Know when to hold ’em, know when to fold ’em

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By Alexander O. Cuaycong and Anthony L. Cuaycong

THERE are a slew of popular free-to-play online card games currently out to tickle the fancy of both desktop and mobile gamers. From Blizzard’s Hearthstone to Wizards of the Coast’s Magic The Gathering Online to Konami’s Duel Links, there is no lack of options available for players at home or on the go. And given the sheer number of alternatives in the genre, it takes uniqueness and no small measure of good fortune for any one title to stand out. Shadowverse, Cygames’ entry to the already-crowded market, not only succeeds in holding its audience captive, but does so in a manner that makes it accessible to newcomers and veterans of the genre alike.

Released in June 2016, Shadowverse is an online collectible card game available on iOS and Android, as well as on Steam, and features an anime artstyle combined with fast-paced gameplay. In Shadowverse, players choose one of eight character “crafts” and must do battle by summoning creatures or casting spells, and using them and their special effects to either hit opponents’ creatures or the opponents themselves. Players start at 20 life and win the game when their opponents’ is reduced to zero.

While this might sound similar to the mechanics of other online card games (think Hearthstone and Magic The Gathering), there are features that help Shadowverse stand out. For one, players are restricted by their archetype. Each “craft” has its own distinct style in draining the health of opponents. Whether it’s Runecraft’s constant spellcasting or Swordcraft’s Officer and Commander pair-up, it adds a certain flavor to how each match goes, with deck archetypes changing depending on the crafts players are up against. Parenthetically, Shadowverse benefits from its Evolution mechanic. At the start of every game, each player is given two evolution points. While initially unusable, they are unlocked later on and can turn a game right on its head. They not only buff cards; they also trigger a card’s Evolve effects, which, whether positive or negative, can have a massive impact on the game, thus adding an extra layer of strategy to tap or watch out for.

Complicated? On the contrary, Shadowverse is arguably the most straightforward online card game newbies can sink their teeth into. While cards can have special effects, their interactions with one another are easy to predict. The low life total means matches are quick to get into and get out of, and the sheer generosity of the game — from log-in bonuses to frequent giveaways to even special gifts just for playing — means that there’s no real lack of cards even for those who refuse to shell out real currency for them. Where other games hide desired content inside a paywall, Shadowverse is surprisingly generous with it.

True, Shadowverse does tend to falter a little with its game length. With its design philosophy catered to making games fast and straightforward, endings can come with shocking quickness due to high creature attack power combined with low player life. Some cards can feel downright oppressive at times, and while developers have gone to great lengths to make the gameplay balanced and interesting, it’s hard not to feel cheated when matches end as early as in Turn Four.

All the same, Shadowverse is extremely fun and enjoyable. With two formats (Rotation and Unlimited), an arena draft mode, and even a single player mode, it’s hard not to find something to like in the game. It experiments with unique concepts and doesn’t in any way feel like a cash grab, ensuring a steady stream of cards and rewards for players new and old. It is, in the final analysis, truly free to play.

Video Game Review

Mobile/PC via Steam


• Easy and simple but interesting mechanics

• Accounts can be linked

• Playable both on mobile and on desktop

• Generous and accessible to new and old players

• Many archetypes to play around with, with constant balance changes to ensure fairness


• Games can be a bit too quick at times

• Single player modes aren’t fully fleshed out

• Connection to the server can be a bit spotty

RATING: 8.5/10