Shadowverse is a free-to-play collectible card game (CCG) both developed and produced by Cygames for Windows, Mac, Android, and iOS, and is currently the most popular mobile card game in Japan to date. With the rise in popularity of the online CCG genre, Shadowverse does its best to keep most of what makes these games addictive, while adding its own twist to make the gameplay fresh and unique.
While it does share a few similarities with Hearthstone, the game does well in differentiating itself with a series of mechanics that greatly stands out among its kin. Shadowverse sports a very fantasy anime art style, sometimes featuring cameos from other note-worthy titles in Japan such as Rage of Bahamut, Granblue Fantasy, and even Street Fighter – oh, and also an array of scantily clad female followers *cough*. So how does it fair against the other titles in this ever expanding market? Let’s find out.
Select Your Character
Shadowverse introduces 7 unique characters in the form of fantasy anime tropes from a cutesy fairy elf ranger to the well-mannered demure healer. Each character also has their own set of exclusive cards, as well as varying playstyles that give them their own unique twist in deckbuilding. Eris’s Havencraft, for example, can control the field with countdown amulets that grant her additional effects and extra followers the moment they expire, while Rowen’s Dragoncraft lets him ramp up his play points fast enough for him to swarm the field with powerful heavy-hitting monsters earlier than his opponents. Even with the inclusion of neutral cards, each character uses them differently to a degree, giving players the ability to create powerful and unique combos despite using the same card.
Make My Monster Grow!
The feature that separates Shadowverse from other card games is its Evolution system; a feature which allows players to enhance their followers’ attributes while also giving them extra properties that outright influences the outcome and flow of each match. Evolving Swordcraft’s Floral Fencer, for example, allows you to raise both her health and attack power by two while dropping two extra followers on the field at no extra cost; also, the follower you evolve will be given the Rush ability, which will allow them to attack enemy followers upon being summoned.
All follower cards can be evolved, and performing this action at the right moment can easily sway the momentum to your advantage; however, do note that the starting player only gets two evolution points, while the one playing second is granted three, so be sure to use them wisely. I still dislike the fact that one player only gets to evolve twice without special cards, but I suppose it was done for the sake of balancing issues. Evolving followers is utterly satisfying, to say the least. Not only can you clear your enemy’s board more effectively with stronger followers and a rush ability; you will also be treated to a new enhanced portrait of the character you evolve, giving you a ‘feelsgoodman’ moment while giving your opponents an added threat on the field.
I Came Here For The Plot
Despite being a card game, Shadowverse does a good job of expanding its universe through an enticing ever-expanding storyline made for each character, fleshing out most of their ideals and aspirations, while allowing the players to identify with them further. Each story arc is actually very well-written; one I would never expect from card games in general. Cygames promises to deliver more chapters in the future, so it might be a good idea to not skip them when you start. It’s pretty good, I swear! Some key cards are also obtained exclusively via the game’s story mode, so all the more reason to dive right in.
Gameplay – 9/10
Shadowverse is a very straightforward game, and with more games catering to the CCG market, most new players might develop a sense of familiarity right off the bat. Players still play cards with playpoints with one being added to your stock each turn, allowing you to cast higher costing spells and stronger followers as the game progresses. Followers still can’t attack the moment they are summoned unless they are ‘Evolved’ or share a particular ability that allows them to do so.
Players can also choose between a variety of spells cards, with some exclusive to the character of your choice, offering control and added effects which complement the overall theme of each deck. The game is fast-paced, offering little downtime per match, and is quite enjoyable whether you play it for countless hours or in short bursts.
The game also offers a draft format in the form of its Take Two mode, which, as the name implies, lets players build a deck by picking two out of four cards presented in sequence. Overall, it allows players to get well acquainted with the many cards available in the game, as well as serve as a good break from fighting competitively in the ladder. You will also get prizes, depending on how many players you beat out of five, so be sure to check it out.
Another thing I would commend this game for is the time it takes to complete a match. I consider this game to be rather fast compared to all of the other CCGs I have played, making it more mobile-friendly in terms of playing it on the go, especially when you are at the mercy of fluctuating signals while traveling.
Innovation – 7/10
This is a bit tricky, as Shadowverse does share multiple similarities with Hearthstone from a ruleset perspective; however, it does offer many things that make it a whole different beast entirely. One such thing is the ‘Craft’ mechanic, which gives each Leader their own specific gimmick and added winning conditions. Shadowcraft, for example, has the Necromancy meter, which makes some Shadow-themed decks stronger the more their followers are killed, while Runecraft uses the ‘Spellboost’ mechanic, which lessens most of their cards’ casting cost with each spell they cast.
The Evolution system is also a unique way of adding more depth to each round. One does not simply relax when your opponent has no followers on the field. Evolution is a powerful mechanic that can very well grant you and your opponents board superiority on a single turn.
Learning Curve – 8/10
Shadowverse is very straightforward, and any player, whether new or familiar with the CCG genre, will probably have no problem picking up the game as it does respect and effectively streamlines the rule sets found in existing titles. It’s a good example of a game that’s easy to play but hard to master.
Graphics and Sounds – 6/10
Shadowverse features outstanding artworks by various Japanese artists, with my preferred style being Mushimaro’s. The cards are well designed and do not disrupt gameplay what-so-ever, unless you’ve been too mesmerized by Cerberus’ clothing or lack thereof. The card effects aren’t too impressive but do their job well in depicting the effect of each card. As for the sound, I can’t say I was too impressed; in fact, I remember turning off the in-game music in favor of my own playlist after only two days of playing. The background music is highly generic and is often drowned out
Value For Money – 10/10
One of the most notorious things often found in free-to-play games is the concept of wallet players holding a huge advantage in the field. After playing the game for months without spending a cent, I would like to note that players will indeed be able to play competitively without adding their credit cards to their deck, and while I did succumb to the temptation of buying crystals soon after, it was merely due to me being curious about other decks more so than climbing up the ladder.
It’s also worth noting that the game is pretty giving in terms of card packs, and you will be getting a lot of free packs from out of nowhere, allowing you to build some of your desired decks shortly after starting the game and dismantling the cards you don’t need to craft the ones you do.
Tip: Don’t forget to challenge all the elite difficulty for each character. You’ll be receiving free gold per character on your first win.
Overall – 8/10
Shadowverse does a good job in separating itself from its card game counterparts, and while it does share a few similarities with its kin, I would strongly suggest that you do not take it as just another rip-off game in the market, as the game does have a lot to offer. Cygames really did a good job in presenting its own take on CCG gaming. With or without the hot anime waifus, this game delivers a good card game experience; one with a good amount of depth, and a healthy array of customization for those looking for a worthwhile CCG to invest their time on.
If you’ve yet to try it, I would advise you to do so. Whether you are new to card games or a veteran just looking for another game to experiment builds on, Shadowverse is a title that’s sure to offer a fun experience.
+ Amazing artwork
+ The Evolution mechanic really adds more depth to each battle
+ Craft system makes each deck feel very different
+ More cards from packs
+ Some UI problems
+ Highly generic music
+ Needs more card effects
Related: CCG, Cygames, Gaming, Review, Shadowverse, TCG