There’s something about card games that has always resonated with me. Maybe it’s the fond memories of growing up at the peak of the Pokémon and Yu-Gi-Oh era, or the calculated and strategic element of the genre, that keeps me on the lookout for new games to spend way too long on. While some juggernauts of the genre have held me for years there’s been a lack of a good small competitor, with the mobile card games and smaller ones on PC being messes or uninteresting, Astral Heroes has come in as a surprisingly good game. While it’s not quite as polished or huge as some other games it’s certainly a fun way to spend your time.
Astral Heroes, developed and published by Apus Studios, is on the surface a fairly standard card game. You build a deck of fantasy cards, combining different classes to create the type of deck you want, and face off against AI or other people to gain fame and respect. This is all fairly standard, as is the inclusion of a MMO-like clan system (called Guilds) that lets you interact and team up with friends or random players against other teams. The game starts to show its own uniqueness, at least to me, with its single player campaign and quests and unique take on deck-building.
The single player tutorial, which is quite usual for any card game, is somewhat longer than others I have played and follows a storyline rather than the disparate series of duels you often see. As you advance you are slowly fed new features, cards, and concepts until you finish the campaign and feel like a pro. The game is fairly simple in concept; play cards into one of six slots to attack your opponents cards or their life total, use spells to buff or damage cards and spend your mana and spell power to use better cards. Some cards also have additional abilities that are either passive, or can be triggered by spending additional mana or when specific criteria are met. This all adds layers of skill and planning to the simple game and really make matches feel challenging, especially online.
Deck-building is one aspect that I found especially interesting. Decks are made up of cards you collect or buy with in-game, or real life (groan), currency. This is all usual for a card game, as is the idea that there are different classes, and that a deck can only be made up of cards from two of these classes. One thing different Astral Heroes adds is the idea that each card has a deck building cost, and that you are limited to how much you can spend, meaning that you can’t just fill your list with all the best cards. Compromise and weak spots are common in these decks and it creates an interesting headache, and a very welcome one!The game is quite standard in-game modes, with several multiplayer types and a single player mode. Each day you get some solo quests to play in order to gain currency and cards, but these are just a side to the main online experience. Three queues dominate the game, with traditional games and random deck mode both being ranked. There is also a draft mode where you and your enemies draft decks simultaneously and play a mini tournament. This is a fascinating game mode and I’m a huge fan of it, snatching picks away from your opponents and being punished for leaving cards in the draft. It’s also interesting to note that, the player base is a little small at times, and due to that you can run into single player bots in multiplayer. These bots have varied skill levels and the top end will absolutely send you home with your tail between your legs. This makes queue times shorter and allows you to flow from game to game quickly.
There is also a clan like system but I haven’t gone too deep in it. Occasionally you get the chance to raid an enemy team but that’s about as far as I had gotten with the mode.
The game has some shortcomings in the graphics and animation department. The card art is beautiful and I love the art style, however, animation quality is a little lax and some better attack animations and spell effects would go a long way. Music is also strong but sound effects are again, a little weak. I tend to listen to my own music in card games so this never really affected me. Overall, the game needs some work visually but it works as it is, so don’t let the rough edges keep you away.
This game is a good one. I know I’m a sucker for card games and that I’ve been thirsty for a new one but it’s hard to find too much wrong here. Astral Heroes needs more cards and some polish but there isn’t too much more to say. While this won’t be winning any awards against bigger card games like Hearthstone, or more incumbent ones like Magic: The Gathering, it’s still fun and that’s what a game should be. I will be returning to this one in a few patches and I expect to see many of you there too!
REVIEW CODE: A complimentary PC code was provided to Brash Games for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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