So new to Steam is Heart of the Cards…sorry, right, let’s try again.
New to Steam is the PC port of Konami’s Yu-Gi-Oh: Duel Links, a very FTP mobile game that I would describe as a quick-and-dirty port, but given the simplicity of the game it doesn’t actually feel like a big deal. I’ll talk about the economy later, but let’s get to the game itself which I’ve somehow managed to spend 4 hours on this evening which, well, says more about me than the game, I think.
At any rate you pick from two starting characters, Seto Kaiba and Yugi Moto. The correct choice, as I’m sure you’d agree, is Kaiba as all the major characters have VO work and obviously I enjoy hearing Kaiba be needlessly mean. I’ve played him a ton already and am hearing the same voice-lines (and yet “You’re a third-rate dealer with a fourth-rate deck” will never stop being amazing) but there is an option to turn all of that stuff off so that’s good. The characters have specific cards native to them, as well as special abilities that they can unlock through play that provide varying benefits (the first one for Kaiba, for example, allows you to automatically set a terrain card buffing monster card types he generally uses).
The actual game itself though is a little odd. If you’ve played the card game the rules should be instantly familiar, but the play-zone itself is different. Instead of 5 slots for monster and spell/trap cards you only have 3, you can have no less than 20 and no more than 30 cards in your main deck though you are permitted additional slots for extra cards (such as fusion monsters that always went outside your main deck) and instead of 8,000 life points you start with 4,000. Given the apparent power creep the game had after I stopped playing, the variety of cards and damage you can deal out quickly means the games are very quick. Indeed after a certain account level you actually unlock the feature for auto-play, useful if you’ve customised your deck and want to see how it would quickly perform or are wailing on hapless NPCs.
The meta-game then is where the FTP nature really kicks in. You have a map with certain locations that access different things; deck editor, PVP tab, card shop etc. These are all populated with NPCs you can duel, but once you’ve beaten them they won’t be replaced until a timer is refilled. You can use a consumable to regenerate NPCs, but as it goes in the 4 hours I played I only ran out at the end, although I did spend some time playing a side-quest thing that serves as an advanced tutorial past what they start you off with. It, too, teaches the basics of the game as well as more advanced tactics and later lets you play out scenarios with some of the cards from booster packs.
Once you win a duel you gain various points that go towards your current character’s level, a daily point pool and an account point pool. Progression along each one gives you unlocks, the first obviously being specific to your current character. The character and account pools are something of a grind, but given the variety of characters you can play as and that so few cards are specific to one character, I don’t actually see that as too big of a problem. The daily pool, however, is. It’s quite easy to get a few rewards quickly, but they’re relatively small in amount. You really have to play for a while to complete the daily pool and get some rare rewards needed to shop/trade for rare cards. It’s immediately clear that if you want that rare stuff, you’re gonna have to put the time in and good performance in a duel will only help so much.
So you accept that and maybe don’t go for that grind, fair enough. I hopped into the PVP tab to play a couple of games, one in a seasonal tournament where I forfeit on my second turn to save the opponent time from having to attack, after their first turn went something like this. Although quite literally as those cards were ones you had to buy. I tried again on a ranked duel that was supposed to match-make, but that too was a loss, albeit me able to inflict at least some damage. It was only until I went to the card shop that I realised the starting cards are properly lame, albeit plenty fine to beat the NPCs with.
The card shop is the real money sink, both literally and figuratively. You can spend real money to buy booster packs, or use in-game currency to buy them. Buying them using in-game is less efficient than using both resources required to buy tons of booster packs, but it doesn’t seem totally unworkable. Similarly using real money lets you get some fancier things too, such as decoration for your side of the playing field. I mean if you’re spending this much time on the game it’s no different to some of the hats you can get in DOTA.
It’s quite easy to burn through the in-game rewards, though I was able to rebuild my deck to be far better. The in-game rewards can also be earned through completing quests needed to raise your account level (which seems tied to the level of NPCs) as well as that side area I mentioned before. You may also get that from duel victories where again, better performance and variety of cards used improves the rewards you get, auto play or not.
One note too, when you start the game after the tutorial and you’re introduced to the main interface you are bombarded with a ton of interface and pop-ups and notifications. Now I did get used to everything on screen after a short while, but I at least had the knowledge of the game to make sense of that part so I could focus on understanding everything else. I’d say it was a bit much for a first time player, even if you did know the main game.
Conclusion; the main game is a fun, sped-up version of the main thing, surrounded by both quick features for PVP, general play and deck customisation, but the FTP trappings are very noticeable. How much you’re punished for not laying down real cash or grinding out the daily rewards I don’t know, but time will tell.