Themes tend to really make games come to life and allow the player to be a little more invested in them. This is even more apparent when the theme is something you are already attracted to. If you’re a fan of Norse mythology and the gods of Asgard, then you are going to absolutely love what Valhalla Lost has to offer. This turn-based tactical combat card game is due for release in late October and already it has all the right components for a great game.
I was invited to try the beta version and was immediately impressed. Valhalla Lost, hands down, has some of the most impressive artwork I have seen to date in a card game. Odin, Thor, Loki, Sol, and the rest of the gods look the part, as does the user interface. Even in the beta version that I have been playing, everything looks incredible and I applaud the developers for their attention to detail and for not accepting anything less than the best.
Valhalla Lost does look impressive, but how does it play and is it a good game so far? Read on to find out…
Valhalla Lost has a “lane combat” system, with one lane available for each player. It is within these lanes that you can summon your Characters to battle, up to a maximum of five. This limitation on the number of Characters allowed on the field at any one time really pushes the strategic boundaries that aren’t seen in some other games like Hearthstone, which allows for many more units on the field. Admittedly the layout does look a lot like Hearthstone and the combat is very similar too, with the ability to attack another Character or the Hero directly, but it does have a few nice additions of its own.
One unique idea they bring to the table here is that your deck’s chosen Hero, or any of your available Heroes, have special abilities which can be changed as you level them up through combat. These can range from empowering creatures with stat boosts to classic damage abilities. Having a Hero with a power isn’t a new feature by any stretch, but the fact you can change your power by changing your deck Hero’s active ability does add some flexibility to your strategies.
Equipment cards are played next to the Hero and will enable them to attack and have abilities of their own, and again there is nothing new here either but it does rather fit the theme of epic Heroes and gods battling one another with divine weapons.
Other features come in the form of the other Spell cards which are formed of Wards, Auras, and Traps. These cards, when played, light up runes on your side of the field and are either constantly active or will activate when their requirements are met. I liked the way the game implemented these and although they are similar to Secrets in Hearthstone, they do have a different feel to them.
The resource system in Valhalla Lost is called Essence. You and the opponent start with one essence each and this increases each turn. The more essence you have the more cards you can cast, whether that’s summoning Characters or casting any of the game’s Spells. This system is again pretty common in a lot of digital card games now given that it is streamlined, simple, and gets out of the way so that the player doesn’t have to make complicated decisions or encounter bad luck where resources are concerned.
Combat is resolved by having the creatures compare their AP (attack points) and then any spill-over damage from the higher-AP creature is inflicted to the lower one’s HP (hit points). The damage is calculated in this way for every engagement, be it attack or defense. This is quite interesting as it avoids the Hearthstone method while also allowing for the attacked creature to mitigate some of the incoming damage, depending on their AP. I prefer this method of combat as it feels more natural and creates more interesting tactical decisions in combat about who to target and with which creatures. I dislike it when damage isn’t dealt from defending units, as it presumes the attacked unit wouldn’t be retaliating! (Yes, I’m looking at you, Hearthstone).
The user interface for accessing the cards you draw and selecting your attack or effect targets is almost flawless. There was a little delay in some cases of cards being summoned to the field or an effect being triggered, but this is probably due to the version I played and won’t happen as the bugs are worked out before the final release. I also noticed how some of the cards’ summoning costs did not cost the actual amount stated on the card. The reason beta tests exist is to iron out any flaws, and if that’s all I had to worry about then there will be a very short list of errors to fix.
I loved the inclusion of the quick menu system that is accessible at the bottom of the screen. It gives quick links to the more commonly visited locations within the game. You can also see the Events from here that are mini-quests for you to complete to earn rewards such as in-game currency or the material required to forge new cards.
Valhalla Lost has a number of different play modes that will keep players engaged for a while. The sheer number of quests available in the Adventure mode is enough to keep even the keenest of players entertained for a long time. These quests span the Yggdrasil worlds of Midgard, Jotenheim, Asgard, Helheim, and more. The very essence of the Norse mythos is captured within these missions as they tell a story, one that starts with a war between two of Asgard’s gods where you are somehow caught in the middle.
The multiplayer offering is the Arena. Here you can test your might against opponents from around the world in ranked and unranked combat. All you need to do is choose your deck and its Hero power and wait for the opponent to join. Combat will be conducted in the same way as the single-player Adventure quests, but with an added timer to add pressure to players when playing against real people. It’s not a short timer by any means, at 90 seconds per turn, so you won’t feel too pressured — it appears to be more about keeping players active and not dropping out of games while online.
My Town is the part of the game that houses the marketplace to buy Keys (booster packs) and Feathers that grant Dungeon entry passes. There’s also a Treasury Vault to open your Keys, a Town Hall to receive rewards, system messages, and a place to enter promotional codes. Further, there is the inclusion of the all-important Social tab to keep in touch with your in-game friends. The animation when opening Keys is awesome – like opening a vault and revealing hidden treasures. Pack opening can be an addictive experience if they get it right, and it looks quite nice here.
No card game is complete unless it has a way for you to gaze upon your beloved collection. Valhalla Lost does lose a few marks here as I found this section to be a little clumsier than the rest of the game. Scrolling through the pages was more difficult than it needed to be. I would often have the page snap back to its current page, rather than moving to the next. I would suggest a tabbing system in conjunction with the scrolling to make this a little less annoying.
You can access your deck editor and the forge from the collection screen. My first experience with the deck editor was a little fiddly. I wasn’t able to use the filter whilst still in the deck editing screen, which makes the process a little longer than it needs to be, but only by a couple of minutes. I can imagine this could get a little more taxing when your pool of cards grows.
My initial experience with Valhalla Lost is an extremely positive one. It is clear a lot of work has gone into making this a premium title. It does look and play a bit like Hearthstone, or even quite a lot like Hearthstone, but it has enough individuality, especially in the combat system and the visual theme, to set it apart. The game feels more grown-up and serious, which given the theme is a good thing. Games that present themselves in the right way tend to do a lot better than those that try too hard to be something they’re not, and Valhalla Lost has a very clear idea of what it is trying to do and it appears that it will succeed at doing that.
The only problems that I can foresee are the people who will be upset at how closely the game resembles one of the most popular card games of all time. I say this is a good thing, as popular games that inspire others can only ever be made better as people are willing to try new things and introduce new features. Of course, this game is never going to be able to topple Hearthstone because it is much too similar, but for those that want to try something similar but with different mechanics and an entirely more serious, darker visual theme, this is going to be a great alternative. I know that I will be giving Valhalla Lost the chance it deserves when it is released… will you?
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