Founded in 2010, Cryptozoic Entertainment, Inc. are more famous for their board games, card games, comics and trading cards than their video games having worked on – amongst many other things – the World of Warcraft Trading Card Game and The Walking Dead Board Game. However, back in May 2013 they took to Kickstarter seeking $300,000 to make a MMO card trading game called Hex. To say they smashed their target would something of an understatement as they came out on June 7th with $2,278,255 or a massive 759% of their original target…
Roll the clocks forward just over a year and Hex: Shards of Fate is now in closed beta and we have had a hands on with the innovative MMO card trade-em-up; but before we get into the nuts and bolts lets take a look at the trailer shall we?
Here’s Hex in a nutshell; You and an opponent pick a champion and face off in a one-on-one virtual card battle to the death! At the start of the contest you both draw seven cards from your respective decks; this is the hand you can play and each turn you get to draw a new card from your deck. Cards are split into 5 categories; Resource, Troop, Constant, Artifact, and Quick Action. You need resources to play troops and complete actions; for example each troop has a Threshold that is the minimum number of resource required to play it. Troops are used to attack the opposing champion and block attacks to your champion from opposing troops. The winner is the first person to reduce his enemy champions’ health to zero – so troops are pretty darn important. Constants, Artifacts and Actions are usually used to buff your own troops of in some way hinder the oppositions.
So basically, play a few resource cards so you can get some troops onto the board then try to kill the opposing champion using brute force, guile and a host of imaginative and beautifully drawn cards before your opponent takes down your champion. However, with 20 unique champions already across 8 races, 6 classes and 2 factions there is clearly a whole world of potential complexity to get to grips with.
Here it is in action…
The game itself is free to play and once you sign up you get a free starter deck with 60 cards of your very own and if you play through the tutorial and you will unlock a few extra ones. From then on out you can either buy booster packs for the princely sum of $2 for a pack of 15 buy or trade individual cards with other players. Don’t fret though if you don’t want to lay your money down you can win more cards in the many tournaments going on every day.
But “what is it like to play?” I hear you cry, well I’ll tell you…
There were some initial teething problems with the server; for the first week or so of the beta I spent a lot of time watching the never-ending loading screen. It should be noted that these are common amongst even the most experienced cloud providers (SimCity launch anyone) and since the last update I’ve had no problems getting in and getting a match.
That is in itself brilliant to see, the problem with cloud-based games is that no matter how much fun the game if there is no one to play you are not going to be having an enjoyable experience. If anyone else got in on the ground floor with Gun Monkeys they will know that it was a really fun game but with the servers standing largely empty it was so hard to get a game most of us gave up; no such problems here. Logging in to the servers at a variety of times showed a veritable smorgasbord of oddly-named patrons just waiting to kick my butt.
And Kick my butt they did. I’ll admit the closest I’ve come to playing this kind of game is Top Trumps with my mates when I was a kid and there is a whole load more strategy than blind luck going on here. The tutorials help you to get the basics down; when to attack and when to bide your time, when to play certain buffs and the perks of flying troops. However, it is playing against real people where the full range of the cards and their uses comes out. In my first game I was thoroughly trounced in a flawless victory where I one mistake early doors really cost me. I fared a little better in my following games as the hard learned lessons shaped my tactics.
I played all of my games using my free starter deck and the temptation to splash a little real cash on my deck was palpable. Not just in the hopes of making my games a little more even – some of the people I played must have invested a pretty penny in their decks – but also just to check out the cards. The variety and detail in the cards is awesome, and it would have been great to have tried out different tactic with some of the other heroes; the urge to catch-em all could be dangerous for the pocket though!
Overall, I really enjoyed my time with Hex and I do believe I will be going back after pay day picking up another deck and seeing the battle from a whole different vantage point.
There is still a whole bunch to come from Cryptozoic and I for one look forward to seeing how this one develops.