Order & Chaos Duels is the third entry in Gameloft’s Order & Chaos series, which has to date included a massively-multiplayer online role-playing game known as Order & Chaos Online and a multiplayer online battle arena (MOBA) game known as Heroes of Order & Chaos. The Order & Chaos series bears a strong resemblance to Blizzard’s popular Warcraft series in terms of both art style and gameplay, and Order & Chaos Duels continues this trend. While Order & Chaos Online resembles World of Warcraft and Heroes of Order & Chaos is heavily inspired by the popular Warcraft 3 mod Defense of the Ancients (and its immensely popular recent counterparts Dota 2 and League of Legends), Order & Chaos Duels sounds very much like Blizzard’s recently-announced Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft. Gameloft is well-known for putting out mobile titles that provide similar experiences to well-established franchises on PC and console, but in the case of Order & Chaos Duels, it has actually beaten Blizzard to the punch by getting its game onto the market first.
Order & Chaos Duels is a card battle game, but it doesn’t follow the usual barely-interactive mold set by popular mobile games such as Rage of Bahamut and Confrontation. Instead, its gameplay is more akin to titles such as Shadow Era from Wulven Game Studios — a game which proved popular enough on mobile to spawn a physical version.
In an individual Order & Chaos Duels battle, two players face off against each other and draw cards into their hand. Each card has a mana cost to play — if the player doesn’t have enough mana to play a card, they can’t play one, but conversely if they have enough mana they may play more than one. A single card per turn may be sacrificed to add a single point to the user’s maximum mana, which replenishes fully at the start of the next turn. Some of the player characters also have special abilities that allow them to temporarily gain additional mana.
Once the player has played any cards they wish to their respective area — minions to the battlefield, equipment to the hero and spells straight to the discard pile since they are immediately resolved — the “battle” phase begins. Any minions the player has on the battlefield will attack their opponent’s minions in the corresponding spaces and activate any special abilities they have. If the opponent does not have a minion in a particular space and the player does (or vice versa), the defending player will take damage.
These basic mechanics are almost identical to those seen in Confrontation, but the key difference is that battles do not unfold automatically, and players have a large degree of choice in terms of what strategy they would like to adopt. Special abilities, spells and equipment can be triggered at a strategically-advantageous time rather than automatically, and minions can be placed wherever the player likes within the confines of the battlefield. A number of card abilities mean that positioning cards is important, as they affect adjacent cards as well as the target, and the order that cards are played can be very important, too. The game’s basic mechanics are very simple to understand, but belie a considerable amount of tactical depth which makes Order & Chaos Duels a pleasure to play.
The player may collect new cards to add to their deck in several ways. First of all, the single-player campaign mode allows the player to earn various cards as rewards for progressing past a series of increasingly-difficult battles. Secondly, the game’s “Get Cards” menu allows players to acquire free cards once per day (and in exchange for soft currency after that) — rarer cards may also be acquired by expending hard currency. In-app purchases are probably not necessary to complete the single-player campaign as the difficulty appears to be paced quite well, but a common complaint about the game’s multiplayer component is that the considerably stronger rare cards acquired through spending real money are pretty much a guaranteed ticket to victory. This means the game has the potential to get quite expensive for dedicated online players, but for the most part the game doesn’t feel like it’s forcing more casual players to open their wallets.
Social features for the game include the ability to battle other players to pillage their treasures or compete in ranked matches, the ability to set up custom matches with friends (or random strangers, for that matter) and connectivity with both Facebook and Gameloft’s proprietary Gameloft Live service. The interface also promises an “Epic Bosses” component, but this is not yet implemented. The game regularly offers players the opportunity to share their achievements and victories via social media, but this is not done obtrusively and is a feature easily ignored for those who do not wish to bother their friends.
Order & Chaos Duels is a great example of how the social card battle genre can and should evolve. While its basic mechanics are not particularly original — the game as a whole is very similar to the aforementioned Shadow Era, which has been around for quite a long time now — it’s a solid game that looks great, sounds great and plays well. Given the popularity of the other Order & Chaos games on mobile, this looks set to be another strong performer for Gameloft.
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Accessible, strategic and, crucially, interactive; Order & Chaos Duels is an excellent example of how to make a good, playable and fun free-to-play card battle game.