A kind of synthesis, but with some elements that perhaps you wouldn’t have expected in advance. I always like that when that happens, when something comes that is more than the sum of the parts. – Evan Parker
Has it really been over a month since my last update? Yikes. Crazy happenings and personal life (along with the impending Holidays) have kept me very busy lately, but I’ve got to get back to entertaining the three people who read this blog! On with the show!
A number of months ago, a friend introduced me to a game he’s been playing. He advertised it to me as “a free online game that plays like Magic: the Gathering but with 12 colors”. Well, I like Magic; I like Free, so why the hell not? I go over to Elements and register to start playing. Quick, easy to understand, a good time killer. These were my initial reactions to the game. Odds are, it would only allow me a little bit of play before requiring a purchase to unlock the bigger, better parts of the game, right? Nope. Every aspect of the game is available to every player without monetary contribution. That said, I will probably make a donation for the costs it takes to keep their servers going. Let’s talk a little about the game.
I’m going to make the semi-dangerous assumption that anyone reading this blog knows the basics of Magic: the Gathering. Certainly, this game draws a lot of inspiration from Magic, and a knowledge of how the game works will be helpful in getting a quicker grasp of Elements. The most glaring difference between the two games is that Magic has their themes all bundled into five colors, while Elements leaves each theme to its own group, For example, in Magic, the color black is symbolic of death, decay, and evil in general. All black cards have black mana (the currency of Magic) costs. Elements has different card sets for “Death”, “Darkness” and “Entropy” and each of these have their own currency (called quanta) to be paid. Elements has a whopping 12 different themes to mix and match, Entropy, Death, Gravity, Earth, Life, Fire, Water, Air, Light, Darkness, Time and Aether. I won’t waste a lot of your time going into what each Element does, you can find out yourself when you go to play.
Another difference is that your available currency stacks turn over turn. In Magic, what you can play is limited by how much mana you can generate in a single turn. In Elements, any unused Quanta goes to a reserve to be used in later turns. In some strategies, this allows you to sacrifice a turn or two to make an especially powerful play later. There are no specifically multi-colored cards in Elements, though there are cards are better when used in conjunction with other colors. For example, the Mind Flayer card is a Water creature with the “Lobotomize” ability, which allows him to remove an ability from another creature in play. This ability is activated by the paying of Aether quanta, so if you don’t have a way to generate Aether quanta, you are left with a substandard creature with no abilities.
Each player has a set of 3 slots, designated for a Weapon, Shield and Mark. Your Mark generates 1 quanta of its color per turn, ensuring that you are never without at least that basic currency. Weapons will all deal some damage at the end of a turn, and most of them have abilities you can activate. Shields provide protection in a variety of forms. Some damage attacking creatures, some allow only certain types of creatures to attack, some reduce the chance for an attacking creature to hit by some percentage, etc. You have 2 rows for your permanents (your quanta producing cards and other non-creature goodies, and 3 rows for your creatures.
Each player starts with 100 life, but don’t let that number fool you into thinking you’ll have time to enact some crazy combos, there are a number of fast blitzy decks out there that will make short work of those life points. Similar to Magic, you lose the game if you are reduced to zero life, or if you go to draw a card and you can’t because your deck is empty.
Elements is fantastic for a free game to scratch a Magicky itch, but it’s not perfect. Here are some less than awesome aspects of the game.
1. The Grinding. Oh, the grinding. You start with a limited number of cards. You can play against bots for an ante of Electrum (the game’s money) and if you win, you collect an Electrum prize based on how much health you had at the end of the game, and a random chance to win some cards or money. It takes a lot of bot grinding to get you to a point where you are making significant improvements to your deck, and that’s within just one color. If you want to branch out, you either have to sell your existing cards for the money to buy into colors you want, or keep grinding until you have enough money to buy in without selling. After a while, this becomes less of a problem, unless, like me, you want to have every card so you have complete flexibility in whatever you want to build.
2. Beating on your friends is difficult. Not a huge complaint, but PVP is synchronous only (barring the Arena, which plays by special rules). So, if you want to see how your deck fares against your friend, you both need to be playing at the same time. Also, with specific player PVP, there are no rewards, to prevent people from creating dummy accounts for their main account to endlessly whack on for money and cards.
3. There are only how many cards? Elements doesn’t have a HUGE assortment of cards to pick from. There are enough to build a number of interesting decks, but it doesn’t really compare with Magic, which has thousands of cards. Elements is also free. This issue is mitigated through a number of means, first, there are cards that you can only gain through winning games or winning them in a daily chance to win a card. Also, each card has two forms. You can pay a (farily hefty) fee to upgrade a single card to its improved version. The improved versions are typically less expensive to play, or have better stats, or in some cases, unique abilities. Upgrading your cards also provides a decent gift for your tireless grinding. It’s not an entirely stagnant card pool, since I’ve been playing, I’ve seen new cards introduced.
4. It’s the same everywhere you go. Inevitably, you are going to come across decks that employ tactics that you just hate. That’s going to happen in every game of this nature. For me, it’s resource denial. My eyes instantly roll with an annoyed sigh while my cursor clicks the quit button as soon as my opponent starts playing things that destroy my quanta generating cards. What annoys each person changes with the person, so there’s opportunity for everyone to be annoyed! Hooray! Just remember, that you annoy as you are annoyed. While you are irritated that some guy on the internets keeps hiding behind shields and using stalling tactics while a combo is arranged, someone else is also frustrated that you packed your deck full of creatures that can’t be targeted by spells while they sit on a handful of spells designed to help keep creatures under control.
5. You can’t trade with other players! Minor quibble, but I wish you could.
That’s about it for my complaints, and none of them are enough to keep me away from the game. If, like me, you enjoy Magic and also free games, give Elements a chance, you won’t regret it. Look me up (username: agentindanger) for a game sometime!