I LOVE playing CCGs and I am extremely happy that since Hearthstone launched and became an instant hit, many developers out there tried to replicate the success and maybe overthrow Blizzard’s game off its throne and grab the crown (and the cash) themselves. You can imagine how happy I was when I found out that a CCG based on the Underworld series was being launched on the App Store. Underworld: Blood Wars is the name of the game and it wasn’t promoted as much as it should’ve been, in my opinion so I am here to share with you everything about it!
Even though everybody loves their orcs and wizards and goblins and other fantasy creatures, you sometimes feel the need to take a break from all this and get hardcore with vampires and lycans and a few humans throw in just for diversity. I loved the Underworld series and the idea of being able to be part of the battle – even if just in a virtual form where I control cards on a board – made me smile.
Underworld: Blood Wars doesn’t give you too much time to prepare and throws you straight into battle. It assumes that you already know most of the things that you have to know about CCGs and takes you through a brief tutorial which, at least in my case, was enough to get the basics and offer me the chance to test my skills against other decks.
The novelty element brought to us by Underworld: Blood Wars is the fact that there are four lanes on the game board and cards – as well as your Hero or Champion as it’s called in the game – can move from one lane to another with relative freedom. All cards have different values for ranged and close quarters combat, meaning that a strong vampire card that deals a lot of ranged damage becomes useless in close combat, so when a werewolf is deployed right in front of it, the game can change completely. Add to that the fact that the Champion can also roam on the board, attacking and taking damage, taking active part in the game (or cowardly hiding behind their troops – the choice is yours).
The Champion also has an interesting gameplay mechanic attached: he or she (or it) can level up during a fight, each new level giving you two upgrade options. Will you go for extra melee damage for your Champion, or you’ll choose to deal immediate damage to all enemy creatures? Will you deploy extra troops on the board for no cost or increase your health? You will always get to choose when your Champion levels up – just like your opponent. Again, something that can potentially change the game and an element that I highly appreciated. You gain experience to level up each time one of your cards is destroyed, so maybe it’s better to have a bunch of low health, low cost cards to deploy first, get them destroyed and climb up the levels before your opponent does… the strategies are limitless and these are the things that make a CCG great.
And even though Underworld: Blood Wars does have a lot of the ingredients required to brew a beautiful, flawless collectible card game, it also has its flaws, unfortunately. One of the things that I didn’t like is its lack of depth. At least at the point I find myself at, there is no single player campaign. You can only play in Ranked matches against other players – which is indeed something you mostly want to do. But since this is a deck building game – and you will want to test out different decks and strategies, the lack of a practice mode or any other way to test your new deck apart from going head to head against a human opponent doesn’t do any good.
Since the game is still relatively new and not as popular as you might think it is, there are not a ton of players in the game so the matching system works with what it has. So don’t be surprised to be paired against a better ranked player and have to fight against a more advanced deck than yours. You will lose, lose often – and that’s never fun.
To defend the game a bit, I will have to say that even though this only option can be pretty frustrating, the game’s mechanics, the strengths and weaknesses of each card and the lanes system make strategic play extremely important. I won my first few ranked matches only with the basic deck against cards that at least seemed very advanced compared to what I had on hand. And this is a thing that few card games manage to accomplish: allow the skilled players win even with a weaker deck! So kudos to Underworld: Blood Wars for delivering that!
And it’s a good thing that they do that because getting new cards for your deck – for free, that is – is pretty frustrating and time consuming. The in-game currency is difficult to get, while card packs are very expensive. You get a few freebies, but don’t expect much. New packs take a lot of time to be unlocked and you can only work on one at a time. In other words, if you’re planning to play the game without spending a single cent on it, prepare for a rough ride! One that’s still possible and enjoyable enough, especially if you’re a fan of CCGs or Underworld. Or both.
All in all, I did like the game a lot. Underworld: Blood Wars is a good game that can get even better with a few proper updates and new features. The cards are varied and the factions seem to be very balanced, with strategy playing an important role in deciding the winner. Underworld: Blood Wars is fun and fast paced and I can only hope the Ludia will keep on working on it and make it better. Because it’s not too often that you get the chance to command armies of vampires against werewolves in battle!