NYCC 09: BattleForge hands-off / system-down

Know this: BattleForge is not a trading card game. BattleForge is an RTS. Correction: It's an online RTS -- it's not playable offline. And so, when producer Sebastian Nell connected to the server for a hands-on demonstration on the New York Comic Con show floor, the server temporarily went down, and we were left to chat in front of a blank screen.

BattleForge is still in an open beta testing phase, so we'll forgive the technical outage for now -- but surely this is a key issue that needs to be avoided after the official game launch. The other issue is the general misconception that BattleForge is a trading card game. It's true, traditional RTS units are represented as virtual cards in the game, and players command "decks" -- and "booster packs" (8 cards: 1 rare, 2 uncommon and 5 common cards) can be purchased for $2.50 from an online marketplace; cards can also be traded between players. Still, there aren't physical cards to be collected, and the trading card aspect is more bullet point than innovation.
%Gallery-44102% Developer Phenomic has not identified a core target audience. There is a casual aspect to BattleForge that suggests it would be welcoming to gamers unfamiliar with the RTS genre, but it would be a mistake to assume the game has nothing to offer adept real-time strategizers. The cards are limited to battle units, divided into three categories: Fire, which is primarily offensive; Frost being the defensive counterpart; and Shadow, called a "risk" group -- its cards are dominating when used in the right situations, but difficult to master. Apparently, there's Nature, too, but it was not described to us.

Traditional bases and building structures have been mostly removed from the players' control. There are only Monuments and Power Wells, each generating a valuable resource (orbs and power, respectively) needed to "play" your cards. Each card has a power requirement and an orb requirement. For example, the Frost card "Tremor" requires 100 power points and 3 orbs (a Frost orb and 2 neutral orbs).

As an online RTS, BattleForge is built for co-op (single-player is available, too), and different maps support two, four and twelve players cooperatively -- player-vs-player maps are also included. Phenomic has found that approximately 70 percent of its beta players are only playing co-op maps. Finishing a map (any number of times) nets rewards in the form of card upgrades, and the higher the difficulty (there are three tiers), the more powerful the upgrades. Upgraded cards -- or any card, for that matter -- can be tested in the game's Sandbox Mode, which also serves as a sort of virtual lobby for players to communicate with each other.

BattleForge will not require any form of subscription. The initial purchase comes with 160 randomized cards and access to the game client (launching with 30-plus maps). The microtransaction model will only apply to the aforementioned booster packs, and Phenomic promises that existing and future maps will always be offered for free.

BattleForge is scheduled for release on March 24 for PC. To register for the current open beta, visit:

This article was originally published on Joystiq.