Last year I reviewed the Shards of Infinity card game, which I liked very much. I wrote:
Shards of Infinity has benefited from years of Ascension iteration, and it has launched with a compelling pool of cards and a few novel concepts that set it apart. If you like two-player dueling CCGs or quick-playing deck builders, you will love Shards of Infinity.
I really loved Shards of Infinity, but because most of my friends aren’t keen on deck-building games anymore, I wasn’t able to explore it as deeply as I had wanted to.
I am so grateful for the recently released Shards of Infinity app.
Note: for an explanation of how to play Shards of Infinity or for a review of gameplay, see my earlier review.
The Shards of Infinity app takes the fast-paced gameplay of Shards of Infinity and speeds it up even more. You don’t have to shuffle your deck; the game tracks how much damage you’re dealing, how many crystals you have to spend, and how much mastery you’ll gain; and the animations are zippy–enough to be interesting, but without “cut scenes” that take the focus off the game itself. The result is an app that is elegant and addictive. I love it.
Shards of Infinity is a mostly no-frills app experience, meaning that the app includes most of the features you would expect–offline AI play, pass-and-play with real-life opponents, and online play–and not a lot of extraneous stuff. This is not a slam. Shards of Infinity doesn’t need a campaign mode, and I’m content with a quick look at my stats from time to time (which are saved from device to device). For a quick dueling deck-builder, short and sweet is much of the point. And there are some nice extras. The music and sound effects sound like they’re from a Super Nintendo game, fully appropriate to the look and theming of the game. And if you are able to power up your infinity shard for maximum damage and listen closely, you can hear the snap of your infinitely powerful fingers.
But just because there aren’t a lot of extra features doesn’t mean the game is lacking. The features that are included are outstanding. For online play, you can set the clock for how long you’re willing to wait for opponents–you can play a leisurely “finish-when-you-finish” game, a weeklong check-in game, or even a thirty-minute-max game with players who are available right away. It’s easy to set up a game for others to jump into, and it’s also easy to find a game that meets the parameters you’re looking for. (And it will become easier as more people use the app.) I haven’t tested the friend system (see: deck-building haters above), but you can setup games with people you know fairly easily from what it looks like.
Offline play also works well. It’s a little cumbersome in pass-and-play mode to see what other players have done on their turns (although this is possible), but this is fine with me as I don’t intend to use the pass-and-play feature much.
What I do intend to use is the AI opponent, and Shards of Infinity’s is top-notch. It utilizes the same “neural net” research that powers the also fabulous Race for the Galaxy AI in Temple Gates’ app. As in both games, I’m not certain what “neural net” means except that the AI poses a good challenge. At launch, I was consistently beating the medium opponent and moved on to the hard, consistently beating that bot too. I wondered if I was really that good of a player or if the bot was really that bad. A later update fixed the bot, and I haven’t beaten the hard AI since. The medium AI feels like the right amount of challenge now, and it’s nice to know that there’s another level once I’m ready.
With any text-on-cards game, the learning curve can be a problem as players become accustomed to what the various cards do. Reading cards isn’t too difficult when they’re in the market, and it’s easy to get a zoom-in on any cards that are unfamiliar.There are also visual cues that help players along. A card outlined in white in the market is one you can buy. A card outlined in yellow is one whose condition is met so its power will activate (e.g., for Korvus Legionnaires and Wraethe Skirmishers, if a champion or Wraethe card, respectively, is in the discard pile). A card shaded red is a fast-played mercenary. The user interface is intuitive, and there’s an interactive tutorial for players new to the game. I played through this, and it seemed good, but I already knew how to play the game. I think someone learning the game cold would learn the game fine using this method. There’s also a rulebook PDF to clarify finer points, if necessary.
There really aren’t many faults with the app. It does slow down when some complex turns are taking place (especially when it’s the AI’s turn), and I do wish there were an undo button for those times I accidentally play or buy the wrong card. Those are minor nits to pick in what is otherwise a slick app.
Perhaps the best thing I can say about the Shards of Infinity app is that I just keep playing it. I had explored all the features of the app in the first ten games or so–enough to adequately understand the app and write the review. However, at this point I have logged over a hundred games because the app is smooth, the AI compelling, and the gameplay phenomenal. I already thought Shards of Infinity was a great tabletop game. The app takes the already great gameplay and pairs it with a slick interface that keeps games snappy and addictive. It’s a winning combination.
iSlaytheDragon would like to thank Temple Gates Games for providing us with a review code for Shards of Infinity. The app was reviewed on a Samsung Galaxy Tab A and Kindle Fire 8 HD.