War of Omens, An In-Depth Review

8.7 TCG RATING
Gameplay: 9/10
Sounds: 8/10
Graphics: 9/10

Innovative blend of deck-builders and CCGs. | Extremely well-crafted campaign experience.

Campaigns for the other three factions still being built.

Browser-based, and soon to be on Steam.

Free to play, with in-game purchases.

February 1,2014

English

War of Omens is a fantasy online card game blending CCG mechanics with mechanics from a new genre of card games called “deckbuilders”. Deckbuilders are a relatively recent genre invented in the offline world of paper card games, and they have been all the rage over the past couple of years for the tabletop card game industry. Deckbuilding games are different from traditional TCGs/CCGs in the sense that the decks are usually built during the game instead of before hand, with players “buying” and playing cards with resources as the game unfolds.

War of Omens uses this mechanic but pushes it a bit further back into the realm of a CCG, with your bank of purchasable cards being unique to you and put together into a deck before the start of the game. There is also more CCG-style conflict than is usually found in deckbuilding games.

So how well does War of Omens blend the two genres, and does it result in a solid game or not? Read on to find out…

Combat

The deckbuilder mechanics work so well when combined with more traditional CCG-style combat that you wonder why more deckbuilders don’t include it to begin with.

Gameplay

The core gameplay has you taking control of a Hero who has one special ability (passive, or triggered by game events rather than activated by you). Your Hero belongs to one of the four factions, and your deck of ten cards which you bring into the game must belong to the same faction as your Hero. You then start a match with 10 coin cards in your match deck, while your bank is filled with 4 cards from the 10-card deck you brought into the game.

Coins are used to add gold into your character’s resource stack of Gold – there is also a stack for Food (used to “feed” allies which heals them or triggers their abilities), Skulls (used for attacking allies or enemy Hero) and Magic, which can be used as any of the other three resources. You can buy the cards from your bank for their value in gold if you have that much in your Hero’s Gold stack and it is then played immediately.

If it is an ally then it will stay on the field until it is killed or discarded somehow at which point it returns to your deck and can be drawn to play again in the future. Allies have “hearts” which are their life points, and each attack against them reduces this total by one. Allies that attack will usually do so automatically at the start of your turn, first attacking any enemy allies before using any leftover attacks on the enemy Hero directly. Some allies have an Intercept ability that will redirect damage towards them to protect other allies, and some allies have Retaliate which makes them attack back.

Combat

Larger allies are more expensive, but they make many attacks and are worth the effort to acquire and play.

Your hand size is 4, but you only draw 3 cards each turn. This allows you to “hold” one card between rounds if you don’t want to spend it – useful for triggering certain combos or increasing the probability of drawing a non-coin card in your next hand if you hold a coin. Since each card in your deck has the same probability of coming out, you learn to play the probabilities a bit in order to ensure you draw non-coin cards, since there is no way in the game to banish coins from your deck and thus they become less useful over time.

The game then is composed of playing coins to gather the necessary resources to buy cards, feed allies to heal them and make them attack, use skulls to make your Hero attack enemy allies or their Hero directly, and so on. You must reduce the enemy Hero to 0 life to win the game.

It sounds complicated, and there is a little bit of a learning curve at first, but once you’ve grasped the concepts at play here, it all falls into place and the game is played extremely quickly. Much faster than any traditional CCG, in fact. You’ll come to love the pace of these games because the action is fast and frenetic, while the strategy is deep. There is a lot of randomness in this game, but the strategy is in learning to manipulate that randomness to your advantage.

Home screen and character select

Each character you can choose also has an alternate costume which gives a benefit of an extra 50% of experience points.

Game Modes: Campaigns

A strong single-player campaign experience is hard to come by in digital card games these days, as they tend to focus more on developing solid PvP (player versus player) modes. Even though the campaigns in War of Omens are not finished yet for all of the factions, what is playable so far is deeply engaging. It even challenged me emotionally, and that’s rare for a card game to be able to evoke.

Each chapter of the main story is made up of three unique matches against AI; these start with an illustrated prelude and dialogue before each match and there is story dialogue between your character and the opponent as the match progresses. The characters even say different things depending on if you lose or win the match. It’s an interesting idea to have story-driven dialogue occur while the match evolves depending on what kinds of actions you are taking and I really enjoyed this aspect of the campaign.

You follow the story of Captain Listrata as she learns her family has been murdered by those of a different House, and she goes on the warpath to bring vengeance to those who killed them. However, there are several twists and turns along the way and it’s all rather shocking. Think Game of Thrones-style intrigue and you’ll be in the ball park.

Campaign story

As you go deeper into Captain Listrata’s story, you’ll feel emotionally conflicted: she is brutal, flawed, and morally ambiguous. Do you agree with her actions or not? It’s rare that I ever recall being this challenged by a game character’s actions – and that’s a good thing.

Other Game Modes and Features

War of Omens‘s Skirmishes are a way to “grind” for currency and XP in the game. It is essentially an AI match ranked by difficulty, with the higher the difficulty, the greater the currency you’ll win. It’s also a great way to test out new decks before taking them into the casual Multiplayer mode.

There is also a Tournament mode, which is not a constructed deck tournament but rather a Hearthstone-style Arena where you draft a Hero and cards into a deck before playing against other players with drafted decks. You stop when you lose 3 games or play a total of 8 (whichever comes first) and your reward of a booster pack increases in rarity the more wins you accrue.

The best thing about this mode is that the factions become truly unhinged – you can mix all of them together in your draft deck completely unrestricted. This causes a certain amount of chaos in the games that follow, but if you’ve drafted your deck well, there are opportunities here for some truly crazy, powerful combos and it’s a lot of fun to play the factions this way.

Tournaments are currently run like a Hearthstone "Arena"-style draft mode.

Tournaments are currently run like a Hearthstone “Arena”-style draft mode.

Largely, this mode shows that the cards work quite well across the factions even when mixed together, which I think is an indication of good balancing. It also ensures the game remains interesting for the future, as limited play like draft modes are key to most digital card games’ success these days.

Lastly, you can buy boosters in the shop for currency you can earn easily in game. These boosters only have 1 card at a time, but the good thing is you get to choose out of 3 options. If you already own that card, you can select it again to give it XP and try to level it up which will make a new version of that card that has a cheaper gold cost in-game. There are also special “coin” cards you can get to replace what’s in your match deck of 10 coins and these have a range of special abilities that are definitely worth putting in – such as “20% chance to gain +1 extra gold” and such effects.

Booster pack opening

You don’t get much in a booster, but you at least will get to choose which card you want.

Deckbuilding and Strategy

Each of the factions in War of Omens have their own unique strategies and strengths, while also allowing for a few sub-strategies so that even in one faction you have a few different deck types available to build. The Vespitole faction are all about card draw, gaining lots of resources and using them to feed allies who will attack relentlessly.

Metris are a faction that use lots of one-off cards that destroy themselves for good after being played, such as sneaky attacks and poisons, and they also like to draw or steal cards from the opponent and use them against their original owner.

Daramek are a tribal faction that like to play lots of small animal allies and then sacrifice them to make big gains, either in resources or attacks. Their ritual magic is powerful and quite scary once it gets going, but it takes some time to ramp up in effectiveness.

The newest faction Endazu has a unique play style where cards will gain “charges” on them, either when held in your hand, or over time, or when fed Magic, and so on. These have a range of effects such as making allies permanently more powerful, multiplying card effects or even manipulating time itself, gaining extra turns for you to play again. They’re the hardest to master as it’s an advanced play style, but it’s extremely powerful in skilled hands.

My favourite deck is a Vespitole deck based around gaining lots of Food, saving it up, and then buying the card ‘Merchant’ that will give you Gold equal to your amount of Food (without taking away from that Food amount!). The Gold gains are usually really high, and so I then spend them on buying all the cards left in the bank and try to win with lots of attacking allies. Sometimes Merchant cycles a few times and I can use my load of Gold to convert back into Food through other cards, which I can then use to turn into attacks and win.

Deck-editing

A crafting mode also allows some cards to eventually cost less than the standard version, if you open boosters and pick the same card or use some of your currency to level them up. This will take quite a long time so it adds another layer of “grinding” to the game.

Final Thoughts

War of Omens is undoubtedly one of the most innovative card games to come out in the past year. The developers have carefully extracted the best parts of the TCG/CCG and deckbuilding genres for what makes those genres compelling and stitched the pieces together. The result is something rare: a new card game experience that feels familiar but not like retreading on old ground, and yet also feels unfamiliar without being too alienating.

The story elements are compelling and feel fleshed out without distracting from the core gameplay. I genuinely got interested in the complex characters and world political situation being depicted in the game and that’s very hard to do in card games where flavor can often feel like a “pasted-on” afterthought. Likewise, the four factions are very well thought out both in mechanics and theme – in fact, the theme comes through so strongly that it’s hard to know what came first in the design process, mechanics or theme. It’s a shame the campaigns do not have more content yet, but I say this only because I genuinely loved what they’ve released so far and I think this is the area that they need to focus on the most now.

War of Omens has all of the hallmarks of a great game and I suspect it may even end up being a classic in the deckbuilding genre. This will depend largely upon the future development of the game as well, such as whether there will be any more factions added or new cards for each of the current factions as well as campaigns for each of them. Seeing a newer, fourth faction show up recently is a good sign and has injected more life into the game overall.

It’s rare that I give a score this high, but anything less felt disingenuous to how I really feel about this game. The player experience is so engaging and rewarding that I think War of Omens is going to be around for a long time and I can’t wait to see where they take it next. If you’re not already on-board this ship, trust me: you need to be.

For more screenshots, click here.

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Zac Phoenix
Author: Zac Phoenix View all posts by

Zac Phoenix graduated with First Class Honors in Philosophy, Religion and Ethics and has been playing strategy card games since childhood. He has a keen interest in the underlying mechanics and player interactions of trading card games, as well as tabletop game design in the digital space. He also designs card games in his spare time.

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