Let me recall for you a tale from my youth. I was sitting in my basement playing Super Mario Sunshine when my brother approached me and asked for $10 dollars. He didn’t say what for, only that I assist him. Having a bit of cash from my summer job, I obliged him. He left briefly, and returned with a starter deck of Yu-Gi-Oh cards. I remember thinking this was very odd, since at the time, my brother would have been heading into grade 10, and I figured he was way past this stuff. I myself had only seen the anime in passing, but still being very much a nerd, this would’ve been more up my alley than his.
That was my introduction to card-based strategy games and to this day it warms my heart to know my brother never really outgrew his nerdy upbringings. I am reminded of this fond memory with my brother, because of Skylanders Battlecast, a fairly mediocre card game and an even worse mobile game. Not content to dominate the toys-to-life market, Skylanders is looking to break into the cards-to-life market, piggybacking on the success of games like Hearthstone but forgetting to include charm and general functionality.
Skylanders Battlecast is an RPG card game where players use a combination of Skylander heroes and magic battle cards to defeat their opponents. The gameplay is pretty simple: heroes can deal direct attack damage to opponents or consume energy crystals to use cards ranging from attacks, to buffs, to debuffs, to traps or machines that buff/debuff. Each turn, players get a random number of crystals added to their pool, allowing for stronger cards to be used.
There’s a minimal bit of strategy involved, as players have three heroes: one in the front, and two in the back. If battles are to be won, the player must swap their force (get it, cause that was a Skylanders game) and balance heroes with higher health to handle damage, and those with stronger attacks to control the battle.
Battlecast does feature a fairly robust single player campaign as well as local and online multiplayer. I thought I might get the most fun out of the multiplayer, however the pace of the game is so slow, (and even slower between waiting for opponents to attack), and the strategy is so absent that even when I thought I might lose, I never felt engaged.
Initially, I thought Battlecast would be kind of cool. I had never gotten into Skylanders, because Skylanders seemed a bit like Pokemon if you had to pay for each individual Pokemon. I had thought Battlecast might play like an augmented reality card-game, where you play the game with the cards, and your phone is the lens that would make the whole thing come to life.
Unfortunately, the actual game is just a mediocre card-based RPG, and the “cards-to-life” is fairly hollow. Cards are more for collecting and scanning them via the augmented reality simply adds them to your in-game deck, and let’s you look at some character models. Maybe you could use them to play with other people who would rather play with the physical cards, but that’s just me.
In terms of its presentation, Battlecast looks ugly, even for a mobile game. Character models appear janky and look like they’d be more at home in a game from the PS2 era. The attacks all feel like there’s a noticeable delay from when you use them, to when the animation plays and the framerate is just terrible. For a game so simplistic, you’d expect a bit more visual fidelity.
Battlecast functions even more poorly. Playing on my Galaxy Note 4, the game crashed repeatedly, and often times trying to re-launch the game after a crash would cause it to get stuck in an infinite load-loop that forced me to restart my entire phone.
Overall, Skylanders Battlecast doesn’t seem worth the time or the investment, not when better games like Hearthstone already exist and are far deeper (also with Gwent just around the corner, all other card games are sunk). If you’re a big enough Skylanders fan, you may find something to enjoy here, but if you’re not, you can avoid this broken and boring game.