The Moaning Words is an interactive story platform with a collectible card game that uses the Triple Triad game engine (from Final Fantasy 8) for its combat mechanic. This is much less of a single card game than it is an interactive, varied player experience involving stories and animated fiction as well as card battles.
The Moaning Words draws upon the ever-popular Lovecraft/Cthulhu Mythos for its game world, full of horrific entities and twisted events to keep you guessing throughout.
But does a great card game exist within such a heavily fiction-orientated digital game? Read on to find out…
Right from the start, The Moaning Words gives you a frame narrative about what you’re doing: you’re given an explanation from a relative who asks you to heed his words of warning as he gives you a set of cards with which to forge your own destiny. Every card has a Cthulhu Mythos-inspired artwork that can range from quite tame to the insanely twisted. There are mad-men, dark rituals, crazy cultists and all kinds of horrific gods and creatures on them — you know, the kind of card game you’d secretly love to play with your Grandma just to see her face when you show her the pictures on the cards. Your Sunday afternoon Bridge, this ain’t!
These cards have values on each of their sides and you’ll use these to determine if that card beats any adjacent cards when you place it into the grid. Your cards will always have blue frames while your opponent’s cards will be signified by a red frame, so it is easy to see where you currently stand in terms of control.
When a card defeats another, it will change the defeated card’s frame color to that of its owner’s, and thus control of it will switch. When a card changes control, if its values defeat that of any more adjacent cards, they too will change control and this can make for some spectacular combos. Once all card changes have taken place, it will switch to the next player’s turn. The game ends when the board is filled, and the winner is decided by who has the most cards under their control.
Each game board is a 3-by-3 grid configuration, and there will sometimes be variations on the grid. They can have barriers that protect the edge of a card placed there, adding more depth and strategy to a round. It is sometimes beneficial to place a weaker card in these slots for larger combos later. More cards are unlocked by facing the horrors of Cthulhu within the game, or through traditional shop purchases (discussed more below).
The Moaning Words isn’t just about the card combat. In fact, it is probably not the most emphasized aspect of the game, either. The game is driven by its story and the subsequent choices the player must make. I found the stories to be extremely well written and at times, chilling to the bone.
Each story features a main character whose Investigation choices you are in control of, and it is these choices that will alter the course that character will take, as well as any resulting events. Every Investigation choice will cost Action Points (one of the main resources) and sometimes the wrong choice will cause your character to lose Sanity (the second main resource).
Losing your sanity will see the character admitted to an insane asylum and the game will end. This is a common theme/mechanic utilized in a lot of Lovecraft-influenced games. Action Points are restored each hour, whereas Sanity is not, and both resources can be replenished in the store by using Gold, the game’s soft currency.
Gold is earned through a variety of game modes, so you’re unlikely to ever have too much of a shortage to keep you from playing. The Moaning Words also uses a premium currency, called Elder Signs. These are spent on premium items that will open up new Investigation paths and other hidden features and abilities within the game.
Not only does the game move around from story to card game and back again, it also offers the player another experience in shorter mini-games. These mini-games will vary in their complexity and just like the card games are used to progress the story of the current character. Beyond this, they aren’t too significant, with some offering a no lose situation; whether you win or lose, the story will progress regardless.
MODES AND FEATURES
The Moaning Words is a game that offers the user a lot of individual experiences, so it will keep you playing and exploring for a while. The most likely reason for this is that once you complete a story chapter in the Investigation mode, the following chapter will be unavailable to play for 24 hours and this almost forces you to play through other modes and challenges instead.
If the storytelling aspect has done enough to captivate you, then you’ll also enjoy the Elder Texts even more. These offer the user more stories outside of the main Investigation. Their stories are just as intense as those found within the Investigations, but are of a shorter variety. You may also want to explore Users’ Tales that, like the Elder Texts, offer more stories for your to explore and be frightened by, but with the added intrigue that these are written by other players.
This shows that the game truly wants to embrace a community aspect — especially as you can share your exploits through Facebook for restorations to your Sanity in the Investigation modes (this kind of enforced / rewarded sharing might annoy some, but as long as it gives me extra game benefits, I’ll happily do it). Adding more players to your stories will make them easier to complete and cost you a lot less in resources than if you were to go it alone.
Multiplayer is found in the Mythos Cards (Battle Mode). The battles here aren’t live versus another player, but instead the AI will play that player’s cards on their behalf. Winning will grant you rewards whereas losing will take them away, giving a somewhat competitive experience. The rest of the Mythos Cards’ features are challenge modes that you can earn additional cards and other rewards (such as Elder Signs) from. Each of these challenges will also consume your primary resources of Sanity and Action Points, with yet another way for you to have to enter the store at some point!
The Moaning Words has a much more comprehensive shop than a lot of other games, because it doesn’t focus on cards alone. In here you will find consumable items that will restore your Action Points and Sanity for the stories, but also contains items in the form of Relics that will enhance your overall experience. Some are quite expensive in terms of what they cost, be that using Gold or Elder Signs. There is an obvious grind game incorporated if you want to buy these without spending real money, as you’ll also be spending that same Gold on your primary resources.
Novels added to the game’s bookshelf will be a further way to explore supplementary chilling tales of Cthulhu in The Moaning Words and yet again, these will cost you either Gold or Elder Signs.
If you want to obtain more cards without having to spend money, you can do so by performing a Ritual. In here you will sacrifice cards to make a more powerful card that will take time to complete (much like any Ritual should, really). You can speed this up by spending… Yeah, you guessed it, more Elder Signs. Back to the shop to buy some more, I guess!
Deckbuilding and Strategy
The Moaning Words has a very simple deckbuilding feature that doesn’t require much effort to figure out, but will still entice veteran players so that they will want to figure out the most powerful combos possible.
Your deck must contain exactly five cards. Each deck slot can only contain a card between the levels of one to five, and you only carry one card that has a special effect. This makes mastering a strategy quite difficult and restrictive, but possible. You’ll need to look at the cards in detail and plan on where you may place them on the board. The higher the level, the more powerful the card, with higher values on each of its sides.
Once you have built up a decent number of cards, you will gain victories more easily in Mythos Cards (the Battle Mode). I personally preferred to spend most of my time here and try my luck against other players’ decks in a bid to learn what sort of cards work well together.
The Moaning Words does carry some depth in the strategy of choosing what cards to place in specific locations on the board. Your strategy can be thrown out due to the board taking on a blocked edge or two that will see some of your more powerful cards rendered useless. On the flip side, it can also serve as an ally that will protect the weaker sides of a card when you want it to.
It is often wise not to place cards adjacent to an opponent’s card just because you can beat it. Strategic placement can often draw the opponent into a trap that will combo with other cards and switch control of more than one card, and in some instances, change the entire board in a single move. Careful planning and knowing what your opponent has left in their hand, which is public knowledge in the Mythos, will aid you in this.
The Moaning Words tries to do lots of things at once, so there’s always the risk that a game like this won’t end up getting it all right. However, I feel in this case, the game is successful with juggling more than one ball at a time. The blend of an interactive story and card game makes for an interesting and extremely unique experience for players.
I am a sucker for anything involving Cthulhu and the Lovecraftian Mythos, so I had high hopes for this game from the start. The Moaning Words delivered enough theme and engaging content to keep me playing for many hours at a time, day after day. I would have liked a few more card battles built into the game’s story arcs, but that’s just a preference rather than a negative for the game.
All aspects of the game are built carefully with attention to detail, offering a player experience that is both enjoyable and engaging: the interactive story is fun, and the card game is also great. They just seem to not be related to one another much except through the overall theme. Not that this matters really, as it’s still a great game with lots to do.
The only thing slowing down the experience is having to wait for a chapter of the Investigation mode to be made available after a set number of hours. This intentional staggering of the story is annoying, but understandable given that they want you to be hooked and keep coming back for more over a longer period of time. Also, the card game is a little lighter than I would like it to be, with a small deck size and only being able to use one special effect card per deck.
I would heartily recommend The Moaning Words as a game that everybody should play at some point if you want something more story-driven and also like darker, horror-type themes in games. It offers a break from the regular TCGs/CCGs of today that carry too much of an emphasis on the card game with not much attention to the wider story they’re trying to tell through it.
Just don’t play the game in the dark, alone, or near large bodies of water… You have been warned!
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