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Sword Girls: Armed to the... well...

Company: ChangYou

Over the last couple of weeks, I've had the opportunity to follow the browser-based card battling/ collection (CCG) game, Sword Girls from closed beta to ready-to-go online game. The concept of browser-based games is still really new, so the instances of companies going out on a limb and offering up something other than a time-based, "click the menu" style game are still rare. Sword Girls takes a brave step by offering a fell-fledged, feature rich card game.

The concept behind Sword Girls is fairly simple, though once you start layering on its many features, it can become a bit overwhelming to first-time players. This, however, is something CCG players will tell you just comes with the territory. To its credit, Sword Girls features a reasonably lengthy, in-depth tutorial that guides you through all of the game's features and mechanics.

Currently, Sword Girls features nearly 500 cards, which players use to create a 31-card deck. One of these cards is your main character, which determines the number of hits you can take before losing a match. Your goal is to build your deck of spells and followers to help keep your main character alive longer than your opponent.

One of the core strategies in deck building is finding cards that compliment each other. Some offer bonuses to other cards in play, while others apply negative buffs or inflict damage on opposing followers/ characters. To further the game's strategic challenge, you are limited to 10 card points per round. Each follower and spell in your deck is assigned a point total, which counts against your 10-point limit. The concept isn't too far off from the HeroClix games, or even some tabletop war games. While higher point cards are usually the more powerful ones in your arsenal, just having one card placed in your available six card slots, can easily lead to a quick defeat.

Just to add a little more pressure, you only have 30 seconds to plan and execute your strategy each round. This means you have to really know your deck, and the only way to do that is - of course - to play rounds. On the up side, Sword Girls can quickly grow into a minor addiction. Though I can't say I've ever lost hours upon hours to the game, Sword Girls does have a "Just One More Game" quality. Matches are fast and every loss will make you want to return to the deck building shop to re-plan your strategy.

If Sword Girls comes with one minor annoyance, it is the combat system. The underlying strategy is sound and works, but combat is automated. While some players will relish the option to switch their brains off and just focus on putting the best cards on the field (almost like a coach), some - like myself - miss the option to decide which cards target which, and other hands-on strategies featured in other card games. Battle order is also determined by a coin flip. It's not a massive gameplay issue, though going first can sometimes yield a major advantage during a match.

Outside of card battles, Sword Girls offers a number of ways to train and upgrade your cards. Upgrading takes time, so you'll need to plan around when you want certain cards out of rotation in your deck. It's a bit of a chore, especially when it comes to figuring out which cards need to be upgraded and how, though the payoff is worth the hassle.

You can also create new cards by fusing/ recycling old ones, as well as purchasing new packs through the in-game store. You can also take on other players in PvP matches, which are surprisingly challenging considering combat limitations.

If anything else, Sword Girls will definitely earn a few fans based solely on its artwork. Cards are beautifully illustrated, featuring anime girls in various costumes, ranging from schoolgirls to sailors to armored-up knights. It's distracting, especially when trying to figure out what each card does, but should appeal to some players.

Though the game's appeal might not reach out to everyone, it is something that CCG and anime fans should be sure to check out.

-Starscream, GameVortex Communications
AKA Ricky Tucker

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