Spellstone is a fantasy-themed casual card battle game that feels like it has been made for those uninitiated to the TCG/CCG genre. Its simplicity makes it an excellent entry level game for those who are looking to dip their toes into the genre with something a little less complicated than Hearthstone or Magic: The Gathering.
Take on the role of a powerful summoner capable of summoning mighty creatures through the use of Spellstones. Shadowy figures lie in wait to halt your progress and seek these powers for themselves. Will you unlock the secrets of the Void or be consumed by it?
Is Spellstone a spellbinding success or a dismal failure? Read on to find out…
Spellstone is one of those games that feels as though it is a breeze to play through. The gameplay is fair and balanced without the obvious need to spend on in-app purchases in order to make progress. The campaign is laid out in a relatively linear fashion with the exception of a few minor side-events that you can take part in.
The simplicity of the game makes it an ideal candidate for people looking at their first foray into the TCG/CCG genre. The battles flow effortlessly with very little input from the player. The cards have their own abilities that will trigger each turn in addition to their usual attacks against the cards directly opposite.
The only strategic depth you’ll ever be involved in is the deck creation and choosing the relevant hero to lead your creatures into battle. Suffice to say that this may make Spellstone a less engaging title for those who are looking for something deeper than an auto-attack based card battler.
There are many reasons to like and enjoy Spellstone however. The hand-drawn artwork on the cards is impressive, and there are some upgrades you can apply to the cards that will not only change their appearance but their abilities too.
The story is easy to follow and you’ll be engaging in battle after battle to progress through each area. The replay value comes from the fact that you can replay missions many times for additional rewards. You’ll want to do this as frequently as possible as the need for new cards arises fairly soon after the first chapter of missions.
The combat system is tackled in the same manner as most casual card battlers. Each turn you can summon a creature and it will attack the card directly in front of it on your turn. Some cards will have timers that denote the number of turns it must wait to attack and use its abilities. If there is no card in front it will attack the opposing player directly. It’s a simple mechanic, but one that works for this particular style of game.
Spellstone employs the usual energy system which is consumed with each battle fought. The early missions consume very little energy per battle, however, this does increase to higher values for later missions and you’ll find yourself burning through it very quickly. There are several ways to top this up and the game does provide some remittance for this to new players.
The problem with the energy system is the rapid depletion you’ll face going into the second chapter missions. Consuming two energy per battle means you’ll burn through your energy very quickly. To refill you will need to either level up your profile or spend Shards (premium in-game currency) on a full refill. This is where it becomes apparent how expensive this game can become.
The price of Shards in Spellstone seems very steep. Most in-app purchases for games of this variety have far more respectable pricing tiers for their premium currencies. The basic amount you can buy will barely afford you one of the better packs to gain new cards. You can even turn your premium currency into the soft in-game currency of Gold. This looks a bit suspect in a free-to-play game, making it appear more like pay-to-win.
MODES AND FEATURES
The simple campaign mode is the main feature of Spellstone. Altogether there are hundreds of missions if you include those that can be replayed up to eight times each. This allows you to earn plenty of cards and additional rewards such as Gold and Essence (used in upgrading cards). You’ll need to do this if you intend on playing for free!
Sadly the campaign mode is very linear and beyond playing each mission eight times, there is no real replay value from a single-player perspective. Luckily the game does offer a semi-decent multiplayer mode where you can put your deck to the test against another person’s deck that is being controlled by the A.I.
Whilst this may not sound like a fantastically deep multiplayer mode, there are reasons to play it. First of all, you will earn EXP for your profile and online ranking. The second is that you will also receive Gold, so for the free-players among you this will be invaluable in breaking open the basic Spellstones in the game’s store.
Spellstone features some great ways of increasing your deck’s potency that are quite cost effective. Upgrading a card can be done by using Essence, which is awarded from completing quests or by Vaporizing other cards in your possession that aren’t needed in your deck. All of the cards can be upgraded several times and if you have two cards that are at their maximum upgrade you can combine them to create a more powerful version of that creature.
The quests offer a way to earn a number of different rewards though the rate at which it offers Shards is very low unless you want to lose some anonymity by signing up to Kongregate. The Inventory can be opened to receive in-game rewards that include potions to increase your energy and gold to spend on Spellstones. Sadly, most of what’s offered is level restricted but does give you the incentive to keep playing just to see what you’ll be gifted with next.
DECKBUILDING AND STRATEGY
Being the casual card battler that Spellstone is, it restricts the amount of depth offered to you in terms of strategy. You are limited by the deck you create and the special ability granted to your creatures from your selected Hero.
During the initial missions, you are using a basic Hero with no abilities. You will soon be asked to choose between three basic Heroes that do have a single ability. This paves the way to combo with particular cards and will increase the overall potency of your deck. You can entice epic Heroes to your side that are far more powerful than the standard Heroes, but their prerequisites are relatively hard to meet.
The cards you place in your deck are called Spellstones and these contain powerful creatures. The deckbuilding experience is a simple drag-and-drop affair so the simplicity seen throughout the game is mirrored here also. The creatures have three different types: Wyld, Aether, and Chaos. There will sometimes be benefits to having a mono-themed deck type in conjunction with a supporting Hero of the same type as the creatures.
Most of the effects are offensive in their nature but there are a few defensive ones that can aid or buff other creatures on the field. How you build your deck depends on the cards you have at your disposal. You are unlikely to have access to powerful cards straight away unless you’ve spent some real money on Shards. In most cases you’ll spend the better part of the game using whatever you’ve been awarded from completing missions.
Spellstone has all the right features to make it a successful game. It has a decent story mode that can last a while with plenty of replay value. Excellent hand-drawn artwork for its cards, which can be evolved into many more new and unique creatures. However, it has one massive Achilles heel – the energy system and subsequent need for in-app purchases.
I was having a blast playing Spellstone until I started to run out of energy far too frequently. The fact that you can only completely refill your energy by leveling up or spending Shards (in most instances) completely ruins your enjoyment.
Despite this massive flaw, it is still a great entry-level game in the TCG/CCG genre. If you are looking for your first venture into this genre then don’t let the extortionate in-app purchases put you off from future titles. There is plenty to enjoy whilst you’re learning the ropes and you’ll find the competitive online multiplayer to be particularly fun if you like climbing ranking ladders!
Spellstone is a fantastic stepping stone into the wondrous world of TCGs/CCGs.
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