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Astral Masters

Score: 83%
ESRB: Not Rated
Publisher: TotalGaming.net
Developer: Apus Software
Media: Download/1
Players: 1
Genre: Card Games/ Strategy/ Turn-Based Strategy

Graphics & Sound:

Being the fantasy card game that it is, Astral Masters is overloaded with fantastical iconography and art. The game takes a strictly 2D approach to combine the look and feel of a card game with a battle in some other realm. The user interface is easy to read, but also has a flair of wizardry and magic about it. The GUI, though, isn?t intended for the focus of the player?s attention; the cards are what will be viewed the most, and the information is conveyed in an unobtrusive way that blends seamlessly with the interface.

The music is by no means operatic, but it certainly enhances the feel of the rest of the game. The sounds, on the other hand, do a lesser job of immersing you in the experience. Fights between creatures are always met with the same bland sound effects, and creature deaths are even less inspired.


Gameplay:

Astral Masters is a video rendition of a collectible card game based in a fantasy world. It offers only two modes of play: Skirmish and League. Pretty self explanatory, the Skirmish mode enables you to play quick games against a random computer opponent and the League pits you against the entire wizarding community within the game.

Before entering either of these modes, though, you must first pick a pre-made deck or customize your own deck. As an amateur of card games like Astral Masters, I began my wizarding romp with the two pre-made decks the game offers. Each has a uniquely different style of play, but both give you a good shot against the computer, which is helpful for noobies like myself.

Astral Masters is similar to games like Magic: The Gathering in that you have spells and creatures, an opponent with a certain amount of health, and your goal is to reduce that health to zero. Unlike Magic: The Gathering, each creature you cast is placed in one of six slots on the board, and your opponent has identical slots across from yours, meaning creatures fight with whoever is in the opposite slot, and if nobody is there, the damage goes to your opponent.

Once familiar with how the game worked, I tried my hand at creating my own deck, which resulted in some of the most one-sided games ever and left me with the worst record in collectible card game history. Creating a well balanced deck that doesn?t rely on luck is best left to those who know the fine art of deck customization. The process is deceptively simple at first, as there are only two kinds of cards to choose from: spells and creatures. There are also different castes that these cards can be taken out of: Earth, Fire, Water and Air. Yet the skill for combining these cards to form a winning deck is much more complicated than it sounds.

When creating your deck, you are dealing with a point cap. Each card is worth a certain amount of points and this is how you are limited, not on the number of cards in your deck but on the number of points. As you progress through League mode, your point cap increases and you also unlock new cards based on how well you do. Obviously, better cards will run you more points than weaker cards.

As there is no Multiplayer mode, you?re stuck with testing out your new decks in Skirmish or just running headlong into a League. Multiplayer support is promised in the 1.2 update, but when this is due out the developers have not said.

Editor's Note: v1.2 of Astral Masters is now available through TotalGaming.net. The v1.2 demo can be downloaded now from the game's homepage by clicking HERE or directly by clicking HERE. Existing and new customers will be able to update or purchase the new version through TGN.


Difficulty:

Collectible Card Games are usually so expansive that a truly balanced game between two decks is virtually impossible. Since there are a fair number of cards in Astral Masters (a number that is increasing as updates bring new cards with them), no two decks will ever be the same. This is a double-edged sword though, as games are dynamic but can easily become one-sided. Getting to the point where you have a well balanced fight with a deck you created is going to take some work, but thankfully the two pre-made decks help the new player well.

Game Mechanics:

There are two resources in Astral Masters: Astral Power and Mana. Every turn, you get a number of mana points equal to your Astral Power number. To increase your Astral Power, you have to sacrifice cards in your hand. This prompts hard decisions on whether or not to keep certain cards or go all out for Astral Power.

Your Mana is used to cast spells and summon creatures onto the table. The abilities of each spell and creature vary widely, especially from caste to caste. The breadth of the abilities may even be a little too much, due to the amount of infinite chains that can be made (constantly creating duplicate creatures) and other means to retain control of incredibly powerful spells.

While it certainly won?t turn many people into card game lovers, Astral Masters does offer a challenging experience for those willing to put the time into it. Fans of collectible card games will definitely appreciate the game (especially because of the low price), and interest should ramp up when Multiplayer support is released for it.


-Snow Chainz, GameVortex Communications
AKA Andrew Horwitz

Minimum System Requirements:



400 MHz Processor, 32MB Video Card, 60MB RAM, 30MB Hard Disk Space
 

Test System:



2.4GHz AMD Athlon, 1Gb RAM, 256 MB GeForce 6800 GT Video Card

Microsoft Xbox 187 Ride or Die Nintendo GameBoy Advance Sigma Star Saga

 
Game Vortex :: PSIllustrated