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Score: 80%
ESRB: Teen
Publisher: EA Games
Developer: EA Phenomic
Media: Download/1
Players: 1 - 12 (Online)
Genre: Card Games/ Real-Time Strategy/ Online

Graphics & Sound:

Of all the games I played at last year's Penny Arcade Expo, BattleForge was the one that really stood out. It's not because it looks great (which it does) or that it caters to my love of card games, but that it is one of the few games not in the PAX 10 that offered something different.

Nothing about BattleForge's presentation is groundbreaking, though it still looks and sounds great. The art style is very similar to Warcraft III, to the point that you could probably look at one of the accompanying screenshots and think someone royally screwed up. This is far from a bad thing, however. The menagerie of creatures populating the battlefield is pretty staggering and includes everything from werewolves to frost giants to giant flame-spewing demons. Everything is vibrant and really stands out, especially when you begin to notice some of the smaller visual flourishes.

Battles are accompanied by the usually sounds of fantasy combat and a score that blends into the background, but still offers some sort of movement.


BattleForge is a hybrid Real-Time Strategy/ Customizable Card Game. The underlying gameplay is similar to Magic: The Gathering (M:TG); you control a deck of fantasy-based creatures aligned with elements like fire, earth and ice that act as your pawns in battle. In order to "cast" units from your deck, you need the right number and color of elements. M:TG has lands while BattleForge has monuments, which generate orbs that allow you to cast cards. The more monuments you control, the bigger the creatures you can cast. Power wells can be captured and "flipped" to any "color" magic, making gameplay more about territorial acquisition that beating your opponent into oblivion.

The single-player campaign's plot is paper-thin and does little more than let you know where you fit into the game's world. You are a Skylord, the appointed hero of the gods and master of creation. When the gods go missing, you set out to find them. BattleForge wastes a great opportunity for player engagement and connection by ignoring the use of decks as a character and instead focusing on "traditional" storytelling. Along the way, you'll run into several characters, though in all likelihood, you'll ignore their stories. However, you'll also grow incredibly attached to your decks, so finding a way to mix NPCs and your decks would have helped a lot.

Single-player gameplay is a bit stifled as well. Games quickly settle into a pattern of cast an army, capture a few monuments, cast a bigger army and attack. This gets slightly better when multiplayer enters the picture. Co-op multiplayer disrupts the pattern enough that, even if it feels a little too mechanical, games are still entertaining. Multiplayer games feel slightly more akin to MMO raids than typical RTS co-op games. Players compete on different parts of a larger map, and take parts in smaller actions that end up building towards the overall objective. Head-to-head games are also around for players who want to showcase their deck-building skills.


Success in BattleForge is all about strategy and deck-building. You are limited to 20 cards per deck, but there are few restrictions on the number of card types you can put in your deck. This offers a nice range of freedom, but also forces you to think responsibly. Loading a deck with powerful high-level units is great, but you'll never get any into play. Likewise, there are four schools of magic (ice, fire, earth, shadow), each with their own strengths and weaknesses. Ideally, you want cards from all four schools, though doing so isn't practical because of resources. Alternately, going for a single-color deck will let you get high-level creatures out quickly, but leave you wide-open to attacks from an opposing school.

Single-player missions aren't difficult, though the A.I. tries its best to make every mistake possible, so you'll have to build a certain tolerance for stupidity into every strategy. Playing with other players requires different levels of tolerance as well, especially those who run headlong into every situation or, more commonly, those who have to control every resource available - even if it is to the detriment of the team.

Game Mechanics:

Unlike M:TG, where big-power cards will usually lead to victory, BattleForge's matches rely heavily on your decisions. Not only do you have to know your deck backwards and forwards, but you also need to think about resource management and casting considerations. There's no fog of war, but opponents can throw anything at you are anytime, so you always have to think about when, and where, to cast your creatures. Units cast away from a power well or monument incur a short health/ ability penalty (summon sickness for you M:TG players), so even your heavy-hitters can't always bail you out of a bad strategy.

Multiplayer also comes with a few community features, though it is clear that the system is still in its earliest stages. You begin the game with four pre-made decks and 3,000 BattleForge points, in-game currency that you can use to purchase new cards. Cards are sold in booster packs of eight random cards (250 Points) or in tomes, which include six boosters (1250 Points). Every booster comes with one ultra-rare card, which you can then trade or auction off. However, trading and auctioning are two features that could use improvement. You can search by color and orb count, but not by price. The system for trading cards is just as bulky and while not unusable, it could stand some streamlining.

Additional points are also available for purchase in-game (500 points for $6, 2250 for $26). While not an issue now, the ability to buy cards could end up making BattleForge a game of haves and have-nots. There aren't enough cards in the game to really make a difference now, but as new cards become available, the game could see some of the same issues M:TG had where big spenders end up with power decks while everyone else is left in the dust. Hopefully EA has something in the works to stem this issue, but until it becomes one, BattleForge offers one of the PC's more unique multiplayer games and something that fans of strategy and card games should check out.

-Starscream, GameVortex Communications
AKA Ricky Tucker

Minimum System Requirements:

Windows XP/Vista; 1.8GHz AMD64 or Intel Core (or comparable); 512 MB (XP), 1 GB (Vista); Graphics card with 128 MB, NVidia GeForce 6000-Series or better, ATI Radeon 9500 or better; Minimum 10 GB hard drive space for Installation; Display: minimum 1024x768

Test System:

Windows Vista; 1.6 GHz Dual-Core processor; 2 Gig RAM; DVD drive; 120 GB HDD; GeForce Go7600

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