I’m just going to jump into the thick of it all and say that once you’ve played a free mobile card battle game, you’ve played them all. Usually the only main difference each will have is the art and the premise. The gameplay will always be the same. The mechanics will always be the same. Heck, even the online promos will always be the same.
There are a few that try to break the mold, but when you are limited to earning profit through in-game purchases, ground-breaking stuff is hard to come by.
You get what you pay for, that’s what they say.
A little something more
Every once in a while though, something or someone tries to mix it up a little. Despite the limitations of availability certain free to play services may provide, there will always be the one or two games that tries to go an extra inch, just so it seems a little bit shinier than the rest of its clones in the market. Immortalis, or Guardian Battles as it is known in Japan, tries to be just that.
Immortalis is yet another one of those among many free to play card collecting/battle games you find in the app store. As a sickness, it mostly follows those conventions to a fault. Players embark on a linear series of single-player missions in order to earn experience points, gold, and new cards, all while repeatedly brainlessly tapping the attack button. That said, the quests themselves aren’t really true battles as it is merely a number game that only questions if your stats are good enough to advance to the next level, thus requiring no skill or strategy at all.
It follows the traditional energy per action cost system that can be extended and refilled at every level up and stat distribution. The makers have introduced the feature where you can hold down the attack button and increase the playback speed for convenience’s sake – which I admit is a cool feature, since the task of progressing through the quest itself is known to be tedious and the developers seem to be aware of that. The fact that quest play advances slideshow-like making the game not load a new page for every action adds a plus point in my book.
After clearing a number of stages within a certain map on a quest, you get to encounter the obligatory boss battle. Boss Battles in Immortalis tries to get out of the mold of repetitive gameplay by adding a little "something" to make these matches different.
Instead of having a direct battle, you instead are given a swinging meter, which you have to press at the right time to deliver corresponding damage – the fuller the meter is when you stop it, the greater damage you cause, and vice versa. To beat the boss, you need to have a party of cards whose combined strength must be higher than the on-screen defense of the boss – something easily achieved as you are given pretty powerful cards from the get go.
Same Ol' same ol'
As usual for the genre, there is a strong emphasis on collecting cards and leveling them up. Cards come in varying rarities and they evolve as well as boost up when combined with other cards. Undesirable cards can be sacrificed to boost your favorites.
Since the only main difference between cards in the first place is merely their art and their rarities, and skills aren’t that really much of a factor, it’s quite possible to just form a party with any card you want. Cards may be sacrificed in bulk, allowing for large power increases, and matching two of the same card together allows it to “evolve” to a more powerful “+” form of itself, which sometimes have supplementary skills.
Players can then edit their party of cards to take into battle as they see fit, so long as the cards used don’t exceed their maximum party cost value, which may be upgraded through leveling up. So, basically, if you’ve played Rage of Bahamut, or any other eTCG game on the mobile, starting out on this game should be no stranger to you.
Now as to what makes Immortalis different is the absence of a PVP system. What it has instead is a Guild War feature, wherein you join a guild of other online players, and fight scheduled battles with other guilds together, combining the strengths and skills of each player’s primary character card. These guild versus guild battles last for an hour at a time and require guild members to actively log in to the game and interact with the battle by using their cards and their special abilities.
The amount of damage a player can contribute to the battle is determined by their Magic stat, and at the end of an hour, the guild who scored the most points in battle receives prizes, respective of their ladder ranking. Lots of fun things can happen during a guild battle. For example, attacking within ten minutes of an ally forms a combo that can activate certain skills.
It’s actually a very good evolution of the usual non-interactive, hands-off battles normally seen in this type of game, and is one of the whole experience’s few good points.
What really makes this game shine is its unique emphasis on online cooperative play. The single player quests are merely there to serve as a staple, to farm resources such as cards, experience and currency, but the real game is in its guild battles. The community is quite large, and the game really encourages you to interact with them.
Even the presentation is quite nice. The layout and the interface are actually designed for the player’s convenience, unlike most games wherein if it works, it’s fine. The graphics are also excellent, and the quests, while tedious and uninteresting in gameplay terms, at least have some attractive animated 16-bit pixel sprites to accompany and entertain you on your grueling progress.
As a catch, you can’t deny that its basic gameplay is tedious and boring. It’s basically just spending energy to raise stats to attack with set amount of damage, all in the hopes of getting good cards or resources.
Also, though large, the community isn’t as thriving or pleasantly receptive. There are a lot of players who don’t know what they’re doing or who don’t go online at all, and in a game where cooperation and teamwork that doesn't even need to be real-time is key, that may pose as a serious setback. You would really be tasked to search for an active guild yourself to be able to fully enjoy the experience.
In the end, it’s just another one of those card collecting games that litter the app store. It just offers a little something extra that may or may not be enough to satisfy the wandering free gamer.