Thursday, October 25, 2007

The Eye of Judgment

Developer: SCE Japan
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
Release Date: Oct. 24, 2007
Systems: PS3
ESRB Rating: T
Official Web Site

In a nutshell: The only collectible card game that requires a $400 piece of hardware and a digital camera just to play it

0:01 Let the setup begin. I use some scissors to free the camera, stand, game mat, disc and cards from the annoying hard plastic shell. Seriously, who thought these were a good idea.

After clearing some space on the coffee table, everything is all set and plugged in. That was relatively painless.

I'm supposed to connect to the network to check for the latest version of the game, but the check doesn't work. Oops.

0:06 An impressive CG opening shows dwarves on flying... things, and lots of armored warriors and some guys on horses. Then it switches to druids playing the card game, controlling this battle from afar. These druid scenes aren't quite as action packed.

0:07 One druid plays a card and a huge armored behemoth falls into the battle from the sky. The opposing druid is calm as he casts a fireball in response, burning the behemoth. Great animation here.

0:09 The opening ends with a huge mechanized dragon attacking an agile knight. Here's hoping the real game is as exciting.

0:11 I spend a good two minutes lining up the camera so it sees the mat correctly. The image is surprisingly sharp and smooth, and the game has no trouble recognizing a card in the hazy, overcast light coming in from the window. Much better than the original EyeToy, that's for sure.

0:13 Tutorial time. I quickly skip the camera and play mat setup since I've already done that.

0:15 "The camera is a precision instrument. Rough handling may result in damage." Blah blah blah.

0:16 "Be sure to avoid spilling food or drink during play." Good advice for any game.

0:17 All right, now they're explaining how the game works. You plays creatures to gain control of squares on a 3x3 field. Control five of the nine fields and you win. Spells "augment your battle strategy." "Effective use of cards will bring you one step closer to victory." Er, one step closer? Isn't use of cards all there is to victory?

0:18 I'm gonna have to get used to what all these things on the cards mean. I've been trained too well by Magic: The Gathering to expect cards to look like that.

0:19 "The nine fields are collectively referred to as the board." Duh. Let's speed things up here, eh tutorial?

0:20 They're explaining what "drawing a card" means. Oh... my... god...

0:22 Finally, we're past the terminology and on to explaining the actual dueling. "Each players opportunity to take actions is called a turn." NO KIDDING! Tell me more. Seriously... tell me more. Quickly.

0:23 Order of phases, for my reference: Draw, mana charge, actions, summon a creature, resolution. Pretty similar to Magic, actually... shouldn't be too hard to remember.

0:24 Now they're explaining battle. There's an attack then a counter attack, if possible. You can only summon one creature per turn. It can attack as soon as summoning if there's an enemy in the attack zone. Uh huh, uh huh.

0:26 Now the tutorial moves on to a demo duel. This should make things a bit clearer. "Greet your opponent." Thanks Mr. Rogers. "Thoroughly shuffle your deck." You start with five cards.

0:28 More notes for my reference: You can mulligan your hand once. First player doesn't draw on first turn. You can carry over mana turn to turn. No actions first turn because no creatures. Creatures gain hit points if played on matching field, lose if on opposing field.

0:30 There are five elements: Fire, water, earth, wood and biolith. Wait, Biolith? That wasn't in Captain Planet.

0:32 This sample duel is very slow, but I don't want to skip anything for fear of missing important information. I just wish the guy would talk faster.

0:36 Note: The B on the defense zones is for blindside.

0:37 We're still going through the "attack phase" that started five minutes ago! This is painfully comprehensive for a basic intro. I'll give it three more minutes then I'm just gonna start because I want to actually try the game.

0:39 Or maybe I shouldn't start yet. Apparently I can only summon creatures to fields adjacent to existing creatures. That seems important to know.

0:40 You get a mana every time a creature of yours is destroyed. So sometimes it's good to lose a creature, I guess.

0:41 The biolith creature has a "summoning lock," meaning it can only be put on biolith squares but that goes away if there are four or more creatures.

0:45 They're still explaining stuff... Screw this, I'll figure it out on my own, or come back later. And I haven't even gotten to the camera-based control cards yet!

0:46 I know playing against a human in the same room is the ideal, but I don't have one handy and I'm not ready to go online. Vs. Computer it is.

0:48 And we're off. I get my mana and I have my initial hand. Now what should I do? Well, the only card I have enough mana to play is Bewitching Elf Archress, so I play her on the bottom edge.

0:49 Computer's turn. He summons some ice thing in an opposite corner.

0:51 My turn. I use my status card to find out what the ice thing is. It only has two defense, so I play an Venoan Assassin attacking the ice thing. It dies without even managing to counterattack. Whoo!

0:53 A couple more turns in the same vein. I attack but don't kill a creature with only one hit point remaining. What happened?

0:56 Well that was stupid. I play a Hellfire Splitter and it immediately dies because I placed it on a water square. I need to learn to pay attention to that stuff...

0:57 Meanwhile, next turn, the computer places the same thing on a fire square, gaining it two health and killing my two remaining creatures. Joy.

0:59 I finally do something right. My Triceptaur Behemoth attacks and kills two opposing creatures by doing three damage to each. Saving up that mana helped.

1:00 Crap... the computer summons its own Behemoth with the mana from his dead creatures... and he put it on a fire space. Both my adjacent creatures die and I'm left with none. This is... not going well.

1:01 I realize I haven't talked about the battle animations or use of the actual system yet. They're OK, I guess, but I get the feeling that, with a little tweaking, you could play this game without the PS3. Then again, you wouldn't have the Vs. computer or online play options. And seeing the creatures attack in 3D adds a nice visual reference when learning the game.

Would I play this game for more than an hour? Yes.
Why? There's obviously a lot of complexity there, and an hour isn't enough to learn it all.

This review based on a retail copy provided by Sony.


Sorcy said...

This is one of those reviews where I wish you would either add another hour or would just skip the whole "this is how I set up the camera" banter, because the actual gameplay was hardly mentioned.

Kyle said...

Fair enough, Sorcy, but the camera stuff and the intro. movie took only ten minutes or so, while th tutorial took a good half hour, and could have taken more if I'd let it. Even though I was a bit familiar with the game from E3, I tried to treat it as someone who had no experience with the game and their first hour trying to learn how to play.

As for the camera set up and stuff, it's gonna be part of the first hour for anyone, so I wanted to make sure people knew how long the set up takes.

Nounet said...


I have the game too. I can't agree more with Sorcy, you should have bent your own rules and extended the review. In my (french-speaking) blog, I'm currently writing a 2-hour review, because I think it's worth it. 4 games played on normal cpu level, 4 losses on mirror decks, and I'm a Magic veteran too. This is driving me nuts... but I love it.

Camera is an unnecessary gadget, though.