A new take on digital card games.
Square-Enix entered into the mobile market with a fervor. It’s easy to see how they reportedly managed to secure such significant profits from their mobile store. Who doesn’t want to purchase a mobile version of Dragon Quest VIII (or any prior title in the series) or nearly any Final Fantasy game from their childhood? And if you own an Android TV, many of the available games can be played directly from your HDTV. But to Square-Enix’s credit, they have also committed to releasing original material, not relying on the easy success of popular titles.
Heavenstrike Rivals is just that – original. With Rivals, Square-Enix offers a unique and enjoyable twist on the digital card game genre. Where games like Hearthstone set up resembling your standard card game table (with a fun and interactive setting), Heavenstrike Rivals presents you with characters to level up (the cards) and a horizontal board (about 7 blocks long)for them to travel across and do battle upon. Each player has a designated hero and a hand full of various levels of units (ranked from common to legendary). Each player has a set of active points with which to use for units (each cost a different amount). The points are in use until that character is destroyed. In other words, if all of your points are used up on three units, you’ll have to wait until one falls to play another.
Like your standard card games, many units come equipped with a first round ability (a skill used when initially played). Heroes also have a special ability that can be used with a cool down (since the abilities vary, the cool downs can last anywhere from a couple rounds to numerous rounds). After each battle, units gain experience and level up, increasing power and health permanently.
Of course, Heavenstrike Rivals offers multiplayer competitions where you square off against another player’s hero. In this, the design is simple – you both utilize your units and abilities until one hero falls (or the turns run out). From my time with this, it appeared that players who purchased heroes via micro transactions had the superior edge. I played numerous games where my squad was completely annihilated in a matter of two turns because of unit costs and hero abilities. With that said, the concept of Rivals, both multiplayer and single player, is well executed and extremely enjoyable.
I truly believe that Heavenstrike Rivals finds its greatest success in the aforementioned single player mode. Unlike most digital card games that I’ve dabbled with, Heavenstrike Rivals offers a thorough narrative (where games like Hearthstone or Deck Heroes offer stages or a poorly translated story). The tale finds you escorting one of the Seven Sisters (a godhead figure asleep through 600 years of prosperity) against demonic foes known as the Fallen in order to find her sisters and seek a new guardian of the world. Story missions are split with exposition that builds the lore of the world, supports characterization, and clarifies the questions of the party (and the player). Once in battle, you will face off against a set number of boards, each ending with a boss Fallen. For the most part, the battles require decent strategy; on a number of occasions, I found myself at the doors of defeat. These difficult battles wound up being some of the most rewarding missions in the game.
Now, I mentioned micro transactions previously in the article. As I’ve stated before, micro transactions tend to be a shameless money grab – even if it’s a useful buy. In Heavenstrike Rivals, the micro transactions allow you to purchase cores or tickets, which are then used to recruit rare units and heroes. Fortunately, you do not need to spend money on micro transactions; the game itself will reward you for being a loyal user with enough cores to consistently buy a large number of units. I have yet to spend a dollar on my squad, which has been enough to win some multiplayer matches and complete a good portion of the story missions.
In all, Heavenstrike Rivals offers much in replay value due to its innovative design, intriguing story missions, large unit recruitment options, and endless multiplayer battles. If you can forgive the micro transactions (which aren’t necessary for most of the game unless you want to overpower the multiplayer facet), then you’ll find yourself a free mobile game that provides legitimate strategy RPG elements and a new face of digital card games.