By Ken Allsop
It’s been a little over two years since the original release of Infinity Wars. Since then, this digital CCG (Collectible Card Game) has found itself a small but dedicated player base. December 2016 saw the release of patch 2.0 - titled Infinity Wars: Reborn - which seems focused on designs to help entice new players into the fold. But in a genre dominated by a few big names, can this latest big update help Infinity Wars to stand out from the crowd?
Infinity Wars works using a two-lane Attack/Defend system: your units must first be deployed to a Support Zone (drawing from a resource pool which increases each turn). From there, they may then be moved between the Support, Attack, and Defense Zones. Capitalising on the advantages of being a digital card game over a physical one, turns are played out simultaneously: both players plan out their moves and then the turn is taken all at once.
Once your plan is confirmed, cards are deployed, then spells and abilities are played before attacks take place. This makes for some really interesting tactical plays, as you have to commit to your positioning and actions based on what you think your opponent is most likely to do. Should you commit all your forces to attacking, potentially leaving you open to a devastating counterattack? Or would you rather plop some units in the defense zone to keep you safe, but risking them being idle should your foe choose not to strike this turn?
Things get even more dastardly when it comes to spells and abilities, as they will often only be able to target units in certain areas. Certain that the other player has a card up their sleeve that will destroy your key unit while it is on the battlefield? Moving them back to the support area this turn means they won’t be active, but will also cause that deadly spell to fizzle out and go to waste. A further level of nuance on top of all this is ‘Initiative’ - a marker which alternates between players each turn, determining whose actions will happen first on that turn.
These mechanics are quite well explained during the tutorial campaign, and are then expanded on through challenges as well as being explained during the other campaigns (of which Reborn now offers six, each with their own story). Unfortunately, with this not being a game where you can physically see your opponent, a lot of the fun that might be associated with bluffing and trickery doesn’t translate quite as well as you might like - often feeling a little more like rolling the dice than careful strategy. Nevertheless, it does result in some tremendously satisfying moments when you successfully toss a spanner into their works.
As for the campaigns, each features five missions with a specific faction, complete with mid-mission dialogue. They have a slightly strange feel to them, as many are initially set up in unique ways to convey story situations but then slowly revert back to just feeling like a regular match by the latter half of each encounter. A lot of the dialogue can be a little cheesy, but it frequently ties in well to incidents which are happening (oftentimes not even ones which feel directly scripted, too). There are some pretty chuckle-worthy moments in there as well - the game has a fairly good sense of humour that I wasn’t expecting but which drew some genuine laughs at times.
Bizarrely, many of the campaigns end in a mission where you are tasked with using one of the decks from your personal selection; meaning you can use a completely unrelated set of cards. In one instance I took on the final mission for the Warpath (a nature-based team focused on big, stompy creatures such as bears and wolves) using a deck of zombie warriors headed up by a corrupted, undead variant of a Warpath character - only to find out that the encounter in question happened to be against pretty much exactly the same type of deck. It isn’t a deal-breaker, just feels a little tonally off-mark.
With Infinity Wars now over two years old, new players might be wondering how easy it is to jump in without being overwhelmed by those who have already built up huge piles of digital cards. Thankfully, Reborn offers up some pretty helpful options for those just starting out. There are heaps of different booster packs on offer, which can feel intimidating, but you can also directly purchase pre-made decks, designed by some of the top-ranked players, for the price of 6 boosters, allowing an easy way to get you off the ground.
Additionally, there are a rotating series of 4-5 free decks each week. There are even specific PvP modes where competitors are restricted to ready-made sets, meaning that there’s no chance of running into someone’s meticulously honed deck with your starter cards. Earning in-game currency can feel a little slow and, disappointingly, some boosters appear to only be available through the real-money option. However, the prices are actually fairly reasonable by CCG standards. As a further boon, this is one of the only digital CCGs I’ve encountered where you can actually trade your cards with other players (either amongst friends or via an in-game Trade Chat), which can help a ton if you’re chasing down specific cards.
The cards themselves are very pretty, each of them featuring gorgeous, animated artwork. However, the presentation in other areas can be a little basic by comparison (such as the battlefields and the combat effects). The UI also feels a little old-fashioned and clunky at times - although, to its credit, Infinity Wars is excellent at providing you with tooltips and information for just about anything that you might want to check.
With the arrival of Reborn, Infinity Wars has made some big steps to make itself more approachable to newer players. It still lacks the polish of games such as Hearthstone and Duelyst, and the core gameplay hasn’t dramatically changed since release. If you tried it previously and weren’t won over, then it’s unlikely Reborn will change your mind. However, if you’ve yet to give Infinity Wars a look, Reborn makes doing that a little easier - and I’d recommend doing so, because there’s plenty of fun to be had here for fans of the genre.
Stay tuned to The Midnight Gamer for all the latest and greatest from the video gaming world. Infinity Wars is developed by Lightmare Studios and published by Yodo1 Games. It originally released on Steam in September 2014, with the Infinity Wars: Reborn update going live in December 2016. The game is free-to-play, supported by microtransactions which may be purchased with currency either earned in-game or paid for with real-world money.