Become a card-carrying ghost hunter with Zynga’s Ayakashi: Ghost Guild

Ayakashi: Ghost Guild is a new mobile card-battling game from Zynga, available now as a free download from the App Store and Google Play.

Zynga’s typical pattern in both the mobile and Web-based social game scene is to carefully observe established patterns and conventions in popular types of game, then release their own offering that often features a significantly higher degree of polish than many of its rivals — if not necessarily an improvement to the actual gameplay. This is certainly true for Ayakashi: Ghost Guild, which is a fairly conventional, predictable card-battling game at its core — but one which is very well-presented, with excellent visuals and atmospheric audio.

In Ayakashi: Ghost Guild, players are cast in the role of a rookie ghost hunter and tasked with tracking down rogue spirits. Unusually for the genre, it seems that a degree of effort has been made with the storytelling, with lengthy visual novel-style dialog sequences unfolding and advancing the plot rather than simply requiring the player work their way through a linear series of interaction-free quests. While the player is still essentially just tapping the same button over and over again until they either level up or their energy runs out, the addition of a certain degree of “character” to the game immediately gives a lot more incentive to progress than normally seen in the genre. The story isn’t a throwaway affair, either — the writers have obviously taken the time to ensure they are very familiar with Asian supernatural and spiritual mythology and have incorporated a variety of recognizable figures into the experience, both as collectible cards and characters in the narrative.

As the player progresses through the story quests, they will collect cards and sealstones. Cards may be immediately added to the player’s deck to use in battle against bosses and other players; sealstones must be collected in a complete set to unlock a more powerful card. Sealstones may either be acquired as treasures in story quests or, more frequently, as rewards for player-vs-player battles. As usual, the latter option is little more than a numbers game, with no direct interaction during combat possible, but the fact that certain cards have specific “skills” that trigger during combat as well as simply using their attack power against their opponents’ defense adds a little variety and interest.

The player is encouraged to check in on the game regularly in a variety of ways. The usual daily bonus system provides players with increasingly-large rewards for logging in regularly, while free cards are awarded at least once per day, while additional freebies can be acquired for logging in in specific, limited time windows such as at lunchtime. Various forms of in-game currency are also awarded at regular intervals, and these can often be exchanged for valuable items.

The game’s monetization stems primarily from the purchase of hard currency, which allows for the acquisition of more powerful, rarer cards, which will subsequently allow for easier victory in story boss battles and PvP combat. Socialization, on the other hand, is encouraged by providing players with additional ability points to strengthen their character for every “crewmate” added — though the maximum number of crewmates is limited by the player’s experience level, meaning it’s necessary to work through the story in order to build up one’s personal entourage. Crewmates may be interacted with by “poking” or leaving a comment on their profile, both of which earn the player Summon Points, which can be used to acquire additional “free” cards.

Ayakashi: Ghost Guild doesn’t fix many of the fundamental flaws that are endemic to the card-battling genre — it’s still heavy on the data use, slow to load and disappointingly free of player interaction when it comes to the actual combat side of things. However, the highly polished presentation and interesting story go a long way to making it a significantly more satisfying experience than the current genre leaders such as Rage of Bahamut, many of which are very rough around the edges. While it’s still not a particularly “good” game at its core, it’s a step in the right direction, certainly.

Ayakashi: Ghost Guild is a new release so is not yet listed on the App Store leaderboards. Check back shortly to follow its progress with AppData, our tracking service for mobile and social apps and developers.