May 18, 2011

[Games] Elements

Elements: the GameLike many other geeks, I spent a good part of my younger years playing the collectible card game known as Magic: the Gathering. It was a pretty fun game despite how expensive the cards were and many a Saturday afternoon was spent trying to defeat other players with my carefully constructed decks. I eventually moved away from Magic since it was just so darned expensive to keep up. With new expansion sets coming out multiple times in a year and new cards being insanely powerful, it became harder and harder to continue to keep up with the times.

These days I'm more of a casual Magic player. I still have some of my old decks and time to time my partner and I dig out our cards and play a few rounds. It's still a pretty fun experience and I have no regrets about ever having gotten into the game. I just wish they had thought more about the players instead of going totally insane on the card generation such that it became really hard for new players to compete without a sizable investment.

I learned about this game through our circle of geek friends. At first glance it seemed like just another Magic: the Gathering clone, and so I was somewhat prepared to dismiss it as another passing casual gaming fad. But when I finally gave in and tried the game, the end result was pretty surprising.

Elements is a free online collectible card game that follows many of the same principles of Magic: the Gathering with a number of interesting variations. The biggest difference is that this game is truly designed to be played in a computer environment given the number of "random" effects that you couldn't possibly simulate in a real card game environment.

Elements - Quantum PillarWhereas Magic had five colors, Elements has you choosing cards from 12 different elements including Fire, Water and Ice and more innovative elements such as Death, Aether and Gravity. Given your chosen element, you can construct a deck of 30-60 cards with which you battle with computer opponents.

In Magic you have a lot of granular control of the game such as being able to determine how many lands from which you'll draw mana from or which creature will attack and which ones will block. In Elements, a lot of these game elements are simplified, thus opening the doors to new game strategies. Some key differences include the fact instead of mana you have quantum, which is automatically added to your pool at the end of your turn depending on the number of quantum-generating cards you have in play. Creatures always attack the opponent at the end of your turn at cannot be used to block other creatures outside of special abilities. Thus you will need to determine what cards to put in your deck to cope with each possible damage source. Plus there's the fact that you start the game with a total of 100 life as compared to Magic's 20.


Elements - Gameplay


Given these basic rules, the are quite a number of variations to how your decks can play through. The game starts you off with a few quests to act as a tutorial plus it's a way for you to earn more experience points and also more money. The in-game credits are needed to purchase new cards at the bazaar, eventually upgrade cards at the Quest menu or to challenge higher tiers of elements which always cost money.

Elements - LobotomizerThe game has a number of different card types that keeps things interesting. At any one time you can have a particular Shield in play, which either helps block or reduce damage from enemy creatures or causes special effects such as inflicting status effects like freeze and such. There are also Weapons that can steadily inflict damage on an opponent every turn and can sometimes also trigger other effects that can target enemy creatures. Plus you have all these other special with crazy effects like hiding your side of the playing field from your opponent, causing a random status effect on an enemy creature or creating an exact copy of a creature including any buffs or bonuses already added to it. The possibilities are pretty limitless.

Elements - ArmagioThe game has some pretty great card art, although there's not consistent theme or style to the cards as far as I'm concerned. Most of them are pretty serious looking images that would be right at home in a science fiction or fantasy novel. Others are strangely comical and don't seem to fit well with the other cards.

The game ultimately plays out like a much simpler and almost casual version of Magic. You get to spend more time refining your card strategies although the in-game economy aspect does limit your growth as a player unless you get a windfall of credits. The computer AI is pretty good, although at times you can't help but feel that the "random" shuffle tends to be slanted in the opponent's favor more often than not. The difficulty curve is also pretty sharp as you go from enemy levels 1-3, something that I wish the developers tried to address in future releases.

All in all, Elements is a fun game and a nice way to satisfy that collectible card gaming itch even when you don't have the cash for it. It gets 4 of the crazy ways the game implements "random" effects out of a possible 5.
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