Rage of Bahamut takes Android players on a card-capturing adventure

Rage of Bahamut from Mobage is a trading card game that tasks players with completing quests, battling other players and collecting a formidable deck of cards. It’s a free-to-play title available now via Google Play.

Note: This game was tested on a Motorola Xoom tablet running Android 3.2. The game displayed a warning that it had not been tested with this device upon startup, and experienced significant performance issues in “stretch” display mode. These issues were not present when played in “zoom” mode.

Card battle games are immensely popular in Japan — Rage of Bahamut alone reportedly has over 1 million Japanese players — but have something of an inclination towards being incredibly obtuse and hard to get into. Rage of Bahamut does little to help the genre’s reputation. While there is an initial tutorial that introduces the main areas of gameplay, this does not explain things in great detail and also does not point out that further information may be found in the “Guidance” option, buried beneath a “menu” button. The game’s apparent complexity coupled with its clunky, slow HTML interface will likely put off many curious players within a matter of minutes, but there’s plenty to do underneath for those willing to take a little time to read through the instructions — and the artwork on the game’s cards is excellent, making them fun to collect.

Gameplay unfolds in several main sections. Players may take individual character cards on “quests” to improve their abilities, acquire treasures and defeat bosses. Quests unfold simply by repeatedly pressing an “Enter” button, at which point combat between the player’s card and an enemy character unfolds automatically. Following combat, the player’s stamina is depleted a little, they gain experience points and the quest progression meter advances. Occasionally, they will encounter a treasure chest which contains money, items or sometimes cards. Players may continue questing until they run out of stamina, at which point they must either wait until it restores over time or use a restorative item. Completing an individual quest rewards a player with money, items, cards and occasionally a brief snippet of text-based story, though these are rather badly-written and give the impression of being included as something of an afterthought.

When not questing, players may take their collected cards into battle against other players. Up to five cards may be taken into battle at once, with the particular cards available determined by the current “leader” card’s “attack power” statistic. This forces players to consider which cards to take into battle rather than immediately reaching for the most powerful, expensive ones. After choosing an opponent, battle is then resolved automatically. The two combatants cumulative attack and defense strength are compared against one another, and one will be declared the victor.

The game monetizes through the sale of Mobage’s premium currency “Mobacoins.” These may be used to purchase restorative and enhancement items as well as booster packs of cards. Duplicate cards are not necessarily wasted, as they may be fused together to “evolve” them into more powerful variants of the same card or used to enhance the skills of other cards.

Social features include the facility to add other players as “fellows,” who may be used to enhance battle power in boss fights and PvP battles. Unlike some similar games, however, there is a hard limit of five “equipped” fellows at once, preventing players from becoming too overpowered simply by adding thousands of friends. Players may also promote the game on Twitter to earn soft currency and, after 10 days of continuous tweeting, a rare card for their collection.

Rage of Bahamut has the makings of a good, fun if rather simplistic game but is ruined by its unintuitive and sluggish interface. It is very difficult to know where to go to find various pieces of information — it’s not even immediately obvious where players may find out what level they are, for example — and there is a lot of clicking back and forth between screens. The game appears to have been designed as a web app rather than a native Android game and the experience suffers considerably as a result with jerky Flash animations, long load times and a general lack of clarity about where to find things. As such, it’s hard to recommend the game as a good example of a mobile social game in its current form.

Rage of Bahamut is available now via Google Play. Google reports the game has been downloaded between 100,000 and 500,000 times to date.