Known for their games Rage of Bahamut and Granblue Fantasy, developer Cygames’ released their Collectible Card Game (CCG) entry Shadowverse in 2016. Also released for Mac and Windows.
Shadowverse (SV) plays very similar to Hearthstone (HS), allowing HS veterans a smooth transition. Much like Hearthstone, there are different classes with class specific cards. Aside from the standard combination of playable creatures and spells, Shadowverse has a third kind of card, amulets. Amulets act a bit like spells sometimes, and often have persisting effects so long as they are on the battlefield; however, they cannot be attacked. In addition to amulets, Shadowverse also has the unique mechanic “Evolution.” Evolution typically gives a creature +2/2 and the ability to attack other enemy creatures on the turn it’s played, but is usually limited to at most 3 times per game. Some cards have additional evolution effects, which contributes to the game’s strategic depth.
Each class, or Craft, also has unique and distinct mechanics. For example, the Swordcraft card has a focus on tribal synergy with officers and commanders, while Dragoncraft has cards that allow players to ramp out more expensive followers earlier.
Currently there are two formats of play: standard and Take Two (Arena). Standard consists of making a deck of 40 class and neutral cards for use in casual, ranked, or PvE matches, with up to three copies of a particular card, including legendaries. Take Two players draft a deck of 30 random cards, with a choice between two groups of two cards per pick.
One notable aspect of Shadowverse is the developers’ express goal of reducing the role of RNG in the game. Although there are still cards with random effects, on the whole the implementation is consistent enough (i.e. destroy a random enemy effects) to ensure that strategy is the prevalent win condition.
Like most mobile games, Shadowverse has two currencies: Gold(the in-game currency), and Crystals(the paid currency). The two currencies have a 1:1 equivalent value, but crystals can also be used to buy premium goods like different playable leaders.
There is a strong and passionate F2P community, which serves as a testament to Shadowverse’s long term financial efficiency and viability compared to other CCGs. Quests grant 20-50 gold (and occasionally a pack), and players get up to 3 quests a week. New players start off with 10 packs of each expansion, as well as a generous helping of gold from beating expert AI and many other one-time achievements. In addition to normal login bonuses of nominal gold amounts (and packs/arena tickets every so often), Shadowverse often offers campaign bonuses typically consisting of more free packs.
For completionists who want everything off the bat, it takes roughly $240 to get 3 of each card in a single expansion, and packs run $1.60 per pack at best (although there is a one-time per day 50 crystal pack deal). While there are cheap and competitively viable deck variants, very casual/new players (1-2 games per day) may find themselves a bit hard-pressed if they are looking to play specific cards/archetypes. Most new players are given the advice of focusing on a few crafts/rerolling to help reduce the seemingly overwhelming initial investment.
Card crafting in Shadowverse can seem expensive for a new player. For a relatively seasoned player, on average each pack nets around 470 vials on average, and at worst 120 vials. For scale, common (bronze) cards cost 50 vials to craft, Silver cards cost 200, gold cards 800, and Legendary cards a whopping 3500 vials. This means that if you don’t pull any legendaries, it will take around 8 packs for a veteran to craft a legendary.
As expected from CyGames, Shadowverse shares it’s anime aesthetic and art with fellow CyGames titles. On the whole, the art quality is excellent and the cards are always a joy to play with. CyGames has also hired many top tier voice talent for the Japanese version of the game, including stars like Maaya Sakamoto (Dark Angel Olivia), or Junichi Suwabe (Urias). The only possible downside is if you’re playing in the middle of a commute, where people might judge you for having sexy anime girls on your phone.
The music is fitting and of good quality. Somehow it manages to strike the balance between bringing out the intensity of the game while not detracting from important decisions at all.
On the other hand, the UI isn’t terrible, but could use some streamlining. Menus sometimes take more steps than they should to reach the desired screen. Overall, the lack of intuitive paths can be a bit confusing for newer players.
CyGames has announced that they plan to release a new expansion every 3 months. Although currently every single card is valid for standard competitive play, in the future CyGames will rotate out an older set with each new expansion. This move is aimed at keeping the metagame fresh and allowing newer players to become competitive more easily.
However, each expansion also drastically changes the meta. While casual free-to-play players can come up with relatively viable patchwork decks after some time, more refined decks may cost a lot more time and/or money. The top tier decks can require multiple copies of different legendary cards, increasing the commitment to being a top tier competitive player.
Despite these difficulties, there is a large online Shadowverse community for competitive/netdecking, which lowers the energy investment for new or less experienced players to learn which cards are worth using in which decks. Additionally, people who haven’t played for a while can get back in the game with better knowledge of the trending deck archetypes and develop their own counter strategies.
Shadowverse has been out for more than an year by now, and seems the community seems to continue going strong. The developers keep an eye on the balance of the game, and will take measures like nerfs if they deem it necessary. On top of that, CyGames is a reputable developer with a strong portfolio; it is a good bet that they will continue to support Shadowverse for at least a few more years.
Shadowverse does many things right in a CCG. Not only is the gameplay simple to get into, but gives the player a sense of fairness from reduced RNG. The gameplay enjoyability is bolstered by the solid art and voice acting. Although it’s very generous towards newer players, it does get expensive for serious competitive players. If you’re a fan of digital CCG’s, Shadowverse is definitely worth trying.
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