Collectable card games seem to be making a resurgence. Magic The Gathering now has a yearly release in its Duels of the Planeswalkers series and even games like FIFA are introducing card game features in its Ultimate Team mode. Minion Masters offers an alternate take on the genre but can it hold its own against the big boys?
Instead of taking place on a tabletop, Minion Masters takes place in a virtual, hexagonal arena, bringing your cards and minions to life. They then bounce around the arena, seeking out opposing forces to attempt to destroy them. It certainly is more interesting to watch over other card games, even if all you’re watching is two figurines facing off and some sparks flying. While you might be disappointed to know that you don’t control your Minions once they’re released, it’s interesting to note the various influences over your Minions once they enter battle. Each Minion has a variety of tactics which force it around the battlefield. For example, a kobold usually goes after enemies that have the least defence in order to get quick kills, whereas a mounted knight might charge the largest creature available to weaken it. You can force your Minions to stay and defend a particular spot or attack a particular enemy but there’s little point when the AI does your micromanaging for you.
There’s a variety of arenas available with the game and some (such as New York Skyline) are built uniquely and interestingly. Instead of using actual backgrounds, each arena is held in a 3D space with a solid colour surrounding it. While the background is hardly the focus of the game, it would have been nicer and added to the immersion of the game to have had backgrounds relating to the scenery of the arena, especially when the art on the cards is as good as it is. Each one is drawn in a fantasy style that’s interesting to look at with the magic cards in particular having some impressive art on them.
The gameplay revolves around management of your hand in order to bolster your forces. Discarding cards from your hand gives mana which is then used to summon other cards onto the field. This creates a neat risk versus reward scenario; discarding a magic effect that might be needed next turn in order to get another knight onto the field. What sort of Minions you’ll be playing depends on which deck you choose. There are several pre-built decks available (you receive one for free upon creating your account) and a Deck Builder is available. The only downside to this is that cards are only obtainable by paying through the game’s card store. Being unable to earn cards through gameplay makes progression limited and also loses the collection aspect of a card game.
The game has two main modes: Single Player and Multiplayer. Single Player is a series of challenge matches against the computer that get progressively difficult. There is however, no campaign or story to this, which is slightly disappointing. Instead, Single Player is a warm up to the Multiplayer which is the clear focus of the game. Multiplayer allows for six players in a game at a time either in teams or as a free for all. At the moment, there are few games up but there is clearly a dedicated fan base already building within the game and the servers may become more populated in the future. There is also a map editor bundled with the game where users can create their own arenas and maps. Developer BitFlip Games has already stated they want a big community input upon the game, so the possibility of creating a map to be released to the general public is very realistic.
Minion Master certainly doesn’t lack ambition. Creating an entirely new card game from the ground up with brand new mechanics is impressive. It’s just a shame the game right now is quite basic with little features. In particular, being unable to earn cards and build decks through gameplay is a feature that desperately needs to be added in order to sustain the longevity of the game. Still, the game is worth a look, particularly considering an initial deck comes free of charge. With a bit more polish, this could really become a breakout game for BitFlip Games.