To help student game developers improve their games, we’re going to do game design reviews…so that you get a sense of game mechanics that work…
Overview: In Warstorm: Challenges the player collects cards representing troops in a vast army. He builds decks in 7-card segments called “squads,” and then pits one to four squads against the computer or other players. There is a campaign mode, an arena, and a “daily campaign,” which is a new feature for the Facebook version of the game.
Collection: Warstorm: Challenges has this mechanic in spades. There are literally hundreds of cards to collect, and a player can theoretically include as many as 36 copies of one card in his deck. With certain card combinations that produce massive results in the game, there is a strong impetus to keep collecting more and more cards.
Purchased Collecting: The player can buy “novice” cards fairly cheaply, or the more advanced “expert” cards for a higher price. Playing against another player in their arena mode earns you points whether you win or lose, so the collection mechanic feeds back in and directly encourages the player to keep playing.
No Choices: For all the options the player has when putting together a deck, there is no decision-making once the battle begins. The game runs a simulation for how the decks clash and determines a winner. The positive side of this is that the more casual player doesn’t feel pressured to sit in place for half an hour while an opponent decides on moves in real-time. The negative side is that players often feel that they aren’t really playing the game (I’ve surveyed friends who tried this out, and it’s a frequent complaint in the forums).
Achievement: In the previous iteration of the game, on a separate site, Warstorm did very well by having a nice large achievement section for the player to reference. In the Facebook version they’ve improved on that design by placing the achievements you’re closest to achieving front and center on your main page. When I ran out of campaigns to overcome in the old edition, achievements are what kept me playing for a few more weeks.
Updated Content: This version does an even better job of providing a compelling play experience by including the “daily campaign.” Essentially, each day there is a new specific deck to defeat. Because the core of “gameplay” in Warstorm: Challenges is the building of the deck (this is where the player can make strategic decisions that affect his outcome), the inclusion of set decks to defeat makes Warstorm an actual game, not just a collection mechanic attached to a card game simulation.
Art: The art is middling. The card art loses a lot of its punch on the new smaller size Facebook permits, and the new interface additions make things feel a little crowded. On the other hand, every individual piece of art is quite decent and supports the general swords and sorcery theme.
Story: Not integrated enough. I’m a player whose primary interest is often in storyline, and I skip past the text that tells the story of why I’m having this or that battle, because I just don’t care and it never impacts gameplay. When I do read it, the writing is so-so; decent but unmemorable.
Well-Implemented Notification: When you gain an achievement in Warstorm, you get a button on the mission briefing entitled “brag to friends.” Because it’s built into the system it’s less obtrusive than the usual pop-up, and the tiny shift in wording makes it surprisingly enticing.
Player-Generated Content: This is the big thing missing, in my opinion. The players should be able to challenge one another with “towers” or some similar structure, with one player making a deck and others trying to beat it as the day wears on. This would allow the game (that is, the part where you’re designing a deck) to remain interesting for, essentially, an infinite amount of time. The reward structure would be difficult to devise, but it would take the game experience to the next level, even for the social or casual gamer.