I have long been a fan of both digital and physical collectible card games (CCG), and I have to say that after extensive time spent with Infinity Wars: Animated Trading Card Game, it is one of the best designed CCGs out there.
I actually had a chance to first play Infinity Wars more than three years ago when I participated in the beta. I came away impressed in my preview - I saw a lot of opportunity to add more features and grow the game out, but the foundation was incredibly solid and simply a lot of fun to play.
Infinity Wars is a free to play title - which let's be honest, most CCGs are. Like physical collectible games, the digital versions rely heavily on hooking you with their base game and then encouraging you to spend money on packs to upgrade. As someone who has been playing the likes of Magic: The Gathering for more than twenty years now, I am the target audience here. To its credit, Infinity Wars is a game that is far more tactical than a lot of card games out there, and that reliance on strategy makes random card pulls less important than in other games. Of course better cards lead to more deck variety and creativity, but good deck design and a somewhat kind earning curve can allow you to play this title effectively without dropping a dime.
The premise here is simple - each player has a fortress with health and morale. As your troops die, you lose morale - so just losing troops over and over again and turtling up defensively is not a viable long-term plan. Most card games of this nature rely on one of two methods of combat. Either you direct attacks (sometimes targeted) from your pool of critters or titles like Spectromancer or Might & Magic Duel of Champions have a rows or alignments, adding an element of physical space for your creatures to battle over. Infinity Wars occupies something of a middle ground with four stages. One is a champion spot that allows your cards to either be quickly deployed into the field of battle (because you've pre-selected these 3 to be available at the start of every game) or sit on the sidelines and make use of their special abilities (often handy for healing troops, or perhaps strategies to make them stronger. One great example is a deck made with cards that gain a +2 / +2 every time a creature dies. Let these sit on the sidelines untouched as creatures die and eventually you can roll out some powerhouse creatures). You have a sort of staging area that is not actively participating in combat, but they can be targeted or used from this semi-safe back-line zone. Then you have your attacking and defending zones.
It all sounds like a lot, but it makes so much sense when you see the different regions in action. The additional layer of strategy is in determining which creatures will attack and defend. Of course, this is pretty common in card games of this nature, but because Infinity Wars is a digital one, the rules are a little different. Each side lays out their plans in advance and then when they sign off on their turn, the actions for each team roll out nearly simultaneously (there is a factor called initiative that changes hands each turn. Whomever has the initiative actually deploys their actions first). This means you never quite know if your opponent will block or go all-in on the attack. They might recall their creatures completely to the back lines and use a card that wipes out all attacking and defending creatures. There is a ton of strategy here, and with two different loss conditions to consider, Infinity Wars finds itself a far more tactical game than most card battlers.
Of course, if these were all just premade decks (though you can earn and buy some of those as well while getting a feel for the game's mechanics early on), things would get dull. But there are numerous factions that can be mixed and matched or kept 'pure' - and these serve as the foundation for which cards you can use in your deck construction. As someone who currently has more than forty different physical decks for Magic: The Gathering in his den, you can safely say I am a huge fan of deck building. Pack opening in any kind of game like this (both in reality and digital flavors) is a risky proposition. I have opened boxes of cards before in real life and been thrilled with my pulls - but have also been thoroughly bummed. The same can happen in Infinity Wars - it is the nature of the beast. I have had some outstanding cards come my way, and I have nearly thirty of another common card and have no interest in ever pulling another one of those beasts again.
With a combination of creatures, artifacts, spells and location cards, there are multiple ways to go about building up an army here, and I have spent many hours doing so. The combination of collecting, deck building and playing is an addictive one. The acquisition aspect of the game is ably assisted by the ability to trade cards with other players in the community - a real rarity in a lot of games like this. I think it's great that the developers allow this. It helps to foster a sense of community and comes across kinder than many other collectible card games that don't want you trading for what you want - they hope you'll drop money on packs and wish for the best instead.
There are a few concerns along the way worth noting, however. I already talked about how pack opening can be a frustrating experience depending on your pulls, and having been playing the game on and off for a long time now, it sometimes feels as though factions are not being evenly developed. Certain some have received more cards than others depending on the update. If you are beholden to a particular deck or style, I could see why this would be frustrating. Personally it just encourages me to build out more decks, as I am prone to doing. There are a handful of bugs that can occur as well along the way. I have had screens lock up now and again, and I have had the occasional crash when I play for long stretches of time. The UI around deck building looks intuitive but very early on I found the process to be somewhat cumbersome as I learned my way around. Music and sound are fine, not terribly memorable on either front. That being said, kudos for taking what is generally a very bland genre visually and punching it up with lots of nicely animated cards and battleground sets. Infinity Wars lives up to its full name, with some illustrations being rather simple, some more complex, but all of them more engaging than the typically static pictures you get with most card games.
The free to play design of Infinity Wars: Animated Trading Card Game makes a lot of sense. At worst, you can invest some time learning the mechanics and trying a few different styles of play out (there are numerous game modes such as campaign, battling against AI bots, doing quick matches with other players or participating in Rift Runs against other players). If for some reason it doesn't resonate with you, you're only out some time. If it works as well for you as it does for me? You'll likely find yourself willing to drop some actual money on a strategic card game that is well-polished, lots of fun and an easy way to melt away hours of your time.
Free to Play
Article by Nick