Card Hunter is a game I’ve been looking forward to playing for a long time. A fresh take on CCGs, combining the intricacies of MtG-like deck building with the addictiveness of RPG levelling and loot progression, all wrapped in a fun, nostalgic old-school DnD art style.
They’ve been opening up the beta testing recently, and finally I got my mail inviting me to try. And eagerly, I’ve done so. My aventuring party comprised of Mordred, the Human Warrior, Danae, Elven Sorceress and Mellisan, Human Priest, are around level 3. The local Kobolds and Troggs have learned to fear their names, and they’re merrily looting wizard’s towers and foreboding lairs.
So let me report back on my initial impressions.
Firstly, I quite enjoy the gameplay. The combination of CCG and RPG mechanics works well, it’s a concept I’ve toyed with myself (while designing System Crash), and it’s well-put-together in Card Hunter.
Often, hybrid-genre games can struggle to find a middle-ground that satisfies fans of either of the genres they mash together. But here it works fairly well, both genres are ones which appeal to number wonks, it’s not like combining action and strategy where you feel like one comes at the expense of the other.
That being said, deckbuilding isn’t quite as elegant as it is in a pure CCG experience. Because weapons have 7 associated action cards, each with a variety of stats, trying to work out which weapon is more effective in your deck can be a bit more complicated, especially when the differences are slight. But overall it works well.
Battles are well designed, with the environment playing a role and various creatures employing differing strategies that can require rethinking your approach. Armor, mobility, range, line of sight, terrain type, all come into play.
Thematically, the game plays up its old-school D&D stylings well. Adventure modules have some bombastic narrative setting the scene, and the comments from your Dungeon Master, Gary, and his older brother, Melvin, are amusing. Especially if you have fond memories of your own teenage years spent eating pizza and sitting around the gaming table. The interface is responsive, information is easy to find and the effects are slick.
So that’s the good. Now let’s talk about the bad.
I am all ready starting to resent the F2P system.
The two big problems I have with it is that it’s “pay to be better at the game” and how much it’s pushed into your face.
Let me say up front, I’m not intrinsically opposed to F2P, at least certain types of F2P. I’m fine with things like in-game expansion content (unlock new adventures, levels, characters) and vanity kits. But I don’t like feeling like I’m playing a crippled version of the game, one which reminds me that it’s crippled, so as to prod me into paying. Let me play, or ask me for money to play further. But don’t apply slow pressure until I give in.
The primary way the game does this is by giving you extra loot if you have signed up to the “Card Hunter Club,” both in single and multi-player. And by showing you, every time you loot a treasure chest, what you are missing by not being signed up. Which, quite frankly, take some of the joy out of that box of shiny new goodies. Especially since the premium reward item is often better than what’s in your chest. Here, for example, the premium reward is a cool Rare, while the best item in my treasure chest is an Uncommon.
It just sours the experience of getting loot. And since more powerful loot directly corresponds to doing better in the adventures, you are constantly aware that you’re missing out. I’m sure the devs will argue that the game is balanced fine for non-club members and the premium items just boost your power quicker, but perception is everything.
You also get rewards for multiplayer, with Club members getting the same bonus, so there’s definitely a pay-to-win element there, too.
So that’s bad enough. But it gets worse. Club membership is a subscriber model. You can’t just say “oh, all right then” and put down $30 to unlock the full, uncrippled experience permanently. Oh no. You can, at best, subscribe for a year.
Which would cost over $50. >:(
They also employ that manipulative gambling model the eastern MMOs employ, where you can pay real money to buy a chest full of randomized premium items. I don’t care too much about that because I feel little compulsion to play that roulette wheel, but it’s still a bit exploitative, and it annoys me on principle.
It’s a real pity, because honestly, it’s putting me off the game a fair bit. I’d have happily paid $20 once to unlock the full experience, but here that would only get me three months membership. Fuck that noise.
I think Blue Manchu are a talented team with a cool game concept, but I really can’t bring myself to support this financially. Fucking F2P bullshit.