Thursday, August 08, 2013

First Look: Solforge

I jumped into the early access for Solforge recently on Steam. I followed it’s kickstarter campaign but did not donate to the project (I’m kind of silly like that… wanting something for the money I spend). Solforge is a digital collectible card game (CCG) that takes advantage of the digital form via cards that level as the game is played (a mechanic that would be difficult to pull off in paper form). Cards are played onto a field that contains five different lanes (sections of play that allow a creature to attack a player). Opposing players take asynchronous turns battling each other until the first player is reduced from a life total of 100 to 0. Players can play spells which impact play or other cards in various ways or they can play creatures which occupy a lane and then can attack the other player directly or end up doing battle with the opponents creature that occupies the same lane.

Solforge is unique in that it features both deck building (think Magic the Gathering) and a “build your deck as you play” mechanic (think Dominion). Solforge decks consist of 30 pre-chosen cards to start. Decks can be built from the card pools of two of the four factions (Utteran, Nekrium, Tempys, and Alloyin). As cards are played during a game they are leveled up (levels 1 thru 3). When the card is played the higher level version (or a clone if it’s already level 3) is added to the player’s discard pile. Leveled up versions of cards are more powerful. As the game progresses, the player then levels up (aka player levels referred to as P1, P2, P3, etc.) and their discard pile is shuffled into their draw deck allowing them to potentially draw the next higher level cards. This leads to big moments on turns every 4th round as the next level of cards may come into play.

The leveling system is key to Solforge and ensures that games escalate towards a conclusion. There is always a mounting sense of destruction looming over each game and when the level 3 versions of cards start hitting the board the real fireworks start going off. The leveling system also ensures that the most powerful cards are not played until after turn 8 (when P3 is reached). This allows even weak cards to have a purpose in the game during the early turns and some of those weak cards turn into much stronger level 2 and 3 versions.

Overall I really enjoy Solforge even though it has a very limited card pool currently (~60 cards) and there are some balance issues (I’m looking at you Packmaster and Hellion!). Also currently we have access to all of the cards so can build any deck as needed. In the future, cards will have to be purchased via digital booster packs or traded for from other players (both of those features are not yet in the game). Over the next week the game will see the release of the first full set of cards (most likely to be named the Alpha set). It is expected to be over 200 cards. This will significantly increase the variety the game has to offer to the early access testers.

If you are looking for a solid online CCG that will is multi-platform then Solforge is an excellent choice. Due to its asynchronous nature it makes a perfect mobile game that can be played a turn at a time and games can be stretched over a long period of time (I have games that took over a week to complete). Solforge is currently only available on PC via the Steam early access, but it will be released on iOS and Android in the future.
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