Star Crusade: War of the Expanse

Star Crusade: War of the Expanse is an online, free-to-play, sci-fi collectible card game in which six factions are fighting over an unclaimed sector of space. The developers, Xim, Inc., have granted access to Star Crusade via Steam’s Early Access program as an open beta, with the aim of ironing out the final few bugs before an official launch several months away. When I saw the game in the Steam Store, I just had to see how good it is. It’s been touted as “Hearthstone in Space”, and bracing myself for that to be true, I dug in and found something rather unexpected.

Is Star Crusade a good game? Read on to find out…

Choose-your-faction-before-battle

Star Crusade features six factions each with their own Commander. The graphics and attention to detail are second to none!

Gameplay

Star Crusade has many game mechanics that fans of Hearthstone will recognize.  The gameplay mechanics, the way in which you interact with the cards on the board, the deckbuilder, and even the hero powers are all similar (some, identical) to Hearthstone. I was prepared to be disappointed with this fact, however, there are many features and mechanics introduced in Star Crusade that give it a different strategic feel and actually might make it superior to its forbearing game.

The layout of the game board is similar to almost every two-player, casual CCG that Star Crusade will inevitably be competing against in an already overcrowded genre. Players will have a starting hand with the ability to send as many of these cards back to their deck as they wish, and hope for a better replacement.

Playing cards and card interactions such as attacks are very similar to those same CCGs. Your card plays are restricted by the standard incremental resource system, called ‘Supply’ in Star Crusade. However, the Supply can also influence the outcome of some cards which have their effects resolve based on the current number of Supply you have available.

Many of the keywords copied over from other CCGs have changed names but with similar effects. For example, the Screen effect in Star Crusade is the same as Taunt in Hearthstone. You can always see a card’s effect at a glance when you long press the card with your left mouse button or while deckbuilding. The familiarity of these keyword abilities will help you settle into the gameplay with very little need for adjustment.

Get-info-on-the-keywords

Many of the keywords are different, but their effects are almost identical to ones you should already be familiar with.

Gameplay Continued

There are a few gameplay mechanics and features that give Star Crusade a different strategic feel to many of its competitors. The first are the sub-resources, such as Firepower, that can enhance cards beyond their base statistics or effects. You’ll accumulate these temporary resources through other cards. For example, some cards will add to your ‘Firepower’ value while on the field, and cards will reference your current Firepower value as to how strong their effect will be when you play a card. This makes creating decks that revolve around this sub-resource a real prospect, rather than an afterthought.

The card art and user interface are of the highest quality, which will make selling Star Crusade to new players much easier. One of the most impressive features is the background on which you play. The scenery changes to reflect the current state of battle and ships will fly past when you deploy particular units to the battlefield. Although not interactive, it is entertaining to watch how it changes over time.

Playing Star Crusade is very effortless thanks to its easy-to-learn mechanics and familiar gameplay. You should play through the brief tutorial though if you’re new to TCGs/CCGs, as it will settle you in nicely. There are six factions to choose from that have different play styles and strategies bound to suit different tastes. All factions also have their own Commander. They have abilities that can be triggered using Supply – enhancing the strategic value of particular deck types when built to exploit these powers.

Go-in-for-the-attack

You can attack cards or the Commander directly. The only time you can’t attack the Commander is when your opponent controls a card with Screen, forcing you to attack it first instead.

Features

So far the game modes are limited due to Star Crusade being in beta. The developers are keen to iron out mechanical issues before adding more modes and features. However, what you can play now is more than enough for those that want the full online experience.

You may battle against real opponents in casual and ranked games whenever you wish. If you don’t quite feel confident in taking on a real opponent, you can test your skills and deck against the A.I. bot instead. Winning casual or ranked games will enhance your player level and earn you some Credits for use in the game store.

Raids are another way of gaining precious cards and other rewards. Raid is a drafting mode in which you have to pick a single card from three, thirty times, to build your deck. It’s similar to the Arena mode of Hearthstone. You will have a 30-card deck at the end of it and must then take part in consecutive battles. Losing three times ends your run, and you earn prizes based on your overall success. Even if you lose three times, you will receive something, so it’s never a waste of time.

Scrap-cards-for-new-cards

Crafting new cards is covered by the Fusion mode in the deckbuilder. You can use Scrap to make the cards you need for your decks. Unwanted cards can be turned into Scrap via this mode, too.

One such reward you can earn from Raids is Scrap, which is used to make new cards you may not own. You can also gain Scrap by melting down excess cards. You are likely to have many excess cards the moment you begin purchasing booster packs using Credits or real money, as you can only ever have a maximum of two copies of a card in your deck.

The deckbuilder is of your standard variety. Click cards in and out of your deck and you can right-click on cards to see them in greater detail, such as what each keyword means. The filtering system is quite basic at the moment and only allows you to filter by faction, name, and Supply cost at this time. It would be great to be able to filter by sub-type or keyword, and I’m sure the developers are likely to add this later.

A single-player arc is coming as there is an option in the store for Campaigns. There are also many cosmetic purchases you can make in addition to packs. All of these are currently unavailable in the beta version, but any packs and cards purchased will carry over to the full version, so you need not worry about making a purchase for packs in the beta version.

Paragon-cards-are-elusive

You can buy packs in the store using Credits (in-game currency) or real money. Purchases and cards will carry over when the game leaves beta and enters its official launch phase, so you’ll never lose your Paragon cards like this one!

First Impressions

It is easy to dismiss Star Crusade as a Hearthstone clone, but with a sci-fi theme. While there are many similarities, Star Crusade has plenty of unique selling points that give it the distinction it needs to be viewed as a stand-alone title. It will take a lot of heat for being so similar, and it definitely does feel like playing Hearthstone, at times, but I think with enough time it will stand on its own feet.

I love the way in which the battlefield background reflects the state of battle or when you deploy units. The sub-resources that are included add a new dynamic to the game that has strategic implications. I’m looking forward to seeing how a Campaign can fit into the game, though the developers have done an excellent job with the lore already, which can be viewed on their website.

This may be a controversial thing to say, but I actually enjoy playing Star Crusade more than I enjoy playing any other casual card game, including Hearthstone. Perhaps it is the fresh sci-fi theme and the fascinating design of the original alien races, or perhaps it’s the new mechanics which have reinvigorated my interest. Whatever it is, I believe Star Crusade is going to see great success. It is polished, it is well designed and the base set is full of interesting card mechanics to play around with.

Xim, Inc., the developers, are very keen on community participation for ironing out the final few bugs from their beta version of the game. The more people that download this impressive CCG, the faster any glitches are coded out, and the sooner the game can begin its final launch phase. So get in on the action now while it’s early. You won’t regret it.

For more information on Star Crusade, check out the Steam Early Access 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.

  • Umadson

    First impression? More like first commercial. How about you talk about the fact that the game is a huge pay to win scam. Yes HS is even a bigger scam especially with the new format where you pay/grind to rent cards but that does not mean this game is good.
    The truth is that this game sucks when it comes to everything.

    • ZacPhoenix

      Are you aware that digital games cost money to create and run? Yes, they sell packs. Yes, earning stuff for free is slow. I’m not sure why this surprises anyone anymore in 2016.

    • Dav-Gro

      You really need to educate yourself. Seriously, have you lived under a rock the past 10 years? Understand what pay2win means before you comment. Before you say you know what it means, you obviously don’t First, HS is not pay to win and its f2P model is quite fair and it would have been better if it was not due to players botting and grinding gold.

      P2W means you have to pay for specific items or cards to win and they are only available with money. The point that every card is HS is available for free is proof.

      Most cards are not even hard to craft except legndaries and most of them are not that good. Sure control warrior and hand-lock decks have a tun of legendaries and are expensive to build but that still is not pay to win. Both those decks are quite beatable with decks on mostly rares.

      I do not understand why the concept of free to play is believed to be free and easy to play. If their is no incentive to pay money then no one gets paid. Do really think a F2P games can survive of good will of its players? LOL!

    • Ham Kao

      You are so wrong about this game sucking! You clearly don’t know much about card games. Play games like Yugioh, Spellweaver, Duel of Champions, and Elder Scrolls: Legends, first before you say that about this sensational game!! This game rocks!!!

  • Dav-Gro

    Zac another great read. I appreciate your outlook on games and I hope idiotic comments do not discourage you. With that said, I downloaded this game a few months back and I played for a few days. It was not bad but I was alienated from the experience that it was too much like Hearthstone (as you mentioned).

    One of the best things about Hearthstone is the UI and I think it is good business to utilize it. However, the fact that so many cards where just slightly changed versions of HS cards and renamed mechanics was kind of insulting.

    Which is sad to say because I did like the mutation mechanic and would loved to have seen more originality like that. Even if this game is good, it will most likely have the same effect on people which will hinder its success but I could be wrong. I believe their is something there but I think they should have a made a HS with new mechanics and less/no RNG and this would have been a better niche to fill.

    Check out the new Plants vs. Zombies HD that soft launched a 2 days ago. I have been having a blast with it. I think they did a great job or crossing Plants with Zombies with a Hearthstone/Yugioh feel.

  • zacnefeim

    Nice game. I’ve found it, somehow, more enjoyable than HS, and, let’s say it, also less frustrating. Even if many things are identical, like the most of hero powers, the number of cards in the first hand, the bonus resource for the player that starts second and so on, i think that there are also a few important things that can take Hearthstone gameplay to an higher and more complex level. Artwork, in my opinion, doesn’t match the quality of Coraabia or Star Realms, but is well-done; and screenplay is immersive and fascinating, expecially for Sci-fi lovers.

  • FirstOfficer

    Hi Zac, thanks for playing our game and sharing your thoughts on it with your readers — we love Star Crusade and are working together with our players to make it the best CCG it can be. I just wanted to say that we’ve just released a big expansion in the forms of Modules — customizable and equippable commander abilities — and it adds a completely new dimension to the game. I hope you check it out!

  • Gamer W0nk0

    Zach, while I enjoyed reading previous articles of yours, I feel you’ve missed the mark on this one. I have played this for a few days before, and I was surprised to see you thinking that there is enough to set this apart from the elephant in the genre. I agree some of the concepts are fresh and worthwhile, but answer this question: do you really believe there is enough here to make people playing hearthstone actually SWITCH to this? Because if they don’t accomplish that, I see no way how they would survive financially. The space is just too crowded for another competitor with so little, so late.

    • ZacPhoenix

      I definitely acknowledged that it’s essentially a Hearthstone clone with a few different mechanical differences. Sometimes people are looking for “more of the same” when it comes to a favored game type. This is that type of game for those kinds of people. If you’re looking for a very, very different experience, then no, this is probably not the one to be playing.

  • qdly

    hi everyone, i would like to add few words on that.

    iv been playing SC for a while, maybe 3 months, doing daily and playing few battles every day. no more then 1-2 hour a day, but offen distributed in time, so i could do more daily. iv managed to get 100% cards steam achivement, and while its possible iv not rly had full collection, missing some paragons, iv had most. iv spend no real life cash, and compared to HS, where in that time you can grind maybe 10% of common cards, that game is not pay to win. at any given moment there is usually no cards that can’t be grinded as far i know i think there used to be one paragon, but they changed that. gameplay
    is very simmilar to GS, maybe a bit more simple in ammount of cards, but customizable hero powers make up for that. visually its cool as cool hs is, maybe even better.

    devs are very player base friendly, they seem to rly listen to what players say. they keep us updated, and every few day post new info about what they r trying to do. iv actually contacted team on occasion, and was shocked to recive very warm replay, that completly answered all my questions and reasons iv had to mail them.

    only problem i see at my point there is no more enough content. i do have cards, boosters i v no reason to open, 3 types of currency that i don’t need, incuding premium one, u can get in game, but as im not into competetive gameplay all that much, and don’t grind for high rank position, i just have nothing more to do untill new content release. iv been hoping for esl or some other esport system, but none yet.

    yet, its gr8 game, and i recommend it to anyone who likes ccg and or had some fun playing HS but found it a bit to much p2w.

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