more to it than there is on the surface.
Can Nightbanes impress, or does it need a stake through the heart? Read on to find out…
First impressions are everything in today’s world, and Nightbanes leaves you with a great one. From the outset, the client and user interface look like they’ve come from a premium title. The menu system is sleek, with some nice animations and effects. You can play a brief tutorial which will help teach you the basics of the game, but you could also pick up these basics by jumping straight in. There is a reward for completing the tutorial – so in this instance, it is worth it.
The artwork on the cards is well drawn and does a great job of depicting the undead armies of the underworld. Perhaps the biggest feature is the special effects afforded to the battle animations, Creature effects, and the Power card effects. The lighting of these effects can also be seen on the battlefield. The amount of detail given to all of the effects is something you would expect from a paid game, not a free-to-play title.
Casual card battle games that use a lane combat system suffer something of a bad rap because they usually restrict the amount of input you have. Nightbanes suffers the same restrictions, but it does give you a little more autonomy than other titles. At the start of the game you select one card from your hand to put into play. You’ll usually want to summon a Creature card at this stage instead of a Power or Artifact card. You then play one card per turn thereafter and the opponent does the same.
Bloodlust on the Creature cards acts as a timer to indicate when they can begin attacking and use their abilities. They also have basic attack and health values for their power and toughness. If a Creature has a special ability it will usually be a chance ability that may or may not trigger each turn. The randomness can be frustrating when you are counting on the ability to trigger when it won’t, but that goes with RNG (randomness) in card games.
A Creature will always attack the card directly in front of it and if there is no card it will attack the opposing Lord directly. Each Lord card has its own abilities and health value that can be increased with the use of a Mount. A Mount is a card that exists to increase your overall health, and some will grant you new abilities, too. Despite the attack restrictions, this does equate to a strategic style of gameplay. I’ve never seen “mounts” in a game like this before, an idea likely taken from MMORPGs or MOBAs (other genres of competitive online games), and so I really like the flavor it adds to your character.
You can play your Creatures to your advantage by ensuring there are opposite Creatures they can take on, or you can use your Power cards to eliminate a threat before it eliminates one of your Creatures. Items can be equipped to your Creatures to give them extra attack power or health, ensuring their survival over the opponent’s Creatures. If one of your Creatures dies whilst equipped with an item, that item will go to the item graveyard and may stand a chance to be picked up by another Creature that can equip it in a later round.
There does appear to be a little bit of freedom within Nightbanes that does a great job of separating it from other lane combat card games. You will have to think tactically if you want to win a match, and even some of the A.I. matches can be fairly challenging. This gives Nightbanes much more appeal than a lot of other games like this in its subgenre.
MODES AND FEATURES
Nightbanes has the usual array of features given to a game of this nature. You have a single-player Quest mode where you take on various A.I. opponents and earn rewards as you progress. Among these rewards are the game’s different in-game currencies. The basic currencies of Blood Pearls and Blood Rubies are your main resources for buying cards and booster packs. Blood Diamonds are the premium currency, but can also be earned in-game at a slower rate.
If you take on the next level of the same areas you will earn greater rewards. These are well worth the effort for the additional cards and Blood Pearls alone. You’ll want to complete as much of the single-play Quests as possible before looking in on the PvP arena.
In a PvP match you will use your deck against an online player in real-time. Players may wait for a match or challenge one another via the in-game chat console. These matches will be a lot tougher than the A.I. matches in the Quest mode. Your experience will be better if you spend some money on packs to acquire a bigger pool of cards, but this isn’t entirely necessary to enjoy yourself.
One of the best features has to be the Archive. Most card games make you purchase packs in order to acquire cards at random. Nightbanes allows you to spend in-game currencies on single cards so you can build the exact deck you want. You can even buy a new, more powerful Lord card to replace your weaker, starter Lord card very early on. This will make the Quest mode far easier to digest and get through.
You can also level-up and increase the power of some of your cards too. To do this you will need to spend more in-game currencies. This is a feature you’ll use later in your gameplay career rather than early on, as the cost for upgrading cards is fairly steep.
DECKBUILDING AND STRATEGY
I love the deckbuilding experience in Nightbanes. It felt almost effortless when I started to edit my deck using cards I had acquired from the Quest mode and booster packs. Your deck will always comprise of 30 cards for it to be a legal deck. You have complete freedom of what to include from your available cards, but you’ll want to keep your pseudo mana-curve in check.
The Bloodlust wait time of your cards will play a large part in your deckbuilding. The stronger cards will have a longer waiting time compared to cards that need to wait a single turn. You will also want to take their effects into account as their base attack values can be deceiving. Some cards will also inflict a specific type of damage in addition to their base attack value.
The order in which you summon your Creatures can be fairly crucial too. Cards with a higher health should be played before those of a lower value as they will last longer. Some cards can swap positions with others in order to grant them a longer life or to act as a buffer for others. Play around with the order of your cards to find some interesting combos!
There are plenty of reasons to like Nightbanes, but an equal number to avoid it. The menus and user interface are sleek, great card art, and some fantastic special effects during a battle. However, the lack of freedom that is synonymous with this lane combat style of game will leave a lot of players wanting more.
It lacks the depth that proper turn-based CCGs are well known for. For those looking for something quick and simple to play then it will scratch that itch. For people looking for a deep and meaningful gameplay experience – there are better titles out there.
That said, I was pleasantly surprised. I wasn’t expecting much going into this one and I came out thinking that I might actually like to play it on an on-going basis myself. That says a lot, I think, given that I have a lot of games I play regularly already. I especially enjoyed the theme, so if you are attracted to this aesthetic at all, definitely pick this one up and give it a go!
For more screenshots, click here.
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