Charting A New Path
There’s a new Uncharted game for the Vita!
No doubt this news got many gamers’ attention. And no doubt most of these gamers rolled their eyes when they learned the details. Uncharted: Fight for Fortune is not a third-person action/adventure game, but rather a custom card game in the mold of Magic: The Gathering. It’s awkward to play even an established card game like Magic on a game console, so one wonders why Sony would start a new card game as a spin-off of a major franchise.
Once you get your expectations under control, however, Fight for Fortune proves itself to be a nice little tie-in to the Uncharted universe, with easy-to-learn-but-difficult-to-master gameplay. Not only does it provide a new way of looking at this fictional world, but it’s a decent title in its own right. It won’t do anything to win over the many gamers who don’t like digital card games, but anyone who’s open to the idea will find something to enjoy here.
As with Magic, the idea is to deal damage to your opponent and block any damage that’s directed your way. But the developers—Bend Studio, in conjunction with One Loop Games—did a lot more than just re-skin that popular fantasy game. Instead, they came up with a whole new system.
Here’s a quick summary of the rules. The game board has space for ten cards: five arranged in a row in front of you, and five above them, arranged in front of your opponent. You may deploy your characters to any of your five slots; they’re unable to attack for the first turn, but after that, they automatically attack at the end of each round. If there’s an opposing character in front of them, they deal damage to that character. (Defending characters do not deal damage, and damage is permanent.) If there’s nothing but empty space in front of an attacking character, they deal damage directly to your opponent. The ultimate goal, of course, is to get your opponent’s HP down to zero.
Each turn unfolds in three stages. First, you play a new character. Next, you choose a random Fortune card—Fortune is the resource you need to play cards, like Mana in Magic. You can choose the risk-free option of gaining a little bit of Fortune right away, or you can play the Fortune card on a character and hope to bank a lot of Fortune later, which can be done in a variety of ways. Then you have a chance to play one last card before your characters attack, usually a buff of some kind.
As simple as this setup is, it presents a never-ending series of tactical decisions. If your enemy plays a powerful card, should you block its attack with a weak character—basically wasting a turn just to delay the problem—or should you play your next character in a different slot, hoping to wear down your opponent directly before he kills you? How should you manage your Fortune? Is it worth spending a ton of Fortune on a great buff, or is it better to save up for later?
Most of the technical aspects are up to par as well. The graphics aren’t exactly stunning—they never are in a card game—but the screen is pleasing to look at, and the sound and music bring past Uncharted games to mind. The controls work well, too—dragging and dropping cards is a breeze, as is zooming in on a card if you want to read the text on it.
As excellent as the core game is, a few aspects of the implementation are annoying, however. Perhaps the silliest aspect is card unlocking: There are plenty of A.I. opponents in the single-player campaign, but there are even more cards to unlock. Since you can unlock only one card with each fight, you have to fight the same people over and over again if you want to unlock everything, a process that feels a whole lot like grinding.
Further, you need to buy $3 expansion packs if you want access to characters from Uncharted 2 and 3. You can also unlock and improve cards by playing Golden Abyss, which is an interesting twist, but it can unbalance multiplayer matches, putting players who don’t own Golden Abyss or haven’t obsessed over unlocking everything at a disadvantage.
And speaking of multiplayer, I often got errors when I tried to start matches, but aside from the technical hiccups it seems to have all the bases covered. There’s an “asynchronous” option, meaning you can play a turn here and a turn there whenever you feel like it if that’s what you want. There’s also a pass-and-play option, which is nice to see in an age when local multiplayer seems to be dying.
Finally, you can customize your deck, but the process is incredibly painful thanks to a clumsy interface. This is something that should have been fixed before launch, and it’s kind of surprising given how well the controls work during normal gameplay.
Is it a cheap move on Sony’s part to slap the Uncharted brand on a card game? Sure. But Fight for Fortune is selling at the right price—$5, or $11 if you buy both expansions—and the developers have designed an innovative, simple, and challenging system here. Not everyone can learn to love a card game, but those who can should give this a shot.
RATING OUT OF 5 RATING DESCRIPTION 3.0 Graphics
They’re not stunning, but they do the trick. 3.2 Control
Basic gameplay works well, but the deck-customization interface is horrible. 4.0 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
The sounds capture the feel of Uncharted. 3.5 Play Value
There are problems here, but it’s a decent experience for fans of card games. 3.5 Overall Rating – Good
Not an average. See Rating legend below for a final score breakdown.
|Review Rating Legend
|0.1 – 1.9 = Avoid
|2.5 – 2.9 = Average
|3.5 – 3.9 = Good
|4.5 – 4.9 = Must Buy
|2.0 – 2.4 = Poor
|3.0 – 3.4 = Fair
|4.0 – 4.4 = Great
|5.0 = The Best