But there isn't a Magic The Gathering App, which means Shadow Era has a big opportunity. CCG fans are typically very committed to their hobby, and quite willing on spending money to collect additional cards - otherwise known as a great business opportunity. So is Shadow Era enough to attract a dedicated fan base?
|Yep. This is how warriors dress for battle|
Initial impressions are reasonable. The game's setting is classic pulp-fantasy, complete with sexually-provocative women, buff men, and grim arenas. Although the art work is stylish, the presentation is hampered by a low resolution, which leaves the cards looking a little fuzzy. Music is also a little enthusiastic and overdramatic, and as such doesn't really gel with the fantasy setting.
The gameplay is a step above the middling presentation, however. You start with a basic deck of cards, and can add additional cards by earning in-game cash by winning bouts, or by coughing up real money to purchase a different form of currency (naturally, that's where you need to go if you want to get everything out of the game).
|See that? 200 cards to collect, and no doubt more to come|
Once you've built up your deck, you'll start the game proper. Shadow Era plays a bit like “My first Magic The Gathering,” where you'll turn cards into resources, and then use those resources to summon creatures or other magic spells. You'll then use those creatures to attack your opponent. Reduce your opponent to 0 health (from an initial starting value of 30), and you'll win the game.
There are a couple of quirks that set Shadow Era apart from the Magic giant it sits in the shadow of, however – for better or worse. First up you can attack your opponent directly, without having to clear his summoned creatures first. This creates an interesting new tactical decision that needs to be made – do you try and damage your opponent, or clear away his creatures to protect yourself?
|You'll eventually amass a big collection of cards to choose from|
Damage done to creatures is also permanent in this game (unlike in Magic where the creatures are returned to full health at the end of each turn). This means it's harder to keep the creatures alive, and therefore you need to be more aggressive in using them. Shadow Era is definitely a game where attack is the best form of defence.
However, despite these interesting changes, there are a few things that hold it back. Magic The Gathering is a nuanced, complex game which gives players a lot of room to come up with unique card combinations and strategies. Shadow Era by contrast is a more straightforward game, with little synergies between the various cards. This is not necessarily worse (after all, many people find Magic more intimidating than entertaining), but it's hard to see this game reach the heights of Magic.
|This lady has the ability to 'distract' the opponent. Yes...|
And as such, its hard to see many people will be willing to spend real money on this game. While the online multiplayer is currently busy enough, I suspect a great number of people will try this game (it's a free download), but not return. Without the depth of a Magic The Gathering, Shadow Era does little to encourage people to come back.
But then it's also the only genuine CCG on the iPad at present, and until Wizards of the Coast finally wakes up and realise that the iPad and iPhone are popular devices, it deserves the small core audience it will attract.