by Marcus Estrada
Fans of competitive multiplayer titles and card games, listen up. If you somehow haven’t heard of Prismata then I suggest you investigate it immediately. This strategy title by Lunarch Studios takes the basics of card games but removes most of the luck so common to titles like Magic the Gathering and Hearthstone, instead requiring an extra dose of strategy to be victorious. Prismata has been in development for a while now but recently launched into alpha. Since then, it has increased its userbase tremendously – much of whom are now supporting its Kickstarter campaign.
But what exactly makes Prismata such a different type of game? It’s all in how battles actually play out, which might at first seem a bit odd to card game enthusiasts. For one, you don’t bring in your own deck to play. Instead both players are presented with the Prismata base set of cards as well as a random set. The random set is so named because it changes between matches but both sides receive the same one. With this knowledge, both people know basically what types of things may play out. They also won’t be able to depend on luck to suddenly draw some overpowered card.
Although it has the visual aesthetic of a card game, there’s a surprising amount of RTS influence. Much like Starcraft or Command & Conquer you must begin by building up resources. There are multiple resource pools, as well as gold, and each of these fund a different type of card (ex: attack or blocking types). Players want to purchase along the tech tree strategically so they are prepared for whatever their enemy may be working toward. In another difference from many modern trading card games your goal isn’t to reduce the opponent’s health to zero. Instead you try to wipe them out entirely as with no resource generation they can’t purchase anything else.
The mechanics of Prismata are definitely more RTS than expected, although gameplay itself still plays out in a turn-based fashion. Because of the intense amount of strategy that can become involved it makes sense why competitive gamers find it so alluring. To aid in this there are regular tournaments held for players to test their skill. Unlike most titles, players themselves can organize a new tournament, meaning they don’t have to wait for some official annual event. Despite this attraction for the hardcore crowd, there’s still a lot of fun to be had by casual players as well.
New players can jump into single player tutorials which introduce them to basic gameplay concepts and introduce how to view Prismata from a strategic angle. Those not yet comfortable against other players can fight against a bot, although the game’s matching algorithms are easily capable of matching players of similar skill levels. To further increase one’s’ knowledge of gameplay there’s also puzzle matches to solve. Working you way through one of these scenarios can be quite challenging, but can teach a stubborn player how to think in new ways.
Prismata happens to have far more features beyond this which make it the most feature-rich card game software I’ve seen – despite it only being in alpha! First there are the additional gameplay modes which change things; such as Bullet mode which forces players to take turns in 6 second increments. Then there are smart integrated social features which allow you to watch your in-game friends as they play a match. Or, if folks prefer streaming to Twitch you’ll be notified of their live streaming right on the game’s menu. For streamers in particular Lunarch Studios has smartly provided a facecam feature which ensures that no cards are obstructed by your webcam window on stream.
What excited me the most about these extra features is an outrageously comprehensive replay feature. This allows you to watch previously played matches but that’s just the start. Unlike a game stream, for example, you can step through each turn with ease. But far more impressive than that is the analyze ability which places you right into the match. With this you can actually “replay” it and try something different to see if that would have made a difference. Anyone can access these replays as well. If you want to share an awesome game with a friend you can do that since Prismata outputs a link for them. They don’t even have to own the game. To me it sounds like these replay links will help lure in even more players.
It is simply ridiculous to see a game with so much content already ready for action needing to seek crowdfunding support. In the past this seems like a title that a publisher would rush at with open arms. With that said, because Lunarch Studios is not one of the “big guys” they seem to be doing things right. Prismata will be free-to-play, but not in ways that actually harm the game. “Pay-to-win” features such as purchasable cards and the like are simply not part of the equation. Currently only cosmetics are being monetized meaning you pay to purchase extra emotes. This is necessary with a strategy-focused title and the developers intend to keep it that way.
So, what exactly about this product grants it that alpha state? The visuals aren’t quite up to snuff yet. Sure, battles have some flashy animations but menu UI is rather lacking. This is especially true if you compare it to massive games such as Hearthstone which simply ooze style. Of course, the graphics don’t have to be stellar to showcase how addictive this game is – but it wouldn’t hurt! As of right now it also doesn’t work with tablets such as the iPad (as the game utilizes Flash). There’s no promise that Prismata is coming to tablets, but they definitely believe it would be a great way to play.
There are innumerable Kickstarter and IndieGogo campaigns out there every month. At this point in time I rarely fall into the traps of hype or swoon over pretty graphics. Yet, after being given a preview tour by Will Ma, co-founder of Lunarch Studios, I can’t help but want to play Prismata immediately. If you have any interest in this game then my suggestion is to definitely try out the offline demo. With ten days left to pledge you might also consider pushing the Kickstarter campaign toward its $140,000 goal.
[author image=”http://cliqist.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/01/marcus.jpg” ] Marcus is a fellow with a love for video games, horror, and Japanese food. When he’s not writing about games for a multitude of sites, he’s usually still playing one. One day when he became fed up with the way sites would ignore niche titles he decided to start his own site by the name of Pixel Pacas. Writing about video games is something he hopes to continue doing for many years to come. Some of Marcus’s favorite games include Silent Hill 2, Killer7, and The Sims. [/author]