Nightbanes Review | MOUSE n JOYPAD

Nightbanes Review



There’s a certain barrier of entry some games have to contend with. Nightbanes, a card game developed by a German company Diviad and published by Headup games, has to deal with some of these externalities. In a genre dominated by Hearthstone and Magic: The Gathering, Nightbanes instantly has to find a way to differentiate itself from the opposition, or present itself as a competent alternative. As a free to play game, it also needs to avoid the pay-to-win model often seen in its ilk. Unfortunately for Diviad, it fails on both fronts.

In Nightbanes, you’re brought into a world dominated by your typical supernatural bestiary. You know the kind; vampires, werewolves, zombies and similar creepers. That theme, much like, say, Hearthstone’s Warcraft inspired world, allows Diviad to explore a variety of creatures within set boundaries. The artwork is appealing to a degree, but that’s only limited to the creatures themselves, beyond that, there’s nothing worth remembering about the cards. The layout is unappealing; the sort of thing an amateur could conjure on GIMP. The backgrounds within the artwork are repetitive, and thus, the only novelty between cards is limited to the beasts themselves. The arena too never varies and maintains the same simple stoic board.

The soundtrack playing throughout your time with Nightbanes is continuous and never ending. For the most part, the creatures, your avatar, and the maneuvers they use don’t have many sound effects, or at least any differentiating sound effect, and graphically, other than an occasional special ability, Diviad doesn’t put in much effort in bringing forward the little things that makes its competitors’ gameplay so special, the way you could interact with the arena, or communicate with your opponent through simple dialogue, or even give the cards an identity beyond their artwork.

The thing Nightbanes offers you when you first jump into the game is a simple tutorial to educate you on how to play the game. Initially, I found that Diviad wasn’t doing a good enough job in teaching me how to play; it informs you on the various types of cards – more on that later – and simply advises you on which cards you must play before pressing the next button where an action phase occurs. I was curious as to why Diviad’s tutorial wasn’t allowing you to do much more than play a single card and press next to watch the cards manoeuvre on their own until it was time to place another card. I felt like it wasn’t the most intuitive tutorial. I swiftly discovered that I was wrong, because this is virtually all there is to Nightbanes. You pick a card, click next, and watch as the “battle” ensues.

Nightbanes offers you too many possibilities to simply claim victory or defeat relies on luck as I first presumed. Diviad sent me a tip; the strategy in Nightbanes lies in the order you play your cards in. Perhaps that’s true if you’re facing a competent opponent with a deck of equal quality but for the most part, I discovered that winning Nightbanes relied on how many more cards you could maintain on the field than your opponent can. To elaborate on that, I’ll have to first explain the mechanics of the game.

Much like, for example, Hearthstone, you have a vampire lord to protect who will, should its health reach zero, die. Artifacts, structures and a variety of other cards work like spells of sorts to give your creatures boosts, to directly attack opponents, protect your lord among other uses. Finally, you have the creatures, characterized occasionally by special abilities. They each have their own rage stats (attack stats essentially), and health stats (defense stats). You can play any card in your hand at any given time no matter the amount of cards on the field, the board just keeps extending. Theoretically, you could have thirty cards on the field at once. Each card however, has to wait a certain number of turns to attack, the amount of turns varies from 1-5 though, and once they reach that point, they attack each turn.

It’s different enough from the alternative. But there are too many flaws in the game design to overlook, it felt like they never play tested their own game. Creatures only attack the cards in front of them, and when there aren’t any, attack the vampire lord instead. Abilities meant to debuff or buff operate randomly, you can’t even choose which weapons go to whom. Instead, you’re meant to rely on luck.

The game was so unbalanced though, that luck mattered 1/15th of the time. That should be positive, but it isn’t. My earlier strategy of holding the most creatures on the board is all you essentially need to win. Maintaining a balance of structures, artefacts, weapons, mounts, and cards with different values is unnecessary, and perhaps renders you worse off. Instead, I had a deck filled exclusively with creatures with as much health as I could muster, the longer it took the opponent to take them out, the more cards I could have on the field before they became overwhelmed. I was hoping Nightbanes would make my simplistic one dimensional strategy fail miserably but it didn’t. I ran through the entire quest line doing this, and for the most part, I didn’t bother caring about which card I placed nor when, I literally just clicked whichever card I drew next and I’d still end up victorious. Occasionally, the enemy would get a lucky draw and defeat me, but this happened every 15 battles or so. It’s a shame Diviad didn’t merely make this an open beta so they could better open themselves to discovering the unbalanced gameplay of Nightbanes.

The quest line is simplistic with no particular story in mind. You have to defeat a vampire lord a certain amount of times to move on to the next challenge, vampire lords with such creative names as Rattling Warlock III. The amount varied, beating them thrice, I could understand, maybe even six times, but Diviad didn’t feel that was enough. You’ll be forced, to face the same opponent upwards of 24 times. And that’s the first go around. Each time you finish that round of opponents, you get a card or unlock one, a lot of times, I already owned those cards and they proved pointless. You can face a slightly harder –though not by much- version of the same vampire lord two other times for more rewards. On the second stage of one of these vampire lords, you had to defeat them 37 times. It takes 37 victories to prove your supremacy over another. It makes the standard fetch quest system seen in other genres amply more entertaining. Ultimately it took 7 hours for the first of three rounds, and there was nothing after I’d done it all to make me feel like it was worthwhile, though I couldn’t confirm if anything happens if you beat all three rounds of the twenty or so vampire lords. I doubt many will bother facing the same vampire lord an extra 37 times for the second go around after you already defeated it 24 times before. On the upside, if you get enthused with the game, there’s an open door for dozens of hours’ worth of investment into the quest line.

Nightbanes will attempt to assure you that you can get all the cards in the game without paying a dime. That’s likely true but how long would that take? I can’t confirm. Shortly in, Diviad gave closed beta players 3000 blood diamonds, one of the four currencies though one you seemingly exclusively earn by spending. The most blood diamonds you can actually buy is 2100 blood diamonds for $99.99. I likely wouldn’t have discovered what I felt was the pay to win nature of Nightbanes or the unbalanced gameplay if it wasn’t for this newfound income. Simply buying four of the same kind of card (the limit for a deck), it allowed me to stop paying attention to the battles. Sure, beforehand, I might have paid attention to the order of cards played, but once I bought that card, for only a fraction of the 3000 I was given, I never even had to glance at the game to rush through fights.

There’s so many elements at hand in Nightbanes game, it’s sad they didn’t actually make sure they were all balanced to work well with one another. Even the simple added element of choosing who to attack would have forced me to pay closer attention. At the moment however, the vampire lord I had didn’t matter and I never made use of any card that wasn’t a creature with 5 or more health, nor was I ever made to pay for that decision. Nightbanes isn’t a battle of skill; it’s a battle of who has the more empowered deck. The online component could change my perspective but the servers tended to be fragile, and there was never anyone else online to play with. There are also guild raids of sorts which allow you to pair up with other players, but again, the closed beta element meant I wasn’t able to explore that feature either. Focusing on the single player aspect however, Nightbanes doesn’t come close to competing with the genre’s best. Its first step on the road to recovery is figuring out a way to balance the game, even if that means radical changes.