All in all, it’s been a great first week of Card Hunter. There hasn’t been a game release that I’d been looking forward to in a while now, so it’s quite nice to have this right now. It got a lot of buzz during its beta period and I saw a lot of appeal in it. So what do I think after a week playing it? I’m kind of hooked.
Card Hunter’s the perfect game to sink a quick 10 to 30 minutes into. I find myself turning to it when I don’t have a lot of time to log into an MMO or at the end of the day right before bed. While there isn’t a mobile version of it (yet, they said it’s in development), I have a remote desktop app for my ipad that lets me play it through my computer. And that works pretty darn well.
I really like the blend of turn-based tactical RPG combat, the card/deck building mechanic, and the visual aesthetic. I’ve seen a lot of people respond quite positively to how the game looks, which is interesting in that it decided to create a faux tabletop with a board and little cutouts that aren’t that animated. But that’s kind of what draws you in, because it’s a taste of the pen-and-paper appeal. Reminds me a lot of Hero Quest, too. The boards come in a wide variety that have to do with the quest in question, and even as a 2D playing field, they do a great job of setting the scene.
The setup is a definite tongue-in-cheek homage to sitting in a friend’s basement playing a little D&D. The two brothers, Gary and Melvin, deal with the GM and advice side of things, while also offering some (slightly amusing) dialogue. What I found more interesting was how the game field is set up into individual modules that you can tackle, and each of these has their own cover art and description of each of the stages. While the story is pretty basic, it’s definitely more effective than having battles with no background whatsoever. Your mileage may vary, but I get into it.
In each module, you only get three tries to finish it or else you have to start all over. So if I fail a battle twice, then there’s a lot of extra pressure to win this time around. You get loot after each battle but the best loot and your only source of XP comes from finishing a module, so there’s good incentive to get all the way to the end.
Right now there are only three classes and you can only field three characters in a battle. While you can make a party of, say, three fighters or two mages and a cleric, it feels best to just have one of each, especially for loot reasons. It would stink to get a rare item drop and not have a character that could use it. The fighter is a good attacker, although her main problem is getting into range to use her attacks. At level 6, I’m equipping her with abilities that let her strike from two squares away and do additional moves because I’m sick of the enemy dancing out from my reach. The cleric does some melee and a lot of support, which is certainly nice although she isn’t always as helpful as I’d like. Sometimes I need her to be doing damage but she just draws healing cards — or vice-versa. My favorite is the mage, because there’s nothing better than being able to do a heap of long-range damage. And setting things on fire is always good times.
Battles go quick, although some can seem quite unfair and stack the odds against you. Card Hunter is all about forcing you to adjust your strategy and deck based on the situation. Maybe I’m fighting a bunch of slimes — well, they shrug off blunt attacks, so I need to load up on fire spells and piercing blows. Maybe the battle is a race to the end of a maze before the enemy sits on the victory location for too long — I probably want to get as many movement cards as possible. Maybe I’m fighting a spellcaster who keeps attaching conditions to me — I definitely need cards to help me cleanse those effects.
This constant need to adjust strategy and the influx of new gear every mission keeps me fiddling with my deck loadouts. In Card Hunter, you can’t choose individual cards for your deck, but small batches (say 2-6 cards) that are attached to gear. So you’re mix-and-matching batches to try to wield the best or most situationally appropriate build. As you level up, you get more slots for your character and can create larger decks. Even at level 6, I’m finding a lot of variety and options. The combos are starting to peek their head out and I like that. I also get jealous of the cards some of the enemies use.
I’m pretty impressed with the free-to-play setup on display here. It’s more carrot than stick: for free, you get loads of adventures and no real restrictions that I can see. You can pay to subscribe monthly (which gives you extra loot after each battle), purchase additional modules, buy new figures (mostly a visual thing), or just get a lot of extra gold so you can buy the specific loot you want from the store. There’s a multiplayer option which I haven’t really gotten into yet, and there’s no co-op as of yet (which is a shame).
Anyway, I really dig this game and wanted to give it a big thumbs up if you’re looking for a fun way to pass short bits of time here and there.