Innovative MTG inspired (cards) + RTS hybrid. Fight with a deck of cards to cast monsters, structures, and spells.
- Very nice art. A lot of varied, different monsters and spells.
- Great 3D graphics. The spell effects especially : Blizzard, meteor rain, etc all look great.
- A lot of variety in gameplay. You can swap decks and cards combinations for different strategies.
- You start with 64 cards and 3000 "points" you could use to buy another RANDOM 96 cards (60common, 24uncommon, and 12 rare to ultra rare) for a total of 160 starting cards.
- Decent (but regrettably short) PvE (player versus environment) campaign you can play solo or with your friends in 2, 4, and 12 players maps.
- Sucks you in. Gameplay is fresh and fun, and collecting cards and upgrading them can be addictive.
- Breaks the bank. 50-60$ for retail box, and you WILL feel the need to spend more money on cards.
- Flawed PvP. Balance issues mainly.
- Absence of AI for skirmishes. It is also not possible to play this game offline, not even the campaign.
- LEGION of technical problems, some of them very annoying.
Gameplay reminds you of an RTS, but instead of having to harvest gold and make unit-producing buildings. You will secure "magic orbs" and "energy generators" that will let you cast the "cards" like you would cast a spell using mana. Cards can be monsters, buildings (like towers), or spells. Most spells are damage oriented, but there are others like freeze, heal, frenzy, teleport, and so on.
The more energy generators you secure, the more energy (and thus troops) you can bring to the battlefield, and the more "orbs" you secure the more advanced cards you can cast. Orbs are the equivalent of tech levels in any RTS game. And once you hit around 4 orbs, you can cast the most advanced cards like Dragons and Titans which are the equivalent of your own mini bosses.
I thought the system was very interesting, as it is more aggressive and instant than any RTS. You can cast cards and units right on the battlefield instead of having to produce them at your base and transport them. The spells also give you more control (as a player) on the battlefield, since you can do as much with them if not more than your units. If you want a huge army, you can. If you want a small army and blast your way using fireballs and blizzard storms, you can too. If I had to rate this on the gameplay only, it would get at least a 8.5/10.
The problem with BattleForge is not the gameplay, but actually where you get to use it.
CAMPAIGN - story mode
You can play the campaign solo or with allies (on 2, 4 or 12 player maps) to accomplish bigger missions with different card rewards too. There are 15 maps (some solo others coop) which represent around a full day worth of play in the standard difficulty level. Around 12 hours worth of gameplay.
The same 15 maps are available on advanced and expert difficulty, and 3 new maps are only available on those advanced difficulty levels bringing the total number of different missions to 18. Expect to spend another 20 hours to finish advanced. Expert difficulty will need a lot of time and possibly money as a lot of expert maps are not finishable without having some specific rare or expensive cards.
From my experience the campaign missions are decent in that they are challenging, and let you win card upgrades. But once you finish the missions, and/or reach the PvE level cap, all you are left with is the flawed PvP.
A couple of PvP matches make you realize that the system is far from complete or well rounded. There are quite a few balances issues, the matches right now are just a quick race to secure resources and use the few known most powerful cards and combinations. The first one to secure the most resources and has the right deck with the hardly stoppable cards wins, and so you can generally guess the winner only a few minutes into the game.
There is little diversity of strategy or tactics you can see in similarly competitive multiplayer games, and a lot of work has to be done to balance things out and make more tactics viable. Most other players I spoke to feel the same way, and definitely think that buying the game for PvP is a waste as it gets tedious pretty fast. Having to buy cards on the long term with cash to stay competitive does not help either.
As stated earlier, PvP is plagued with bad balance, bad matching system, and the potential to run into players who have far more advanced decks because they bought additional cards. This makes PvP the weakest aspect of BattleForge... Which is a big problem seeing as PvP is where the long term appeal of BattleForge is supposed to be. It is the most important aspect of the game, yet it is where the game falls on its face.
This review takes into account casual to normal gamers. Please note that PvP could be interesting for players dedicated to the game on the long run, who will buy all the rarest cards in order to stay competitive and be able to counter most strategies. Games between players who have all the cards they need or want are still interesting, since that is where skill starts to show and make the difference in determining the winner. But most players will not spend that kind of cash (40$+) or hundreds of hours trading to get to that stage and stay there.
GAME COST, MICRO TRANSACTIONS, AND THE "EA" EFFECT
Reading the official forums, you can see that barely 2 weeks after game launch, some people have already spent up to 200$ on boosters. Most will agree that spending an extra 40$ is a minimum.
This game can be expensive for dedicated and even not so dedicated players. To buy additional cards, you have to pay real money. Around 20$ for 2000 BF points, which represent around 64 random new cards (40common, 16uncommon, 8 rare to ultra rare). Future updates will constantly add new cards, forcing players who want to stay competitive to keep spending cash on a regular basis to get the new cards.
There is no way to win cards or BF points in game (BF points are the ones you use to buy new cards). And EA has done its homework to ensure you can't make money or BF points in the game in any way other that paying them directly for it. For example you can get upgrades from playing missions or PvP, but you can't exchange or sell those upgrades for BF points with other players. Auction house is currently extremely slow, and it can take up to 30 seconds for each click to validate (bidding, posting an auction, browsing cards, etc). Everything is done to force players to spend real cash, and all alternatives are neutralised. (This is an EA game all right!)
You can in theory make a decent deck without buying boosters. But both trading cards and selling/buying (interface is poorly made, and again the auction house is EXTREMELY laggy) are both tedious and time consuming. I took this approach personally and I was able to make a decent deck (two colors) from trading, but I had to spend as much time if not more chatting and monitoring the auction house than actually playing.
Also worthy of mention is the fact that you don't own your cards. You have no right to sell them for real money for example, even if you do buy them with real money in the first place. Which means if you spend a lot of time and energy (and cash) on this game, and decide one day to quit and get some of your investment back on ebay like with MTG and other similar card collector games... well, you can't. EA is also being very aggressive against people trying to sell cards or accounts, so don't even think of it.
QUALITY OF THE GAME
Currently, 3 weeks after launch there are still numerous grave technical issues plaguing the game. Crash issues, some bugs with objectives that makes maps unfinishable sometimes, random and frequent disconnects problems, and a mysterious 10-15 seconds game freezes even on high speed, high performance systems. Suffice to say that the technical support official forum is extremely active and some players are very frustrated and angry at this game.
The disconnect and freeze problems are especially annoying. Most maps are cooperative and need multiple players, and it can take up to 20-30 minutes to find enough players for the 12 player maps (especially in the more advanced difficulty levels). And so it is very frustrating to players when the game finally starts and people disconnect and drop out of the game, or when they finish an especially long and hard mission but they do not get victory or reward because of an objective-stopping bug.
A mix between RTS and card collector games, BattleForge should in theory appeal to a wide audience. But a series of shortcomings insure that it has something to displease everyone. RTS fans looking for competitive multiplayer will find a broken PvP and most will dislike having to buy cards to stay competitive. Card collectors will dislike not owning the cards even if they pay cash for it. And players just looking for a great solo campaign will be turned away by the little bang for the buck it offers, the game being too short and overpriced just for that aspect.
Last but not least, there is the price which probably will be the deciding factor for many of us. Will a semi-decent campaign, some new game mechanics, and a few hours of broken PvP really be worth 50-60$ if not a lot more?
Let me see what I could get right now at 50$... Dawn of war II (great tactical campaign, sound RTS multiplayer), Empire Total war (amazing value), Left 4 Dead, Call of duty, Fallout 3. Even a few great deals on Steam : Mass effect at 19$, Zeno clash 14$, Drakensang at 29$, Far Cry II 29$, and so many more.
For me personally, this game is interesting, but it is certainly not worth 50$. There are just too many better investments out there.
Unless you are really a BIG fan of cards collecting games and have the patience to wait for PvP balancing that might or might not happen (this is EA we are talking about after all), my advice is to wait a few months for this game to hit the bargain bin. (Giving time to the developers to fix the legion of technical problems would not hurt either.)
The game is overpriced right now at 50$, especially considering all the technical problems. But at around 20-30$ it would be worth checking out as the innovative gameplay is still interesting to experience.
EDIT : I finally found my cheap copy of this game on Ebay for 20$. I was able to play it more in depth (clocking an additional 60+ hours of gameplay) and I updated this review accordingly. I still think this game is not worth 50$, especially considering all the technical problems. So try to grab a cheap copy from somewhere.