Developer: Stoneblade Entertainment
Publisher: Stoneblade Entertainment
I’ve come to the conclusion that only a genius like Richard Garfield could’ve come up with a TGC as addictive and balanced as Solforge. Some of you may remember him as the creator of Magic: The Gathering, the first trading card game ever made. His twenty plus years of experience really shine through in this release, which tells of four factions in eternal conflict for, uh, some reason or another: the nomadic Tempys, master of elemental magic; the technological Alloyin; the necromantic Nekrium; and a bunch of hippy druids known as the Uterra. Have I mentioned that premise was never the man’s strong suit?
Solforge has you build a deck of thirty cards, choosing from a dizzying array of creatures and spells from two of the four factions. Then you’re ready to duel in colourful arenas consisting of five spaces for each opponent. Every turn, you play two cards and enter a battle phase in which every creature on the table dukes it out, taking on minions or the players directly in order to decrease their life reserves. The first person depleted of a hundred life points loses the match. Sounds like a typical TGC, right?
What allows Solforge to stand out from other titles in the TCG genre is the ability to level up your creature and spell cards so that they’ll be stronger the next time you draw them. Of course, the game is set up in such a manner that weak level-one monsters usually grow strong at level three, and powerful level-one fiends become mostly useless later on. This Pokémon-like mechanic adds an engrossing layer of strategy, as you’ll have to figure out whether you need a good creature now or down the line.
Another unique feature of Solforge is that you don’t get to keep your hand. At the end of every turn, you discard whatever cards you didn’t use and draw five new ones. Then, after four turns, all the cards you threw away get reshuffled into the deck along with those you leveled up on the table. You’d think getting a fresh set of cards every turn would fix the classic problem of starting with a bad hand, but it often makes things worse. It’s not uncommon late in a match to pick up a useless hand, while your opponent hits the jackpot with his or her best level-three cards. You can lose upwards of eighty life points in a single turn because of such a draw!
Another problem with Solforge is the lack of single-player content. A campaign is planned but has yet to be implemented, so, right now, all you can do is play against the computer, using a deck you built for it. Otherwise, you can join a tournament or challenge a random opponent online, which often leads to trolling despite the twenty-minute time limit between moves. Perhaps a two-minute cap for every turn should be considered as well to prevent sore loser from waiting out the clock, hoping you’ll quit.
This, of course, is not an issue when you duel your friends, provided they’re not jerks. Solforge can suspend your matches and save your progress, allowing opponents to make a move whenever they have a minute to spare. It’s sort of like playing chess by e-mail or snail mail. Heck, you can even switch seamlessly between duels and challenge yourself with a crazy amounts of bouts going on at the same time. You don’t even have to run from one table to the next or, you know, get dressed to go to Central Park!
Solforge is easy to learn, fun to play, and regularly updated with new features. Best of all, it’s free on Steam. You can buy packs of cards at a pretty reasonable price, but it’s by no means a necessity, as the game is so generous with its bonuses. Every day, you get a bonus card, pack, or amount of silver the first time you log in. You also get a bonus for your first and third wins of the day. You even get a bonus for your first online win of the day! Perhaps this largesse is Garfield’s way of thanking his Kickstarter investors. Either way, I cannot recommend this title enough.