SoulSpark – Battle Cards is a fantasy card battling game with real-time card combat. In SoulSpark, you lead a team of heroes made up of the usual suspects we find in fantasy games such as mages, knights, druids, and archers. Your motley crew of heroes takes on various foes whilst trying to save the world. It’s a clichéd story that has been done a million times and adds nothing new or exciting to the genre, but SoulSpark adds in its own flavor of humor to keep things lively.
Does SoulSpark have enough of a spark to ignite it into a must-have title, or is it just a dull flicker of a game? Read on to find out…
You play SoulSpark with heroes equipped with cards that can be cast at the enemy. Some require mana to cast, while others are free. Every card has a casting timer that you can see and when that timer ends, the action is performed. Winning the battle is as simple as defeating all of the enemies on the board… I say ‘simple’, but…
The first mission introduces you to your beginning cast of heroes: a mage, a knight, and an archer. You’re up against a barrel of rats, so no threat is posed here, but you’ll easily learn the basics of combat. Such niceties are short lived, as the enemies get increasingly harder the further you progress into the story. There are some obvious walls that you will hit, such as enemies being able to deal huge amounts of damage to you in a single shot. This then leads to you needing to revive a fallen comrade using Gems (one of the premium in-game currencies). You can only revive a fallen hero once per duel though, so try to avoid this if possible.
The game revolves around a central campaign and is broken down into different areas and encounters along the way. There are a decent number of different enemies, but there is some unavoidable repetition among them. Between bouts, your heroes will lose some energy, and when they are exhausted, they come into a fight with diminished health.
This is an interesting mechanic that I’ve not seen before, making heroes “tired” and subsequently your cards are weaker in the game. You can restore their energy instantly by paying Gems, or wait it out and come back to the game later. The third option is to hire new heroes at the Tavern and put them into your party whilst an exhausted hero rests.
The combat system in SoulSpark is what makes this game really interesting and worthy of a download. Real-time combat is rarely seen in this genre and often walks a fine line between well-implemented and downright disastrous. I am happy to say that SoulSpark implements the real-time element quite well. Simply put, if you want to play one of your cards, you swipe it to the target you want it to affect. If it is an attack card you’ll swipe it to a valid enemy target, and to yourself if it’s a buff or healing spell.
It’s not as simple as swiping to attack and cast spells, though. Each card comes with a countdown timer than when finished will result in the card taking effect, as long as that hero is still alive or not otherwise incapacitated. Both sides of the battle can cast these cards as soon as they’re able to, at any time during combat. The cards are added to your hand at a set rate and are drawn from all of the heroes’ decks. I really liked the inclusion of the timer and how that was represented with card animations. My cards would float and strike the enemies once the timer finished.
Some cards have a Mana cost. This is the secondary mechanic at work during combat. Both sides start with one Mana globe and this amount increases over the course of the battle. In order to fulfill a Mana cost, you will need to sacrifice a card from your hand that costs Mana. You can sacrifice a card that has no Mana cost, but it’d be a waste as you wouldn’t earn any benefits from this.
SoulSpark uses some interesting mechanics that help to keep a fairly decent balance on card effects when attacking. Remember that everything during combat is done in real time, so you can still win or lose before an attack occurs (this happened to me once, which was the strangest way of losing a match!). Timing of how you play the cards is the most critical aspect of the game and one that you need to embrace quickly, as there is little forgiveness for indecisiveness.
MODES AND FEATURES
SoulSpark has an abundance of ways to help you spend real money on the two in-game currencies of Gold and Gems. None are better at this than Boulderin’s Smith — here you can buy an abundance of Loot Cards using Gems, or even try your luck with the Cauldron using Gold or Gems. I didn’t use this much, as I did earn enough Loot Cards by playing the campaign. Some of the cards you can buy are incredibly powerful, but I didn’t feel the need to use them in my decks.
Tavern is the place to recruit new heroes to your band of adventurers. They too cost a pretty penny, but are necessary if you’re the impatient type who doesn’t want to wait for your exhausted heroes to finish resting. As before, these new heroes come with their own personal decks which can change up your party play-style.
There is an attempt at adding a fun feature with the Bestiary, but I found that visiting it once was enough. I never understand why some card games still continue to put these in. In an RPG, it’s fine because you’ll often encounter different monsters on your travels and have a heads up as to what you’ll be fighting against. The Bestiary in SoulSpark only adds the monsters in once they’ve been beaten the first time, making it a rather impractical approach to a monster glossary, in my opinion. I guess if you’re into seeing and unlocking everything, it’s just another way to track achievements, so in that regard, it does a good job of this, I think.
Unfortunately, there are no multiplayer modes available, so for now, the game is a single-player experience only against A.I. opponents. This is unfortunate as I really would love to try this game out online against other people, so I hope it becomes available in the future.
DECKBUILDING AND STRATEGY
SoulSpark benefits from having an incredible amount of depth to the battles. You have to think fast and make decisions quickly in order to make the best plays. The strategic depth is further compounded by your hero and deck choices. This alone makes SoulSpark a rewarding experience for those who are able to process information quickly and without hesitation.
Your hero can have up to five cards in their individual decks. Each hero has their own unique card set and some that are generic which can be shared between heroes, and these are usually Loot Cards that can only be used once. You can use multiple copies of a unique card in the deck, but Loot Cards are restricted by how many you own. Loot Cards are sometimes rewarded when clearing a stage or can be purchased using… you guessed it: Gems!
Swapping hero positions can have many benefits for the group. You’ll often stick your heavy-hitting hero in the center, as when the last enemy remains, they will be moved directly opposite the center hero. Sticking your support and ranged class heroes on the sides will be the most beneficial. You can include a melee move in their deck but keep it to one card, otherwise you’ll end up with a handful of melee cards for your ranged units with no enemy to direct them at.
I found the most challenging aspect of the game was trying to balance all of my own timed effects against those of my opponent. I really had to focus on what they were doing, as well as what I needed to do in order to stop them. I finally settled on having a Ninja and a support-class hero that ramped up my Mana capacity. This allowed me to focus on heavier attacks with my center hero, along with ranged effects that would slow all of my opponents down.
SoulSpark isn’t a truly free-to-play experience, as there will eventually be a need to purchase some additional heroes. It doesn’t make it a bad game or one that you should avoid, as there are plenty of features that are a lot of fun and somewhat innovative, such as the real-time element. If you’re comfortable with spending a few dollars to have a richer experience with much less repetitive grinding, then SoulSpark is well worth your time.
The heroes, mentor, and other characters share some humorous lines of dialogue that help lighten the tone of the game. I don’t think the game needed as many bad jokes as it did, as the gameplay does enough to carry the game and my interest was maintained throughout.
The combat system alone is worth a play through as far as you can. Remember that the heroes do rest when you’re not playing, so you can easily put it down and come back to it later with full health. Who knows, with the right amount of time and perseverance, you can make it to the end of the game without spending any real cash, possibly.
The game’s faults are mainly in its lacking multiplayer modes, so hopefully this is something that will be rectified in the future. Even if not, it’s still a fine single-player experience with some neat ideas. Give it a try and see what you think!
For more screenshots, click here.
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