Developer: Red Point Labs
Publisher: Making Fun
I typically hate video games that force you to spend all your stamina on a single match and then wait as it slowly renews, but CCGs like BloodRealm are making it work. Luring you in with its wonky capitalisation, the flash title allows you to log in to challenge a few opponents here and there and then move on to something else. Your ultimate goal: ascend to godhood by defeating the pantheon of various mythologies with your powerful monsters and spells.
I like a simple story with a straightforward objective. BloodRealm’s campaign mode has you fight the gods of Ancient Rome, Gaul and Egypt. It’s pretty cool, but I’d love to see Celtic, Norse and Indian mythology added to the mix if only to increase the variety of opponents we can choose from. As it is, one usually ends up farming one or two different gods to get the coins, which means fighting against the same deck over and over again just for the privilege of buying a few new packs of cards.
On the subject of familiarity, the basic rules of BloodRealm are similar to that of Solforge. Each battle field consists of five areas from which you can summon your creatures. At the beginning of the match, you pick five cards from your customised deck and then pick a new one after every turn, during which your monsters duke it out with whatever magical opponent is placed in front of them. If they’re unopposed, they get to attack your own godly adversary, depleting his or her health bar until it reaches zero.
The main difference between the two games, though, is the resource system. BloodRealm uses mana as its fuel to cast spells and summon creatures. The player to start receives ten mana points. The other player gets twenty. Every turn, the allotted amount of mana increases by ten until you reach fifty. This mechanic proves an effective way of offsetting the advantage inherent to going first, especially since mana points that aren’t used can be saved up for the next turn, up to a maximum of one hundred.
The developers have solved another recurrent problem in the CCG genre: that of useless cards. Usually, as you obtain new cards for your deck, any weaker one ends up in the “good for nothing” bin, never again to be seen. BloodRealm allows you to sacrifice these unwanted cards to power up the ones you want to keep in your deck. This makes buying packs of cards a much more satisfying experience, as you know something good will come of it no matter what spells or creatures you get. In fact, converting your junk cards in between matches is the only way to level up your loyal critters.
Your character in BloodRealm can also be upgraded, powering up after every victory and unlocking new abilities. Using the latter in combat costs blood points, which you gain at a rate of one per turn. It’s a cool concept, but the power balance could use a few tweaks. Compare Brienne’s Body Block, which allows you to take half the damage for one turn, with Darlock’s Terrify, which drains your opponent of all his or her mana every two turns, crippling even the most powerful enemy creatures.
The arena also disappoints. The makers of BloodRealm promised us a player-versus-player platform. What we got instead is a ladder system wherein the computer battles your character using the decks of random players. This wouldn’t be so bad if the AI weren’t so dumb, allowing you too often to snatch victory because of a series of inexcusably silly moves. I wish as well that there were more decks saved up. If I wanted to fight against the same handful of opponents over and over again, I’d play the campaign mode, damn it!
However, the main problem with BloodRealm is the sheer amount of bugs. Every time a new feature is presented, you know something will go wonky. For a while, you didn’t climb the arena ladder after every match. In the campaign events, rewards are often omitted, and a memory leak slows down the game if you play too long. Meanwhile, new cards are added with no regard to balance, and already an infinite combo has been discovered, allowing you to win in a few turns. Some will say, “Give the title a break! It’s just a flash game!” but when the developers are selling me packs of six cards for $7.50, I expect a little more.
This is not to say I don’t enjoy BloodRealm. Despite these problems, I find myself playing a few matches from time to time, or let’s face it: frequently emptying my stamina bar the minute it fills up. Give it a try. You may decide that it’s polished enough by your standards. If you have more disposable income than me, you might even be willing to spend a few dollars to boost your deck. Just cross your fingers that your investment won’t disappear because of a programming error or that a weird balance decision won’t nerf your cards…