Manastorm: Champions of G’nar Early Access Review

by | Jan 15, 2017

You’re Virtually Playing a Card Game

As soon as virtual reality hit the scene, indie developers with free-to-use game engines started to try to recreate all their favorite games and genres for the platform; for better or for worse. One of the biggest problems with VR, however, is that it doesn’t necessarily add value to many traditional types of games, and even sometimes hinders the enjoyment.

Manastorm: Champions of N’gar suffers from basically every issue that I’ve seen in the numerous VR games I’ve played, aside from motion sickness. That said, there are some interesting concepts to be found in here that set it apart from the other cards games that it is clearly influenced by.

Manastorm: Champions of G’nar
Steam Page
Release: January 3, 2017
Intel i7-3930K @ 3.20GHz

Being an Early Access game Manastorm is light on content, so light in fact the only thing you can do is play a game against the CPU with a pre-made deck of cards. These cards consist of skeletons, golems, spiders, ogres, and other popular fantasy races. Playing a card means reaching down, grabbing the card off the table, and tossing it into the playing field, which always made me feel like I was a magician doing a big reveal.

The game plays out almost exactly like Hearthstone, only you don’t get to mulligan cards, and have no hero powers. You start with one mana and gain an extra one each turn. Minions are summoned from left to right, or at least I didn’t figure out a way to place them otherwise. Not that it matters, anyway, as none of my minions had area effects. Minions have a turn cooldown before being able to attack and have to manually be commanded to attack other minions or the enemy champion, who – in another nod to Hearthstone – has 30 health.

Where Manastorm differs and gets interesting is in the game’s approach to spells and your blocking ability. Spells have to be manually aimed at enemies, I encountered two during my time spent with the experience. The first was a magic beam that lasts four seconds, deals one damage per second, and can be dealt to the same enemy or four different ones. The other spell spawned fiery arrows that I had to grab a nearby bow to use. A shield could also be used to manually block such attacks, pending that I aimed in the correct manner.

All these skill based actions add a new layer to the same old formula many of us have been used to thanks to all our years playing Magic the Gathering or Hearthstone. I could see a game in the same vein of Manastorm becoming popular in the future; an experience that really perfects this formula to turn a nice blend of genres into a fan favorite eSport. Unfortunately, Manastorm is not that game.

While I think Manastorm has certainly brought some innovation to the table, I have little faith this will get much higher off the ground than it already has. There is a possibility that I’m wrong, that is why I’m giving it a timid rating of ‘maybe later.’

Other popular card games are made by huge teams to work on balancing, creating new cards, and a ton of post-launch curation efforts. Additionally, these titles are just way more accessible than something in VR. Looking down at a table is simply not comfortable with the weight of a VR headset strapped to your head, and the amount of effort it takes to actually get the thing on and fitting in the first place is a huge barrier to a pickup and play experience like a card game. Plus the cards are huge, thanks to the imprecise controls currently offered by VR, and it just feels clunky and unnatural at the time of writing.

Finally, it will be hard to convince players to make this ‘their game’ when most of them are probably already invested in an already existing franchise in a rather niche genre. I, for one, have over $400 into Hearthstone, so it would be very hard for me to justify investing time or money into another card game. Give me the actual Hearthstone in VR and then we can talk.

Worth Your Money: Maybe Later

[A copy of the game was provided by the developer or publisher for the purpose of this review.]

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