My experience with Earthcore: Shattered Elements has been a strange one, and a fairly good lesson in why you should never judge a book by its cover.
Here at Gamezebo, we’re pitched a lot of games. And I mean a lot. I go through pitches faster than Nolan Ryan. So when I was first pitched Earthcore, a new card game from Tequila Games, my immediate reaction was “oh look, another card battle game to clutter up the App Store. Yawn.”
After spending some time with the game, and meeting with Tequila Games’ CEO Lukasz Deszczulka, I find myself terribly embarrassed by my quick decision to disregard those first few emails about Earthcore.
Contrary to my first instincts, Earthcore: Shattered Elements isn’t a card battle game. At least not in the way that most mobile gamers think when they hear the words “card battle.” This isn’t some shallow, stats-driven affair; it’s much closer in spirit to games like Hearthstone and Magic: The Gathering, though with a style all its own.
The game is designed to move at a much quicker pace than other games in the genre, and with the mobile audience in mind, that might not be a bad thing. Players take turns placing three cards from their deck in positions opposite each other. Each card has an associated element (fire, water or nature), and in rock/paper/scissors fashion, the dominant element wins.
Where Earthcore gets nifty is in what each card is capable of, and how risk vs. reward comes into play with every card chosen. Cards feature different skills that can be activated, and with more powerful skills, you’re opening yourself up to more damage should your element fail to win. In other words, you’re determining the damage you’ll take by the choices you make.
The skills are varied and add a great deal of strategy to the proceedings, as do other elements like the “risk doubler” that changes between players each turn. And of course, there’s plenty of deck-building and cards to unlock.
While I haven’t reached the point where it’s available to me quite yet, Deszczulka showed off another unique feature during our brief meeting: customizable hero cards. Once you have a hero, you’ll be able to destroy existing cards from your deck to fuse up to three different abilities to your hero. Non-hero cards only have one skill, making hero cards mighty valuable in battle.
Earthcore’s PvP seems sparsely populated right now (in fact, I’ve yet to get a game started), but a surprisingly robust single player campaign makes up for that. There’s an interesting narrative that’s reminiscent of Tin Man’s early Gamebook Adventures releases, and it’s a pleasant treat from a genre that is typically devoid of storylines.
Earthcore is currently available in soft launch, so if you have an iTunes Canada account (hint: here’s how to get one) you can check it out before it’s official launch. Everyone else can check it out when Earthcore: Shattered Elements releases worldwide in Q1 2015.