Card-battling games are immensely popular in Asian territories right now, and the success of GREE’s Zombie Jombie and Mobage’s Rage of Bahamut have seen the genre start to gain a foothold in the West. Korean developer Gamevil is the latest to jump on the trend with its new game Duel of Fate, a free-to-play card-battling game for iOS, available now as a Universal download from the App Store.
While both Zombie Jombie and Rage of Bahamut actually have more in common with text-based RPGs such as Mafia Wars than physical card games, Duel of Fate is much more recognizable to players of tabletop games such as Magic: The Gathering. Rather than the cards simply being in the game almost as an afterthought — as something to collect and strengthen the player — in Duel of Fate, the cards are the game, without any overcomplicated and obtuse metagames laid over the top.
Duel of Fate, as its title suggests, is based on one-on-one combat between two participants. Each player has a stock of life points determined by their experience level and a deck of cards. Each turn, players draw six cards and then have the opportunity to play two monster cards and up to two tactics cards. Decisions must be made quickly, as there is a short countdown timer hurrying the player along at all times to ensure games don’t get bogged down.
Monsters are played face up, tactics are played face down. Once both players have played their cards, they choose which of their two played monsters is going to fight this turn, and the results of the battle are then determined.
Monsters have a numerical attack power printed in their corner and an elemental attribute that is either fire, water or tree. Fire automatically beats tree, tree automatically beats water and water automatically beats fire. If two cards of the same element attack each other, whichever one with the highest attack power wins. Tactics cards are revealed as they take effect and can be used for a variety of purposes — to boost attack power, to mitigate damage, to heal the player or even to perform actions such as ignoring elemental attributes or swapping cards between players.
Once it has been determined which of the two battling cards won, the losing player receives damage according to the attack value of the victorious monster plus any bonuses which might arise from tactics cards played or special abilities on the monster card itself. A new round then begins until one player or the other runs out of hit points — or one player runs out of monster cards to play, at which point whoever has the most life remaining automatically wins.
Between battles, the player is able to shop for new cards that are available in blind packs of four different tiers, with stronger cards being available in the more expensive packs. The cheapest “Bronze” and “Silver” packs are only available using the game’s soft currency, while more expensive “Gold” and “Platinum” packs may also be purchased using the game’s hard currency of “Runes.” Both soft and hard currency may be acquired through play as well as in-app purchase, though Runes are somewhat rarer.
Players are also able to upgrade their cards to make them more powerful. This costs a varying amount of soft and hard currency to perform depending on how large an upgrade is desired. There is also no guarantee that it will work — if the upgrade fails, the expended currency is simply lost. However, there is a good balance of risk and reward at play here — if the player successfully upgrades a monster past their maximum potential, it evolves into a new, more powerful card.
Duel of Fate is quite simple to pick up and understand, and a few single-player tutorial games help to introduce the player to the core concepts before setting them loose on the global multiplayer stage. Once these initial tutorials have been completed, however, the game forces the player to compete in multiplayer, requiring that they have a connection to the Internet to continue. There is no asynchronous play option, either, though matches are generally over within five minutes or less thanks to the fast pace that the constantly-ticking countdown timer provides — the “simultaneous turn-based” nature of the game also makes this option impractical.
The game is generally very solid and provides a much more interactive card-battling experience than the aforementioned Zombie Jombie and Rage of Bahamut, both of which are fairly light on tactics and strategic play. There are a few flaws, however, the lack of offline practice against AI opponents being just one. There also appears to be a problem with stat-tracking — when tested, some successfully-completed games were not showing up in the statistics screen, though experience points and currency had been credited correctly. There are times when it is difficult to find an online opponent to play against, too, though this is likely mostly due to the fact the game is new. Gamevil’s titles are often popular, and with the current interest in card-battling titles, this is likely to enjoy some success and grow its player base over time.
Overall, Duel of Fate is a worthwhile experience likely to appeal to fans of customizable trading card games who found themselves disappointed by Zombie Jombie and Rage of Bahamut. It is easy to understand, well-presented and the online multiplayer — when there are opponents available, anyway — runs smoothly and without issue. Best of all, it provides a satisfying experience for free players while giving itself the potential for strong monetization through card pack sales.
Duel of Fate is currently ranked at No. 349 in Top Free iPad Apps, No. 135 in Top Free Games and No. 139 in Top Free iPad Games. Follow its progress with AppData, our tracking service for social games and developers.