Well, I'm behind on posting some of my series over here on Publish0x! Apparently almost a year in some cases! Big Huge Games has announced that it will be shutting down Arcane Showdown: Battle Arena. I had originally written about the game when it was in Early Access, and paying for people to play it through the Gamekit service.
I hadn't played Clash of Clans prior to playing this title, and didn't realize how similar the games were. Still, the lack of any sort of competitive scene in a strictly player-versus-player game with a freemium based economy didn't leave me too surprised by this turn of events. I enjoyed the game, and I hope no one spent too much money on imaginary cards that will soon be gone! Anyhow, here was my original take on the game:
Who doesn’t want to get paid for playing video games? This series follows mobile applications, some of which are borderline games at best, that claim to reward users with cold hard cash (or gift cards). In my pursuit of extra cash to blow on games, or Steam gift cards to add to my collection, I have tried a number of these applications. I hope my experiences can help others steer clear of the more dubious of these applications.
This time we'll be looking at Arcane Showdown - Battle Arena a free-to-play real-time strategy game by Big Huge Games. This game was released as Early Access on Steam in February 2020 and at the time of this writing is closed testing for Android devices. The way that you can get paid for playing this game is through third-party referral services, which at the time of this writing Gamekit is currently offering.
In my opinion, the art for the game is very well done.
In Arcane Showdown - Battle Arena, hereafter just Arcane Showdown, players take on the role of a wizard, or Mage in this game's vernacular, engaged in an endless competition to rise through the ranks of the Citadel. This competition takes the form of player-versus-player combat, where you summon minions to battle across various maps to attack your opponent. To be clear, this game is strictly a competitive game, with no real notable single player component.
The minions, and other spells that you cast, take the form of cards. You start with a collection that you expand through playing the game, or purchasing them. When you win a match, you get a chest that will contain various cards. Opening these takes several hours of real world time, as seen on the screenshot above.
You can view the complete list of cards in the Collection section of the Cards screen.
Cards have levels, which you increase by collecting additional copies of the same card and then spending gold to level it up. The number of cards required is shown below the current level, and it expends those cards when leveled up. Leveling up increases the statistics of the monsters summoned, or spells used.
The level 8 Apprentice is appreciably stronger than a level 1 Apprentice.
Your Mage level is also determined by the number and level of cards in your collection. As an example, if I level up my Apprentice to level 9 I would gain 45 experience on my account. Leveling up your Mage increases how much damage you can take before losing a match, as well as increasing the stats of various structures you control.
Leveling up also occasionally has other perks, like more deck slots.
As for how the actual combat plays out, you and your opponent are placed on opposite ends of a field containing various structures: statues, mana veins, and beacons. Statues are basically defensive turrets that will fire at enemy troops. Beacons extend your area of control, expanding how far out on the map you can summon minions and build mana veins. Mana veins increase the rate at which you acquire mana, which is the resource used to summon minions.
Beacons are the gray squares, mana veins can be built on the orange circles, and the statues are the structures in front of the beacons.
Your first spell is used to either level up structures, or build mana veins - which can then be leveled up as well. Each structure, once built, can be upgraded twice, each time improving their abilities and making them harder to destroy. All spells have a cool down timer, where you have to wait that time after casting it before it can be used again.
Cards also have ranks, which limit when they can be used in a match. Only rank 1 cards can be cast initially. To cast rank 2 cards, you have to spend a certain amount of mana, which slowly decreases as the match progresses. This is also true of rank 3 cards, which can only be unlocked after rank 2 has been opened up.
Onward goblin minions!
The game has various maps, which mainly consist of three "lanes" of combat, with opposing statues on each side. Matches are fairly quick, at 3 minutes and 30 seconds. A match ends when a Mage is reduced to 0 health or, when the timer expires, whoever has destroyed more statues wins. If the number of statues is tied when the time expires, the match is extended a few more minutes, with the next person who destroys a statue winning. If this additional time expires, the match is a draw.
This match was not a draw.
Minions have different strengths and weaknesses, such as some flying minions can only be attacked by ranged minions or some minions only being good at destroying structures. There is a fair amount of strategy involved in deciding how to spend your mana and what to prioritize. Rushing out lots of minions early can lead you to destroy a statue of an opponent who is trying to build up to higher ranked minions early on, but you may then find yourself behind facing more powerful enemy monsters.
Outside of the chest you receive for winning a match, you also gain victory points. You also lose these points when you are defeated in a match. Arcane Showdown uses your score to determine what opponents you should be match up again. You also unlock new spells and bonus cards as you attain certain numbers of victory points.
The cup symbol is the number of victory points won or lost.
In addition to the current 1 on 1 match, there is also a 2 on 2 team match. You and an ally share a battlefield against a pair of opponents, leading to a lot of things going on at once. It's an interesting addition, but can be frustrating if you are paired with a poor ally, or one who seems to have been disconnected from the match.
There are also various quests you can perform to gain additional gold or cards. You also earn activity points, which are the red circle icon below the victory points in the screenshot above. After earning enough of these points, you get a bonus chest, technically a cauldron, with a large number of cards, some gold, and even gems. Gems are a premium currency that can be used to enter events or to purchase additional cards.
The current event running at the time of this writing.
The art, music, and sound for the game are very well done. I particularly like the title track for the game, which is an uptempo rousing number. I'm not sure how well the graphics will translate to mobile once it gets ported over, but the game looks good in its current PC form.
The game does seem designed with mobile monetization models in mind. Card level matters as much, if not more, than strategy giving the game a pay-to-win feel. Granted, there are plenty of ways to earn cards for free while playing the game. But the multiple ways to make real money purchases to advance in the game may rub people the wrong way.
The free-to-play model in action.
Personally I enjoy the gameplay of Arcane Showdown. The matchmaking seems very quick, which does make me wonder if some of the opponents may be automated computer controller bots. However, even if that is that case, I don't really care. Most opponents have seemed to be roughly an even match, with blowouts happening more in 2 versus 2 matches. I also perversely like the timers on the chests, in that I feel I can take a break from the game while I wait for them to unlock.
I should note that I was not able to get paid for playing this game. Gamekit has a requirement to verify your account, which didn't seem to work right when playing through Steam. So, giving this a rating for profitability, I would have to give it a "F", or 0/10 stars. As a quick, enjoyable diversion, I would give it a solid "A-", or 9/10 stars.
If you want to check out Arcane Showdown, it is currently available on Steam here. As of this writing, it has a Mostly Positive overall rating on that platform. If you want to preregister for the mobile version, you can do so on the Google Play store here.