When SolForge hit Kickstarter, I backed it for quite a bit more than I have backed other games because the idea of a digital only, free to play card game sounded like the greatest thing in the world to me. The first iteration of the PC beta, which amounted to a random two deck demo raised more concerns than anything, enough so that I was a bit turned off from the game, especially with Scrolls and Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft appearing on my radar with more fanfare and developer street cred, at least in the video game scene.
I played Scrolls for about a couple of weeks and battled my way to a point where I was happy with my rating (1800) and acquired a playset of all the available cards in my chosen starting faction (Growth). I went into gold saving mode for what was then the upcoming faction of Decay. Feeling like I had reached my peak for the current state of the game, my motivation to keep playing plummeted, and I haven’t gone back to it since.
Then the Hearthstone beta began, and seemingly everyone on Twitch was playing it for a few days, making me extremely jealous. I had been pretty lucky getting beta access to Blizzard games via opt-in in the past, presumably because very few people knew to opt-in via Battle.net account management back then, but have been left out in the cold this time. Then I realized I had put in a pretty significant amount of money in two other card games already and that maybe I should check in on SolForge again.
There was a period in the SolForge beta when all the cards were available for deck building and testing, but I didn’t like the idea of learning all the cards and building decks with them only to have them taken away. I prefer to take things one step at a time, and absorb knowledge that way, so when the cards were switched off and my card pool was once again limited what I receive as a Kickstarter backer, I was much more at ease and ready to starting building and playing online matches.
Not being limited to pre-built decks and facing real opponents allowed the true fun of this game to finally be on display. The games are fast despite having a fair amount of decisions to be made turn to turn, leading to perhaps the longest chains of “one more game” I have ever found myself experiencing. As far as the free-to-play aspects go, you stop earning after your third win, but I often find myself playing beyond that. It doesn’t hurt that I am winning an absurd percentage of my games, either due to the understanding of the game I gained through playing in the very early beta or the roughly 50 packs I got from being a Kickstarter backer. Either way, I feel like I’m winning like 90% of my games, and can never decide on what type of win I want to stop playing on. I also like that there is not chat. I hate people who start to whine when they are losing and they can really ruin my time with a game. It happened to me quite a bit in Scrolls, where I’ll be winning and my opponent just starts whining incessantly. There is no reason to ever do that, because when you do, you are basically saying to your opponent that the only reason they are winning is because of luck, and that is not cool. Even if you feel that way, keep it to yourself. Unless someone is provoking you into it, there is no reason to spread your negativity to others. It’s just selfish and childish.
Compared to Scrolls, I’m not sure how much I like the card earning mechanics work. In Scrolls, you can’t really “pay to win” even if you wanted to. I put in a bit of real money to buy the other faction starter decks just as a collection boost, but other than that I acquired all my cards via gold that I earned through grinding games. The developers of SolForge specifically didn’t want the game to be a grind (despite being a much faster game in which grinding would conceivably not be so bad) and thus limited play rewards to three wins per day. The problem is, there is only so much you can get with the silver you earn, as once you have a decent collection built and only need higher rarity cards, silver won’t get you very far, and your only option is to purchase gold.
Money being a gateway to success is nothing new in card games, but the fact that the rarity tiers are basic and three levels of rare is a bit concerning. I wasn’t playing Magic: The Gathering at the time mythic rares were introduced (and haven’t played constructed since they were introduced), but I never liked anything that would raise the price of cards. SolForge basic packs are a reasonable amount of silver, but only contain three cards, one of them being a guaranteed rare and a “chance” of a heroic or legendary. If you are not looking to spend real money on the game, this is all you can do to advance your collection right now, and I have to imagine it stinks. I received 50 Normal packs for being a Kickstarter backer. These packs contain 8 cards (2 rares and 1 heroic being the guaranteed pull from these) and cost a fairly reasonable amount of around $2 a pack. With my Kickstarter packs, I quickly reached the point where all I really needed were legendary cards, which are only guaranteed in the premium pack, and cost over $10, which is a bit ridiculous. I have a considerable amount of store credit along with my packs for being a backer, but I’m hesitant to spend it while features are still being implemented. I have to imagine there is some plan on the way to make life easier for those who wish to play for free, or at least cheaply, but right now, it is not a friendly environment for such people.
The game is a lot of fun, though, so it’s worth checking out if you’re a fan of trading card games and don’t have Hearthstone beta access (and maybe even if you do).
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Speaking of alternatives to shiny new games, the news that Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn is suffering from server problems due to unexpected popularity and that the game is actually pretty good if you are actually able to play it made me consider picking it up, but since I really don’t think I want to play an MMORPG again or pay a subscription (if I decide I even want to keep playing after the first month), I decided to go back and check out Guild Wars 2 again instead.
I stopped playing Guild Wars 2 at about level 30, after deciding that the game is very well made and has a lot of great ideas, but I’m completely over MMORPGs at this point. This hasn’t really changed much. I still find its combat, loot, and character building mechanics super unrewarding and unsatisfying, though to be fair to the combat, it’s actually pretty good by MMORPG standards and I haven’t really been playing in such a way that showcases its potential. What Guild Wars 2 does do well, however, is present the player with an enormous amount of small, easy to achieve goals, so the part of me that loves to fill progress bars is happy to play this game and happy to continue playing it, at least for now.