Edgebee turn their hand to the concept of a card battler and for the most part the product they deliver is a complete success. Card Monsters is something quite different to the usual ‘Pokemon’ or ‘Magic: The gathering’ clone.
It appears that Edgebee is trying to slowly produce one entry into every major ‘casual’ genre and infuse them with some RPG charm in order to corner the in-browser market. First there was the first-person dungeon crawl ‘Sorcery Quest’ and then collection themed pet simulator ‘Critter Forge’, now there’s CCG Card Monsters to add to the mix.
Visually, Edgebee has created a 3D environment to add a sense of depth to a 2D playing field. This means that the backgrounds in battle look extremely good whilst illustrated 2D cards make up the bulk of the games art assets. The illustrative style they use here is typical of Edgebee in that it’s a largely western cartoon take on semi-comedic fantasy elements. Early monsters include chickens and animate snowflakes as well as spell casting bookworms that show a keen eye for design. Outside of battle the game is entirely 2D and uses similar art assets for menus and a world map upon which adventure mode takes place. Some of the cards use characters and monsters drawn from the ‘Sorcery Quest’ game Edgebee also produces, which would seem cheap if it didn’t very make a point of making it feel like this game inhabits the same world.
The sound design for Card Monsters is excellent. The games music has a pace to it that encourages players to push themselves and features interesting arrangements that put the later games in the ‘Breath of Fire’ series to mind, especially ‘Breath of Fire IV’. Sound effects are strong and hammer home with force, allowing for attacks to have weight and locking in a decision feels encouragingly strong. The SFX work here is especially good because what amounts to menu-like decision making instead feels like a series of life and death actions.
The story presented in Edgebee games is never massively strong, with an emphasis on getting stuck in and organising your own adventures be experiencing the game world for yourself. This is somewhat true in the case of Card Monsters as well, although the experience is a little more linear. Guided by a grizzled older knight named Purvis, a mage named Yuma and scholar named Godrick, the player will be given the opportunity the select their starting monster in a Pokémon-like manner before exploring a local woodland and starting a journey that takes them across the length and breadth of the world. Bosses will occasionally taunt you and challenges open up alternate paths on pre-cleared areas, taking away a little of the games linear flow, but ultimately the story service leaves a lot to be desired.
The game breaks with convention by presenting you with not one but two decks to be thinking about in battle, one full of items and another containing monsters. Drawing 2 of each cards at the start of a battle, the player is restricted in what he/she can do by how many crystals they possess at any point. Cards cost crystals to play, and playing any card immediately places another random card from the deck down into one of the empty spots. The battlefield itself consists of a 3 vs 3 battle between the monsters you summon and those of your opponent, with battle ending when either side has nothing on the field. These monsters can be pimped up with weapons, armour and other items from your second deck but not every monster can equip every item and only one weapon or armour piece can be worn at a time. Additional points can be gained by sacrificing a card each round, freeing up new options and allowing more expensive moves to be made. It’s simple on the surface but you don’t want to burn too many cards as small deck sizes leads to losing by default if you’ve got nothing to back up your battlers with. Cards level after battles in a slow but functional manner and new cards are won by beating encounters and locations. You can easily select locations to explore from an expanding world map which unlocks as you progress, edit your 16 card deck and battle other players in an alliance. The game also offers booster packs in exchange for real currency if you feel like you want to make the commitment to playing it long-term. These are split into various bundles and can be purchased by using in game currency given time to save for them. The game also uses a generous energy system called ‘light’ that limits play but allows for a decent amount of matches before it expires for the day. Special version of standard battles also exist, which include taking on golden areas that act like battlegrounds in ‘Final Fantasy Mystic Quest’ or waves of matches without a break.
Overall, Card Monsters is an excellent entry into the genre of RPG/Card game hybrids that shows that this kind of title isn’t the exclusive domain of mobiles and tablets. If you already have an Edgebee account you’ve probably already tried it, and if you don’t then perhaps it’s worth looking into getting one.