Some of my fondest childhood memories have been with a card-filled hand. Whether it was Yu-Gi-Oh!, Pokemon or (later on) Magic: The Gathering, I’ve been quite fond of TCGs and CCGs. I still play Magic on occasion, but for the other more obscure TCGs I just don’t have the extra cash lying around to blow on single cards or boosters, and often there’s simply nobody to play with. The fact is that new TCG communities often don’t last very long which makes investment in them a bit of a gamble. Looking at you, My Little Pony. The solution to this problem was solved by the landslide of free-to-play online Collectible Card Games, with Blizzard’s Hearthstone at the front of the charge. Enter Spellweaver, the latest in this sort of thing. Does it shake up the formula? No. Is it fun? Sure. Will it last? I dunno.
If you don’t know how every card game works, Spellweaver is no exception. Players independently build decks of cards to see who’s the best at dramatically putting them on the table. Or winning, whatever comes first. Cards are divided into different types that perform different actions that either help you or bugger up the other guy. Players usually draw a hand at the start of the game, and eventually have to explain to their significant other why they’re now in the Shadow Realm. To get new cards, you purchase Booster Packs or find somebody selling the cards you want; both of these options help your collection grow and thus your options when refining a custom deck. Most card games usually release expansions somewhere along the line to boost their card pool as well. If you, like me, are short of cash the majority of the time, never fear. The game gives out free booster packs every five level-ups and, much like Hearthstone, players can perform quests to gain gold to buy more packs or simply get booster packs as loot. By the time I was level 10 after almost 20 hours of play, I had every card I could ever need and had built about four decks. Gold can also be earned by simply winning games, which is another feature the game shares with Hearthstone. The card crafting system is also quite cheap, making individual cards very easy to get. These make Spellweaver a game that should be very easy for Free players to stick to, but buying booster packs with real money is as frustrating as any card game. You already have these cards, these cards are in a colour that you find boring, these cards are the shit ones. You get the idea.
Where Spellweaver most obviously “differs” from its peers is how card requirements work. Each card has two requirements: A colourless mana requirement (unlike, say, Magic where cards must be played using resources of a certain colour) and a Level requirement (that is to say, the level in that particular match) tied to certain elements. Players increase their level in a match by playing Shrine cards that grant both coloured levels and colourless mana, much like Lands in Magic or Energies in Pokemon. As the game progresses, players can start casting more powerful cards and summon bigger monsters, etc. Spellweaver also includes heroes and hero powers, straight outta Hearthstone. Another small change is in its early-game safety nets: If a player doesn’t draw any Shrine cards in their starting hand, they can take a peek at the top four cards of their deck and put any Shrines in that set into their hand. The rest go to the bottom of the deck, because you abandoned them. You monster. Games no longer feel like they’re doomed from the start, like in other resource card-using games like Magic, and that’s a marvelous thing indeed. But for the most part, Spellweaver simply doesn’t change enough to be anything really amazing. It tinkers with some of the mechanics of old, but it never really innovates in a way that the genre desperately needs. Its lack of content outside its card pool is also a bummer. Spellweaver has no campaign mode like Hearthstone‘s Solo Adventures and only one multiplayer format which may result in players growing tired of the same old thing. Most card games have varying formats of play, such as Commander (or EDH) in Magic, so it’s always a detriment if a game lacks real choice in terms of rulesets. If the developers add more modes in the future, it’ll go a long way in making the game more robust and fun to play. The game’s biggest problem is that it’s “fine”. The interface is fine, if a little crowded. The card artwork and battle animations are pretty, but share too many visual similarities to Magic and its online offerings to be unique in their own way. It’s very frustrating to see it be so samey, as this is a genre I grew up with and love dearly.
Tick, tick, tick, tick, boom.
I wish there was more to say about Spellweaver. It’s a fun game, to be sure, and it should help anybody looking for another card game to pick up in between Magic and Hearthstone. It plays very much like a hybrid of the two, and that’s its biggest strength. Then again, it’s also its greatest weakness. It’s much too samey to be of any real value to anybody who isn’t overly invested in the genre. Fans of card games needing another title to play may appreciate it, but everybody else should stick to grinding up the ladder in Hearthstone instead.