Title: Pokemon Trading Card Game Online (Open Beta)
The Gist: Did you ever collect Pokemon cards or play The Pokemon Trading Card game for the Gameboy? This is literally just a web version of that game involving numerous decks from the Pokemon Trading Card Game series with a splash of social connectivity and a dose of free-to-play. The game is currently in the open beta stage but it’s fairly complete and allows you to get a feel for what the final game should offer players. You initially receive three decks, one fire, one water and one grass each containing 60 cards that you can use to play the game. You get an additional card unlocked for each of those three decks for the first 12 matches won.
Pros: The game genuinely reminds me of the Pokemon Trading Card Game’s I had when I was younger; I decided to skip the tutorial and found that it’s easy enough to pick up. I really liked the option of either turning off the battle animations or being able to simply click during a match in order to speed thing’s up, I was much more interested in gameplay itself rather than watching one card splash water on another card.
After toying with the AI battles you can take your cards online and play against human opponents or even trade with them. You’re able to use any of the three basic decks (basic red/blue/green) as long as you’ve beaten the 12 matches against the AI with them, you’re also given an electric themed deck for online use. A very intricate but easy to use with the help of deck builder wizards (picture people with long white beards and pointy hats organising cards all day!) you can build custom decks with cards you have unlocked or purchased; you can make a fire/grass combo, water/fire combo and literally anything you can think of using the cards available to you. Any collectors of the Pokemon TCG in real life are in for a treat as you’ll literally be able to add any future purchases of both decks and booster packs.
Cons: You get three decks composed of 60 cards, another 12 for each of those decks by winning games against the AI. If you want to play with any additional cards you have to buy real life decks or booster packs, these entitle you to either a full deck online or a booster pack of your choice containing a few random cards. However, there’s a post on the forums stating that: “…currently the only way to get booster packs online is through the code card redemptions from specially marked BLW booster packs. We have plans to implement more ways to acquire cards at a later date! Thanks!”. This might mean in the full version of the game there may be a way for pure free-to-play players to expand their online card collection.
Musical Note: The music isn’t really Pokemon related which is slightly disappointing, seeing as this is an official Pokemon spin-off I was rather hoping to be greeted by various battle tracks as I played my game.
Hunger Level: I found this game highly addictive, which was bizarre as I wasn’t so into the Pokemon TCG itself that much back in the day and certainly not now. I guess the option to play online, as I didn’t fancy traveling to tournaments or public game locations too much, really opened up the concept of gameplay for me…before I merely collected somewhat and very rarely got to have an actual game.
Conclusion: I really recommend anyone who’s played any Pokemon game, even those who haven’t touched the idea of playing with cards giving this game a go. The basic principles of playing Pokemon still exist, building a collection, selecting a team/deck and fighting both AI and real life opponents.
My main problem with this game as a free-to-play, as with many free-to-play is the advantage paying players could potentially have over non-paying players. Whilst the mechanics of the game allow for equal play you may find an opponent has the best of the best available to him, better healing cards, better Pokemon and better options with which to crush your basic decks. I’m really hoping that players wanting to play this game purely for free will be able to somehow obtain additional cards or booster packs with the tokens they are granted for winning games, unlike at present where all you can do with those tokens is buy new things for your avatar…that means nothing to me as I’m purely interested in the gameplay…not pimping my avatar’s wardrobe.
Some of the more advanced features such as battling friends directly and tournaments aren’t available during the open beta just yet but will give players extra content to play through. Even though this game is still in beta there are still a fair few things to do, any cards you buy in real life for this game will not literally transfer into the full game but you’ll get tokens to redeem new decks and booster packs (great news if you found yourself with a crap collection obtained through boosters, bad news if you had penultimate cards that would turn the tide of battle!).
Rather long conclusion but I’d like to add the comment that this game would be even better if it interacted with your DS Pokemon games. The Pokemon website currently features the Dream World tie-in to your game where playing mini-games online can literally grant you access to special ability Pokemon for use on Pokemon Black and White. I think that being able to earn a special Pokemon for winning tournaments or a gaining in-game achievements such as beating a certain number of opponents would give players another reason to play this game. I recommend you try out the game when it’s finished open beta or give it a whirl now if you don’t mind losing your progress when the full game does come out. I’ll certainly keep playing if that free-to-play option expands ever so slightly in that it allows me to expand my collection. You can try the game out here.
‘Game-A-Week’ @ Black Vinculum”