CDE Humble Gaming Limited
CDE Humble Gaming Limited
June 26, 2010
While on the AppStore one can notice a overabundance of card-based games. App developer Humble Gaming tries to break the mold with their flashy card game Arena 9 on iOS. As a "free to play" game, Arena 9 may be worth the money, but is it worth the time?
If you remember the brilliant card-based mini-game in Square's Final Fantasy VIII, then you'll already know exactly what Arena 9 is. Without much of an explanation, essentially it is gathered that you are a futuristic warrior who does battles via a 3x3 grid with cards placed on them. The characters you find yourself dueling against are often stereotypical versions of characters seen on the cards themselves. You'll only ever get a line or two out of them before battles start, but no attempt was made to make these characters interesting in the slightest so you won't mind the lack of writing at all.
Arena 9 is a very polished futuristic looking game. Neon colors, lots of blue and cyberpunk style illustrations are what you'll spend your time in this game looking at. The illustrations for characters and cards are quality, even if the designs are cliche. Even though there is a lack of animations or other graphics in the game, the illustrations at least add something strong to the game's appeal.
Unfortunately sound and music are very limited in this game. There are only two songs, a menu song and the song that plays in the card battles. The battle song is actually a very catchy futuristic song that makes you want to grab your glowsticks, but the menu song is incredibly annoying and sounds like a rejected song from an Atlus game. While two songs is actually on par for most app games, the sheer lack of sound effects is not. I only counted three different kinds of sound effects, and all were so mute in comparison to the music, I wondered why they were included at all.
As I said before, people familiar with Triple Triad will know exactly what this game plays like. So much so, I'm surprised CDE Humble Games hasn't been sued by Square Enix. For the uninitiated, you form a deck from five cards, all which have one element and four numbers (one on each edge of the card) that range from 1-A (10). You and your opponent take turns placing cards on a 3x3 playing grid. When a card is placed, if any adjacent cards controlled by an opponent have a lower number, they are turned and become controlled by you. The game is over when all nine spaces on the grid are filled with the player controlling the most cards as the victor.
Intricacies to playing the game do exist and also mirror those in Triple Triad. These include rules that can create a domino effect, flipping cards adjacent to a card you flipped, adding power from adjacent cards you control to your own, and taking advantage of cards that share similar numbers.
The elements, the only truly original concept added to this game, comes into play on the grid in the form of certain slots having an elemental affiliation. Placing a card of the same element will give that card +2 bonus to all numbers. Placing a card of an opposing element will create a -2 penalty, and placing a card of any other element will net you -1. In addition, surrounding a card on all sides with an element it is weak against will allow you to turn that card regardless of the number values.
The game repeats in the battles, with career mode earning you points that can be exchanged for random card packs that can be further used to customize your decks. Career mode also earns you experience that can allow you to rank up, allowing you in turn to buy better random card packs. The game can be played offline in practice mode or against other players via internet connection (Wi-Fi, 3G or Edge), or the recently added Bluetooth wireless multiplayer mode. Playing against live opponents will earn you points and experience much faster, but you can find yourself overwhelmed by stronger opponents without first taking the time to understand the game and earn more powerful cards.
Of course because this game follows the free-to-play model many other games are beginning to follow, card packs and ranks can be purchased with real money (charged to your iTunes account). Elite cards are available very easily to those willing to pay money creating a very unbalanced feeling when playing online.
Aside from ranking up and collecting new cards, very little is added to the game as you continue. Players who feel very trapped in "level-grinding" or "dungeon crawling" type games will feel no different here, despite the lack of weapons and dungeons. In truth, it doesn't take very long to feel like you've already done everything before, so people who are not fans of competitive card games will be very bored very quickly.
Arena 9 falls very firmly into the "guilty pleasure" category for me. It's hard to rationalize why I even enjoy playing this game but I do, even though I despise myself for it. On that note the game can be enjoyed in small doses, but only by a very select kind of gamer. Even card game aficionados can find a bone to pick with this game's "let's give an unbalanced control of power to those who pay" attitude. I would say "buyer beware", but well, this game doesn't cost anything. For those of you who believe time is money, however, may still find the price of this game too steep.