Permia Duels is a turn-based collectible card game blending a new take on Final Fantasy VIII‘s Triple Triad mechanic with Rock-Paper-Scissors elements as well. This time however, instead of rectangles, the cards are six-sided tiles placed onto a hex grid map.
The game is story-driven — you take the helm as a commander of ferocious creatures that do battle for you. During this journey you uncover espionage and betrayal that threatens to shake uneasy alliances between nations. The story unfolds between battles, which are said to be fast and addictive.
Will we get hooked on Permia Duels as promised or is it a forgettable tale? Read on to find out!
The first thing I notice about Permia Duels is just how polished the visuals are. From the highly detailed menu systems to the fantastical artwork for each of the units, everything has been beautifully crafted. It’s always a privilege to be able to play a game when it’s clear that the developers have put a lot of care and effort into it.
There are a number of factors at play when getting down to the actual gameplay. Each unit is represented as a hexagonal tile with a number for all sides of the hex. This number is the strength of the unit on that side. Much like the Triple Triad system (if you’re familiar from that mini-game in Final Fantasy VIII which we’re seeing a lot of modern card games take inspiration from lately), a higher number beats a smaller one and this will change the color of the defeated tile to the color of the winning player. Both players start out with 6 tiles and the winner is the player with the most tiles of their color at the end of the match. This is the easy part… Now it gets a little more complicated.
In addition to strength numbers, the cards also have a type: either Cavalry, Infantry, or Ranged. Shapes help to differentiate the type of unit and the shape is what the strength number sits on top of. This is the Rock-Paper-Scissors element — a card with an equal strength to another will beat it if it’s of the stronger element. This concept can be grasped fairly quickly and if you are ever in doubt, the game helps by letting you know if you can beat an opponent’s unit with an arrow when you preview dragging and dropping a unit onto a tile. Terrain types add or subtract strength from these types too. The fact the game does the math for you is a blessing, for sure!
The last remaining mechanic to take effect is the unit’s sub-type. I’m not sure if this is the correct term, as this isn’t really explained in the game. These are Swimming, Flying, and Ground. Terrain also affects these too by being only able to deploy a certain sub-type on that terrain. The obvious ones are Flying units which can go on mountains and Swimming unit types can be placed on water. Luckily confusion never takes control thanks to the helpful hints the game gives you when you pick up a tile.
Playing a match will only take several minutes. Quick bursts like this keep the game from feeling stale, as it would do if the matches went on much longer, I think. Strategies are formed on the fly and it is impossible to really plan too far ahead. You have no idea of the tiles in your opponent’s hand or their strength. You can only hope that yours are strong enough to beat them.
The game does lean on the more difficult side after a few missions into the story. You can replay some of the completed missions and these will get progressively harder. Further into the story, the rounds get even harder, and the game will tell you whether the battle will be Easy, Challenging, or Hard up front. This helps you to focus on the fine-tuning of your deck first before going in. The difficulty scales to the power of your deck and the game will tell you if that battle has got easier because of your changes. Curious feature, for sure… It’s almost as if it wants you to succeed!
MODES AND FEATURES
Permia Duel’s story and single player campaign can be completed at a reasonable pace (with an energy stamina system to stagger you a little bit). If you want to steam right through without waiting you’re going to have to drop some real money for better units. Boosters can be purchased using two different in-game currencies: Coins (soft) and Qual (premium). I found that the game doesn’t reward the player with a lot of Qual from completing quests. It felt as though you were being pushed into a premium purchase or two, but this is to be expected from a ‘free to play’-style game.
Duels are the multiplayer offering, where you can play against real people. After 10 bouts of this, you can access the ranking systems to see just how well you compare against your fellow human beings! I didn’t really have too much trouble finding other people to play and they often appeared to be around my level, so the competition was fair (despite never losing!). It seems like there’s a healthy amount of players on at any time, which is good.
There are a number of achievements that can you can unlock to earn some Coins or Qual. Achievements are always a good way of tracking your progress and are something to reach for. I always enjoy unlocking them when I play a game that has them.
There is little in the way of customization unfortunately, and I did expect more, considering how uniform the game feels otherwise. I would have liked to change my hex tile color, but am limited to only being able to change my player avatar. Player-to-player interaction is left to Facebook and Twitter, as there is no way to communicate with players mid-game. Those that like to boast and gloat will be disappointed at not being able to do so in Permia Duels, but it is what it is. Not too many mobile/tablet games of this sort have communication features these days, anyway.
DECKBUILDING AND STRATEGY
You don’t have a deck per se in Permia Duels. Instead you have a collection of tiles that you can choose 6 from to take into a match. You swap these in and out by dragging and dropping them into place. Their order doesn’t matter as you can play any one you want during battle. Having a mix of each sub-type will be important. I sometimes found myself being unable to play a unit because it could not be played on the remaining terrain hex tiles (d’oh!). You can play this to your advantage against online opponents by trying to force them into not being able to play any more tiles.
Unit tiles can be upgraded in two ways, and one must be done before you can move onto the next. First you will need to ‘promote’ the tiles. To do this, you combine two of the same tile together. This will add a dot to the tile’s insignia rarity color. Combining units will increase the strength value of one or more sides. I was able to promote units more than once, and so doing this is clearly far more powerful than a single promotion alone.
After you’ve promoted a unit you can begin to train it. This is done in the same way, except you don’t need to use the exact same unit this time — you can use any you like. I found that training only increases one of the strength values at random. There is no control over which side will be improved. Each training session (and promotion) costs Coins, so you’ll need these in plentiful supply as well.
Despite the mix of mechanics, Permia Duels is a captivating game. I think if the game didn’t help me out with arrows and tell me when my units would have a bonus, I would have found it more of a struggle but perhaps also more engaging and challenging.
In any case, the quick-fire battles are more than a little bit addictive, but not enough so to keep me playing for hours at a time — this is a game that is much better in shorter bursts, such as when travelling on a train or waiting for a bus. I found the game was best enjoyed in small doses like this.
I’m not sure who the target audience is for this game. It doesn’t appear to have a mass appeal and has a rather niche blend of influences. It will appeal to fans of hex tile-based games, and employs a lot of the strategy these games come with. If you like card collecting and upgrading/evolving, it has a bit of that too, but it’s not quite a traditional collectible card game, either.
I guess you’ll just have to play it and see for yourself. If you think this is the type of game you will enjoy, check it out! In the meantime, I’ll keep playing this as one of the titles on my go-to ‘short waiting time’ game list!
For more screenshots, click here.
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