I'm not going to lie, card games like Magic: The Gathering are already a rather niche genre of video-games, but there has always been little to contend with.
Until Hearthstone became hugely popular on PC, and MMORPGs began slowly making their way onto the Xbox One, there wasn't anything to challenge Magic. Undoubtedly, there was no way Hearthstone wouldn't be massive, with the World of Warcraft and Magic fans behind it. They're tall boots to fill.
With that in mind, the Lies of Astaroth is a duckling standing in elephant shoes. Hear me out, though.
It's clear that developers iFree Studios put a lot of work into the MMORPG card-battle game that is The Lies of Astaroth. The level of detail for the imagery on each of the cards is truly something to appreciate, particularly if you're a fan of scantily clad anime ladies so blessed with chest you're in danger of having a nosebleed. The cards are colorful and so varied, investigating new ones when you receive them is a must. For a free-to-play game, they have created something that is still enjoyable, but it's not without its flaws.
The level of detail for the imagery on each of the cards is truly something to appreciate, particularly if you're a fan of scantily clad anime ladies so blessed with chest you're in danger of having a nosebleed.
Initially, Lies of Astaroth was a free-to-play mobile game for iOS, Android and Windows Phone (and even Facebook). It boasts over 100 million players across the world, but the Xbox One version has been optimized for peak performance and some mechanics have been altered.
Energy is consumed each time you battle or explore an area. Exploring will grant you a few experience points and gold, and sometimes you may encounter a random battle. Energy replenishes itself over time, somewhat faster that the mobile versions. This is an easy way to level up if you don't want to battle, but leveling up only determines the health of your hero. The meat of the game is in the battle itself.
You and your opponent both taken turns drawing cards with their own attack and health stats. If either of you have cards on the playing field, they will take damage before the hero does. If either all of the cards in your opponents deck end up in the graveyard (where defeated cards go), or the their life reaches zero, you win.
Lies of Astaroth is advertised as an MMORPG, implying there would be a PvP element. Massively multiplayer online role-playing games usually involve more than one player, so releasing it before the one feature that would actually grip players is even available seems like either a gross oversight or a "release now, patch later" scenario, neither of which are particularly endearing to their potential fan-base.
For now, Lies of Astaroth is a single-player campaign set across different maps as your character drags their tag-along pals with them on what is essentially a never-ending task of delivering notes to far-flung places and battling for entry into forbidden places.
Each map has a number of areas that you investigate along your journey, but you can't move on until you've got at least one star on each stage. When you complete a stage once, another two sub-stages are unlocked with their own requirements to pass, allowing you to potentially unlock new cards.
If you're not a card-battle Yu-gi-oh wizard, the tutorial is brief enough for you to get a grasp of the basics. Starting off, you only have a couple of spaces to have a few cards in your deck, but as you level up, you will unlock new slots.
Even if you're feeling like you don't fully have the mechanics down, you can let the battle play out automatically. And if you're feeling super lazy, you can even skip the battle to the end and get your rewards. It's at this point that I started to ask, why bother even playing the game if you can just auto-battle everything?
Lies of Astaroth is one of those games that requires constant checking in. Daily login rewards grant gold, and sometimes tickets which can be traded in for more powerful cards. If you log in every day for the month, you're rewarded with a powerful card; the only problem is, the login tracker doesn't seem to work, so I've gained no progress toward gaining it despite regular check-ins.
Once you have multiples of the same card, you can enchant them to make a more powerful version of that card. However, the in-game opponents' cards are more leveled than yours, and the likelihood of getting your cards as strong as theirs so soon are pretty low without paying out for card packs. They are bought with in-game gold, or you can buy better ones with crystals. Crystals are much rarer and are mostly received as rewards. You could choose to buy more, but the selection takes you to an empty page on the Xbox store. With crystal prices from $6 to $400, of course, it's up to you what you do with your money, but I wouldn't be sinking too many hard earned pennies into Lies of Astaroth just yet — especially with a distinct lack of PvP mode, which is when you're going to desperately want those hardcore cards. In fact, the prices of the micro-transactions may well put people off, as it feels like a blatant cash-grab.
When you enchant a card, you select a card you want to improve and then select the number of cards you want to improve it with. This is a good way of managing your card space, but depending on the card, some of them take so many duplicates it seems pointless to make them stronger. I'll happily eat my words if my Flower Fairy takes 100 cards to level up into something that would literally turn a demi gorgon into a scorched mark on the playing field, but the incremental upgrades are almost pointless for most of the lower level cards.
The whole point of leveling cards up is to unlock their new attacks when they get more powerful, the problem is that it's so time-consuming. This is to some degree because there is no way to zoom in the screen to get a proper overall look at your cards without being nose-close to the tv. It's also because the cards are in no particular order. Duplicate cards will be placed next to each other, but if for example, you have three level zero Timber Wolf cards and two level one Timber Wolf cards, the higher levels are not kept with their lower level counterparts. Having to search through and select every card with RT to bring up a larger image of the front of the card is so tedious, but there is a quick select menu at the top which still isn't perfect but at least helps you hop between different card parameters.
Honestly, I'd have liked a deck card auto-selector. As someone who has very little experience in these MMORPG card-battle games, much of fumbling my way through would have been made easier with the click of a button telling me which of my cards would be best for this area. Lies of Astaroth is simple enough to play, but the thinking is taken from the fray when you play auto-battle. The problem with this? Aside from not managing your deck, you'll pretty much always win.
iFree Studios is based in Hong Kong, but did no one there run through all the spelling for the dialogue and on-screen instructions? "Obascades" is not a word, but you can see how if it was hand-written, the word "obstacles" to a non-native English speaker would look fine and therefore be written into the game as such.
Despite these flaws, Lies of Astaroth is still a passable game. However, until PvP, daily rewards, and other small details are corrected, some people may find it somewhat lacking. It has a pleasant enough campaign mode, but really, with auto-battle and skipping battles, it really begs the question, "why would you spend your time on this?" The answer being, lots of boobies and a fun yet somewhat mindless experience.
- Large variety of cards
- Simple to learn, tricky to master
- Somewhat 'overpriced' micro-transactions
- Repetitive music
- Lacks the polish of more distinguished games
This review was conducted on Xbox One with a code provided by the developer.