Immortalis (iOS) review
Immortalis, known as Guardian Battles in its native Japan, is a new iOS game from Pokelabo and Aeria Games. It’s available now as a free download from the App Store, with additional in-app purchases of hard currency to acquire rare items.
Immortalis is a card-battle game and for the most part it follows the conventions of the genre to a fault. Players may take on a linear series of single-player quests in order to gain experience points, soft currency and new cards, and completing said quests consists entirely of “flicking” card into the play area over and over again, with no skill or strategy required whatsoever. Play is throttled by a “stamina” system which tops up on every level up, and which can be extended with the stat points attained from completing quests or leveling up. Every so often, the player will encounter a boss which can be beaten by the cards in their “party” having an attack value that exceeds their opponent’s on-screen defense value and vice-versa — something which is not at all difficult to achieve given the massive power of the cards you are given for free upon starting the game.
As usual for the genre, there is a strong emphasis on collecting cards and powering them up by “sacrificing” weaker ones. Cards may be sacrificed in bulk, allowing for large power increases, and matching two of the same card together allows it to “evolve” to a more powerful “+” form of itself, which perhaps has additional abilities. Players may customize their party of cards to take into battle as they see fit, so long as the cards they use are not worth more than their maximum “party cost” value, which may be upgraded through leveling up.
In something of a twist on the usual format, the game does not incorporate the usual asynchronous player vs player battle component that most of these games feature. Instead, players are encouraged to join a guild upon starting the game and are then able to compete in Guild vs Guild battles four times per day at scheduled times. These events last for an hour at a time and require guild members to actively log in to the game and interact with the battle by using their party of cards and their special abilities. The precise amount a player can contribute is determined by their “Magic Points” statistic, which can be replenished through questing and various special items, and at the end of an hour the guild who scored the most “Guild Points” by performing well in the battle receives prizes. Various additional special mechanics come into play during these battles — attacking within ten minutes of an ally forms a “combo,” for example, while putting several cards of the same elemental type into play causes an “Awakening” which can trigger cards’ special skills. It’s actually a very good evolution of the usual non-interactive, hands-off battles normally seen in this type of game, and is one of the whole experience’s few good points.
Other good things about Immortalis include its excellent presentation. Unlike many other examples of the card battle genre, Pokelabo and Aeria Games have remembered to include music and sound effects, though an occasional bug means that if the player receives a phone call in the middle of playing, the music will sometimes cut out and not come back after the call has ended. The graphics are also excellent, and the quests, while tedious and uninteresting in gameplay terms, at least have some attractive animated pixel-art sprites representing the player’s struggles.
Immortalis does at least push the rather stagnant card battle genre forward somewhat with its interactive multiplayer Guild vs Guild battles, but there’s no getting around the fact that it’s still a mindless, rather dull game at its core. The single player quests, which most players will spend the majority of their time grinding through, require no skill whatsoever and make no attempt to tell a story, despite their titles suggesting that the developer might have at least considered this option at some point. Ultimately, it’s just another addition to the increasingly-long line of rather soulless card-battle games that are cluttering up the App Store and trying to replicate the equally-dull Rage of Bahamut’s astonishing success.
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Another mindless, soulless card battle game — albeit one that at least tries something different with its multiplayer component.