When I first heard of Warhammer: Battle for Atluma's pending release on the PSP, I got really excited. I've never played a Warhammer game, but I am a big fan of Magic: The Gathering and have been waiting for a good collectable card game for the PSP for a long time.
Unfortunately, it looks like I may be waiting a little longer for that game.
Now don't get me wrong, Battle for Atluma isn't terrible game, but I don't think it's going to win over many newcomers to the Warhammer universe.
So this game is simple like Go Fish, right?
Like the majority of collectable card games, Warhammer, which is developed by JV Games and published by Namco, has a lot of rules and can be pretty hard to grasp at first. The game does have a pretty in-depth tutorial that gives a good overview and should be able to get you playing pretty soon, but you won't fully understand all the game's intricacies for a long time, if ever.
The is a single player mode, which is called Battle for Atluma, pits you against 15 champions that you have to defeat one by one. The game's story has something to deal with a group of elves who create a Luma crystal on the island of Atluma to close a portal the Chaos forces created. The Chaos forces then whipped their ass and before losing control of the Luma Crystal, the elves sent it into the bottom of the sea.
Many years later, the High Elves think they can control the crystal and vanquish the Forces of Chaos once and for all, but the bad guys have also been biding their time, awaiting for the Luma Crystal to resurface so they can take it and do a lot of bad and mean things to land's inhabitants.
I would very much like to tell you more of the storyline, but there's just one problem. I couldn't beat a champion. Not even once. This game's difficulty is unforgiving in the worst way, and since there is no way to change the game's difficulty, I was subjected to beat down after beat down. I would say it's almost the equivalent of me going out and buying a couple Warhammer booster packs, entering a tournament and getting my ass handed to me by an overweight, balding middle-aged man or a greasy-haired, rat-faced teenager, who have both been playing the game nonstop for years. Yeah, imagine that and then think about playing the game.
Aside from the single-player mode, there's The Battlefield, which is a two-player battle mode that allows you to battle against a friend wirelessly. There is also an Army Recruitment area where you can edit and create that are used in the Battlefield, the Shopkeeper where you can buy new cards to be used in the single-player mode and a Barter Table that allows you to trade cards wirelessly.
How purdy is she?
While graphics aren't a huge deal for collectable card games, JV Games really puts this notion to the test. The game does not feature battle animations per se, but only four animations when a card is destroyed. However, that's basically it for any kind of on-screen action. Aside from the lack of animations, the menu screens leave a lot to be desired, too. The developer seemed to give little to no effort to spruce up the menu screens as most are just solid colors, and I think it gives the game an almost amateurish feel to it.
However, the cards themselves are pretty well drawn, though, and you can zoom in on them to read the actual text, which is kinda nice.
So what is the game like?
I'm sorry if this next part is a bit boring, but I couldn't find an interesting way to describe how a collectable card game plays out. While the premise of most collectable card games is the same - defeat your opponent by inflicting the most damage, Warhammer is a bit different. Instead, you play a best two-out-of-three battle game against your opponent, and whoever has the most victory points at the end of the round, wins.
A battle is broken up into three phases - the Muster phase, Battle phase and the Clean-up phase. During the Muster phase, you will draw five cards and will take turns putting a character card into play or casting an ability card to boost a character card's abilities. After you run out of gold and have mustered all your cards, each player will pass and enter the next phase.
After that, you begin the Battle Phase. This is where the meat of the game takes place and where you'll spend the majority of time during a battle. At the beginning of the Battle phase, each player draws five action cards. These cards are used during the battle to effect your and your opponent's cards and are very important in deciding the victor.
Whoever attacks first will choose which of his opponent's cards he wants to defend against him. But the defender has the option of choosing a different card that he wishes to block. Now, there are also three different type of units in the game - Infantry (slow), Cavalry (fast) and Flyer (fastest). However, through playing the game, I really haven't been able to notice how much the speed of units effect the battle.
Each card has six different attributes - strength, leadership, tactic points, spell points, terror and scout.
By far, strength is the most important because whichever card has the most strength at the end of a battle will win that fight.
Leadership is important because after a fight, the winning player will roll a die, and if he scores higher than your card's leadership total, he will get a free turn to attack another one of your cards.
Tactic points control how many action cards you can play within a battle.
Spell points are like tactic points, but govern how many spells you can cast.
Terror and scout points are pretty worthless as they have somewhat minimal effects on how a battle will play out
Basically, you will take turns playing different tactics, trying to increase your strength total, while lowering your oppenent's. Once you have played your cards, each player will pass. Then, and here's what really chaps my ass - each character rolls a die and adds it to his overall strength total. The problem here is that nine out of 10 times, the AI will get a higher card than you. This is especially frustrating after spending all the time to outwit your opponent only to see you lose the battle due to pure chance because your opponent rolled a higher die than you.
Whoever wins the battle keeps their card in play, while the loser's card is destroyed. If both card's end with the same strength total, it's declared a slaughter and both cards are destroyed. However, if there is a winner, a "rout check" occurs, and like I said before, if the winner rolls a die higher than that of the defeated card's leadership total, the rout is successful and he can conduct a follow-up attack.
The battle phase will continue until all players have used their cards, all cards are destroyed or when both players pass turns. Then, the Victory Points and strength points of the surviving units are added up, and whoever has the most, wins that round. Pretty exciting, right?
Well, it gets even more exciting. After the battle phase, you then have to clean it all up. Each player discards his hand and can either rearrange the surviving units into his hand for the next round or can discard them from the game. However, if you carry over any units into the next round, their gold cost will automatically be subtracted from your gold pool, giving you less cards to play.
Let's take this baby for a spin
I must say that when the game goes your way and when it doesn't feel like the AI is cheating, Battle for Atluma can be fun. There is a good variety of tactics to be played and trying to outwit the computer by saving an especially good card until right before he passes is a lot of fun.
I just wish JV Games spent a little more time polishing the game's graphics a bit, and I wish the battles moved along a bit quicker. But I don't think fans of the genre will mind too much. Like I said before, Battle for Atluma will probably be well received by the Warhammer fans and maybe the collectable card game crowd, as well. But for the rest of the gaming population, you may want to wait until a better one rolls along.
PSP Fanboy Score: 6.5