There was a day when we referred to FPS games as “DOOM clones” – does anyone remember that? I suppose that at the time nobody thought that the FPS would become a genre all its own. We saw that with the MOBA as well, which refers to games that might otherwise be known as “DotA clones.” It shouldn’t come as a surprise that games like Mojang’s ill-fated Scrolls, Blizzard’s Hearthstone and today’s offering, Shadowverse CCG, might soon be considered a genre of their own.
Collectable Card Game? Concise Card Battlers, or CCBs, perhaps? Virtual Trading Card Games, or VTCGs? Who knows? Anyway, let’s take a look at Shadowverse!
Shadowverse is…uh, well, it’s pretty much Hearthstone. There’s no way around it, really. It’s Hearthstone with anime trappings and some altered mechanics. Your hardcore players out there would be chomping at the bit to smack me down for making such a direct comparison, I’m sure, but it’s hard to deny how similar the games are; the easy-to-grasp mechanics, the quick-play style, the snappy interface…everything about Shadowverse screams Hearthstone. The most significant change in terms of basic game mechanics is the concept of “evolving” cards, giving them a much-needed power boost but costing you a precious evolution token.
That’s not necessarily a bad thing, of course; Hearthstone’s a solid game, so if you’re going to copy something, you might as well copy the best. Much like its “inspiration,” Shadowverse features several classes to choose from. They’re referred to as “crafts” here, and each features its own playstyle and mechanics. Shadowcraft, for instance, focuses on necromancy and powers up based on the number of dead units in your graveyard, while Dragoncraft is all about big, scary monsters and can ramp up in power more quickly than other classes. I ended up falling in love with Runecraft, which encourages chaining spells together to power up cards in your hand. There’s bound to be at least one craft that suits your playstyle, and Shadowverse is generous enough with cards that you’ll want to try them all.
That’s really the rub, isn’t it: how easy is it to get more cards? I’d argue that it’s easier here than in Hearthstone. Shadowverse starts off new players with a chunk of free card draws, and generally speaking it’s not enormously difficult to get the more rare cards that define a powerful deck. Unwanted cards can be converted into “vials,” much like you’d disenchant unwanted cards in Hearhstone, and these vials can be used to purchase cards you’d rather have. Playing through the game’s story mode (a series of battles against CPU opponents interspersed with goofy plot points) and going up against other players will earn you card packs and gold to spend on card packs.
Naturally there are microtransaction options to check out; your luck might vary, but I was able to build a solid, viable deck for around $20, and even that was more for luxury’s sake than anything. What’s more, I ended up with enough spare cards left over from that to play around with other crafts.
The game’s presentation won’t surprise vets who are familiar with Blizzard’s card battler. Its presentation leans much more heavily on the anime aesthetic, of course, and there’s plenty of fanservice for those who are into that sort of thing. Cards and characters chatter throughout matches as well, which can be endearing or irritating depending on the character in question and your taste. Generally speaking, though, this is a pretty polished game that performs well on both PC and mobile devices.
By the game’s very nature, long-term Hearthstone fans are probably best suited sticking with that game, since they’re likely to have loads of cards and more freedom to build decks. Newcomers to this sort of card-battling-lite genre, though, ought to check out Shadowverse CCG. It’s a capable card clash that’s a little more accessible than Hearthstone for new players.