Developer: Wulven Studios
Publisher: Wulven Studios
Platforms: iOS, PC
ESRB Rating: Everyone 9+
Genre: Digital Card Game
If there was a way to combine what I love best about trading card games and video games, Shadow Era would hit that nail on the head twice. I’ve been a Magic: The Gathering player since high school, and more recently I’ve gotten into the World of Warcraft trading card game. I love those games, but unless you’ve got plenty of time and space you can’t play them too often. I remember being up late one night and browsing the App Store on my iPhone just looking for little titles that I could download and enjoy when I’ve the time. Shadow Era appeared as a digital card game, and it listed as free-to-play. I decided to give it a shot, and I’m very glad I did. Of course now I am addicted, and I plan to tell you all about what the game has to offer.
Shadow Era is a digital card game created by Wulven Studios. It follows a basic format, but it’s far from basic in gameplay. When you start the game you’ll choose a starter deck from one of many different classes. Each deck is pre-built with cards that supplement its hero’s play style. Each deck is centered around a special hero, which governs how the deck is played. Heroes have special abilities that can be used once they’ve accrued enough Shadow Energy, which generates at a rate of 1 per turn. The way to win the game is to reduce your opponent’s hero down to zero life points and be the last one standing. Each hero has a different life total, depending on their class and alignment.
There is a sense of good and evil to Shadow Era which makes the game much more interesting than other normal card games. You will either play a hero on the light side, or one that sides with the shadow. The light side usually has human heroes, such as mages, warriors, rogues, and hunters, while the shadow side has warlocks, beasts, undead, and worse. This comes of importance while building decks because you can’t have a light and shadow card in the same deck. You’ll assemble your deck and challenge either AI players on the world map or other human players from around the world.
When it comes to visuals, Shadow Era looks amazing. It’s very crisp and the card art is stunning. Players will see all kinds of cards such as allies, weapons, abilities, and more. Each card is detailed with art that really fits its title and purpose. The backgrounds while playing are easy to look at, and everything seems to flow naturally.
The in-game motions are fluid, and there are even special effects that show up when a card is destroyed, removed from play, attacked, or disabled. Wulven made sure to make the game look visually magnificent so players wouldn’t get bored, and they achieved their goal. There’s even an in-game merchant where you can buy and sell cards, as well as purchase Shadow Crystals (in-app purchases) to get even better decks.
A typical match in Shadow Era doesn’t take longer than 15-30 minutes, which makes this a perfect pick-up-and-play game. You can always start it up and get a match going in the time it takes to make a restroom break or when waiting in line. It’s even great when you’re on break at work.
When in a match, each player takes a turn that consists of phases. During these phases players can take actions, play cards, and more. Here’s how the phases breakdown:
At the beginning of the game players draw 6 cards from the top of their deck into their hand. The first player takes their turn, skipping the draw phase and their hero doesn’t gain any Shadow Energy.
The draw phase would see players simply drawing one card from their deck and adding it to their hand. That’s simple enough. If there ever comes a time when you cannot draw from your deck you don’t lose, your hero instead takes one point of damage each time. Then we move into the sacrifice phase. Shadow Era isn’t like Magic or the WoW TCG in that you don’t have designated resources. In Magic you have lands and in the WoW TCG you have quests. Both lands and quests can be used to gain resources, but in Shadow Era these cards are nonexistent. Simply everything in your deck can be used as a resource. During the sacrifice phase you choose which card in your hand you wish to convert into a resource. Doing this, you’ll place that card facedown at the bottom of your play area, and for the rest of the game it becomes currency to play other cards. You can choose to skip this phase if you wish not to sacrifice anything.
Next comes the action phase. This is the phase during which you can play cards from your hand, use abilities, and attack with your allies and hero. Shadow Era was specifically designed not to offer any sort of mid-turn interrupts that will throw the game off, prolonging the game and making it more drawn out. Cards will have a numbered cost in their top right corner, and if you have enough resources on the board you can “exhaust” them (turn them sideways) and use them to play the desired card.
Any allies you summon enter play have a type of summoning sickness, meaning they cannot attack or use their abilities on the turn they enter play. Any allies that do not suffer from summoning sickness can attack, and this is the phase in which they do so. When you decide to attack, you choose which of your allies are attacking and which of your opponent’s allies they are going after. You can target their hero as well, and this is the way you’ll win the game. Damage in Shadow Era is calculated just like other TCGs. Each ally has a certain amount of strength and health. When defending, if an ally isn’t killed it will swing back on the attacker. If a defending ally takes enough damage to die, it doesn’t get to swing back. Heroes also cannot swing back when attacked unless they have a weapon equipped and can swing it.
Once you’ve made your attacks, played abilities, and summoned allies for the turn you enter the finished phase. This ends your turn and your opponent takes theirs. It’s a simple structure, but plays out with fast-paced combat, intuitive abilities, and crazy tactics. Once you’ve swung enough damage out to your opponent’s hero, you win the game!
Downloading Shadow Era is easily one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. It’s a free game available on the iOS and PC. It’s got cross-platform playability and an endless amount of gameplay for hardcore players. I play the game constantly on both my iPhone and PC, and the experience doesn’t change between platforms – it still remains just as fun no matter where I play it. Wulven Studios updates the game regularly and they’ve also just released physical cards for the game. This means Shadow Era can now be played officially on tabletop. The game looks great, it plays great, and you can’t really beat it for being free. If you’re interested at all in card games and have the means, download this game right now and start playing.