What am I playing this week? Feeding your addiction in a FTP Card Game SolForge

In one of my previous reviews, I took a look at Infinity Wars by Lightmare Studios, an online collectable card game that uses the free-to-play model. The online card-game has really taken off with the free-to-play model, as it is easy to offer players randomized card selection options that they can earn through gameplay, but still encourage them to spend money to fill out their decks and get the exact cards they want. The online format helps this format as well, because often these online CCGs go cross-platform, so you can play them whenever, wherever you want, either on your computer, your console, or mobile device. Now Infinity Wars looked at the card game format and made some design choices that really engaged me from a gameplay standpoint, but their card-collection mechanic eventually slowed my interest in the game. The pressure to spend money on it turned me away from spending my limited budget on grabbing cards.

So when the Humble Bundle offered an online card game bundle package I decided to take the dive in for a few bucks and give other online card games a try. Out of the several games included in the package, one so far stood out and kept me playing, and that is Stone Blade Entertainment’s Solforge.

Infinity Wars tried to re-invent the online card game, and in doing so they added a level of strategy and complexity that on many levels is very satisfying. Solforge goes the other route. They looked at the CCGs and said, “how can we make this simple, dynamic, and engaging?” The result is a fast-paced game that you can kick out a few games whenever you have ten or fifteen minutes to kill, that is quite satisfying to play and rewards you for even limited amounts of playtime.

Solforge is a lane-based collectible card game, with a small twist. Each player has five lanes, and every round they get two actions to place creature cards on the field, or use spell cards to affect their cards or their opponents. You place creature cards in specific lanes, and on each person’s turn the creatures attack whatever card is opposite them in lane. Each creature has an attack score and a life score, and when you knock down a creature’s life you remove it from the field. If a lane is undefended against a creature card, the player takes the damage. Each player has 100 life and your goal is to eliminate your opponent.

The lane-based system is not a new system for online card games, but Solforge puts a twist on the usual mechanic because each card has three ‘levels’. Each level of the card has growing life, attack, or in the case of spells, effects on the cards on the field or the players. Your cards level whenever you play one to the field, you immediately put the next level of that card shuffled into your deck. Every few turns each player levels, which gives them the ability to play the higher-level cards. The overall effect is that games generally accelerate as the game rolls on and it makes sure any single match doesn’t drag on too long.

Like many Free-to-play card games, there are a variety of ways you can spend money on it. Primarily, you can buy additional card packs, expansion packs, and deck slots. You can also spend money to buy copies of specific cards (though only ones you’ve already picked up at least one,) and enhanced art to give your deck a little more personalized ‘bling’ feel to it. You can also buy entries into tournaments and other major events.

Solforge does give you the option of buying almost all ‘vital’ components of the game, boosters, cards, and deck slots through their in-game currency. This is where I feel more satisfied with Solforge’s model over Infinity Wars. Infinity wars generally gives you a single card every day you log in, and every few wins you might get another single card, or occasionally a pack from gaining an in game ‘level’. Solforge gives you a reward for every day you log in, your first win every day, and your first three wins every game. The difference is that the rewards feel much more substantial. Usually the rewards are a combination of the in-game currency and often include a booster pack, or a card to add to your collection. This ends up much more satisfying, because after only a few days of play you can buy quite a few additional booster packs to grow your collection. I could see how this might back-lash, if they fall behind in producing their expansions you might lose your motivation to buy additional packs.

The overall effect though is right now I am spending much more time playing Solforge then any other online CCGs. When I often only have a few minutes to get a game or two in this CCG provides me a satisfying experience to play, while it still feels like I am getting somewhere with even my limited time to play.

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