And those units are just the tip of the iceberg/volcano. The basic Twilight Edition of BattleForge comes with four faction decks of 16 cards each, plus 3,000 BF points (in-game currency sufficient to purchase 12 eight-card booster packs). Right from the outset you’re in possession of a good mix of the 200 card types, and the potential for crafting interesting and robust battlegroups is huge.
Your first taste of deck fashioning is likely to come in the campaign. On logging in (even solo play requires a net connection) you find yourself in the forge - a hub area in which auctions can be organized, cards traded, and units tested. In front of you is a large map. As missions unlock, they appear on this map. Some will be solo affairs, some will require the combined efforts of two, four, or even 12 players. Comrades are easily found. Just click to establish a game and strangers will come.
The missions themselves have a pleasing whiff of Warcraft III about them, and feel like they’ve been honed over many months for maximum fun. One excursion might involve escorting a treasure blimp through badlands; the next, exterminating Twilight-infected villages or destroying fortified walls blocking the path of a Titan-pursued potentate. Often in the co-op scenarios, different starting positions mean different roles. Red and Green could find themselves rescuing prisoners, while on the other side of the map, Blue and Yellow might be destroying siege artillery or overseeing an arcane ritual.
Invariably you’ll bump into your brothers-in-arms at some point, and embark on BattleForge’s trademark activity: the Rampage of Kill. Storming through unconquered portions of a map in a vast angry conga line is a riot in both senses of the word. I’m grinning just thinking about it. One of the few things that could improve it is integrated voice chat - right now, everyone’s too busy slaying to exchange typed messages.
Sadly, the Warcraft III vibe doesn’t extend to backstory brilliance. The plot cobwebbing all the missions together is poorly relayed, and stale as old buns. There’s a book of lore in the forge that explains what the hell is going on, but, frankly, cutscenes and load-screen briefings should have had this covered. After many days of play all I can tell you about the story is: Twilight = bad, Rogan Kayle = good, and some lady with a name like a venereal disease has lost her mind thanks to a SoulStone (or possibly a SoulTree) and MUST BE STOPPED. And, oh yes, wrath - there’s lots of that about.
Crafting a coherent plot in a game where players can romp to victory with Frankenstein armies is obviously no easy task, but Phenomic should have done better. Right now, fighting your fellow players is nowhere near as appealing as cooperating with them. Whatever the map, I seem to be getting trounced on a horribly regular basis. Losing RTS skirmishes is rarely fun. Losing them inside two minutes because you’ve been rushed by units you simply don’t know how to counter is miserable.