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[Updated] Order & Chaos Duels

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[Updated] Order & Chaos Duels

This is a freemium game review, in which we give our impressions immediately after booting a game up, again after three days, and finally after seven days. That's what the strange sub-headings are all about. Click on the link to skip to day three.

If the groups involved in promoting teen abstinence were really serious about their cause there would be a lot more collectible card games being played these days.

There's an inherent nerdiness to CCGs that encourages unsociable behaviour. These games attach themselves to your mind like limpets, until the only thing you can think of is getting that ultra hard-to-find holofoil you've had your eyes on. Anything else - anything else - in life is secondary. I should know - I used to play Decipher's Star Trek CCG.

Order & Chaos Duels is now out in the wild and looking to grab the attention of digital card-battler fans everywhere. How does it fare? Read on to find out.

First impressions

I am Nadia the Cunning, leader of rogues. Or at least I have chosen to play as her in Order & Chaos Duels. I always pick the thief in fantasy games. Always.

The game kicks off with a really straightforward and clear tutorial. It's refreshingly direct about the nuts and bolts at the centre of the gameplay, giving you just enough information to comprehend what you're being told, but not so much as to be overloaded.

There's a tacky story bolted on - something about being rescued from a prison, and then fighting your way out using cards - but at least the art's good. One of my favourite things about card games like this is the artwork, and I haven't been disappointed.

It's definitely got a Magic: The Gathering feel, but at the moment there's not a lot of emphasis placed on elemental themes. Instead it focuses on striding heroes, nimble vixens, and terrifying beasts of war. If I were being harsh I'd call it mediocre fantastica, but its production values are too high to get too upset about the trappings of fantasy.

After a few battles I'm unlocking cards to add to my deck. I can feel that collection compulsion tugging at me - a compulsion I haven't felt since I spent two months amassing an army of Borg Cubes.

Tune in next week to see whether the compulsion is still as strong in the cold harsh light of Monday morning.

Day 3: Common cards

Another few days have passed, and though I'm not obsessed with Order & Chaos Duels - as I feared I might become - I'm still thoroughly enjoying the complexities of what this card-battler has to offer.

The menu design is slick: really quick to navigate around and great to look at. The overworld map documenting your progress through the Campaign mode gives a sense of progression and a strong impetus to carry on and see more of what's to come.

The battling hasn't become overly difficult yet, either, which is encouraging to someone with my expertise in strategy games - which is to say, 'very little'. There are additional card effects that must be utilised to their fullest to ensure victories, but they're few in number and easy to comprehend.

The Wolf Tamer card, for example, has an ability called Retaliate which will deal 3 damage to an opposing card if it only has 4 health (or less) left itself. Most of these extra elements are based on dealing damage rather than affecting the wider game economy or environment, and that suits me fine.

I've also been given a couple of items to equip my Hero card with - which is the card you have to keep safe to avoid forfeiting the game. These protect the card or boost its own special attack, which itself can be unleashed to assist the minions on your team.

If there's one concern I have so far, it's that new cards are dished out at a steady but slow pace, and acquiring new ones is extremely rare. You need Runes to purchase higher level ones, and they're in short supply.

Day 7: Sharks

A big attraction of Order & Chaos Duels will undoubtedly be the multiplayer and the density of gameplay. These will prove crucial to its success, and after more time with the game I'm comfortable saying that there's enough to think about during play to keep hardcore card sharks on their toes - even if the multiplayer is a little weak.

A couple of days ago I was saying that most status changes were based on dealing damage, and while that's mostly still true this actually makes a lot of sense in the wider context of Order & Chaos Duels's construction: this is a game that wants to be played quickly, and ending games by reducing Hero health fast goes a long way to achieving that aim.

Once you're comfortable with the menu layout you can zip through the opening couple of turns setting up initial strategies for early damage-dealing. Later in the match, when you need to sit and ponder for a moment, you can easily double-check the effects that cards will have on the battlefield by tapping on them.

Your opponent doesn't hang about, either. His actions are decisive and fast, and although the difficulty ramps up smoothly it gets pretty tough. The AI knows its cards intimately - perhaps a little too well at times - and will pull out all sorts of manoeuvres you'd never even considered.

However, with each new strategy you come across you can learn from your opponent and use the same moves yourself. This is particularly useful in the multiplayer.

Raids are asynchronous, employing the current deck of a human opponent but making moves with AI. Ranked Duels are true real-time multiplayer experiences, but despite being timed to avoid trolling matches can take a while to find, and once they're up and running re-syncing is frequent.

Multiplayer is not the strongest part of the package, but combine it with the substantial single-player campaign, the excellent card art, and the tactical depth on offer and Order & Chaos Duels comes recommended.

If you've sworn yourself off CCGs forever then it's not going to change your mind, but if you're looking for a decent (and free) alternative to Magic: The Gathering this should be your first port of call.

How are you getting on with the game? You can tell us and the rest of the PG community about your experiences by leaving a comment in the box below.

[Updated] Order & Chaos Duels

Gameloft has produced a fine collectible card game here, and though the IAPs are steep and multiplayer is best described as functional, the fundamentals are what you're coming for. Provided you're a card-fiend, they're what you'll stay for too
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