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Chump Change: Elements, M:tG Without the Wallet-Sodomy

A review of Elements, a well-executed (and cost-effective) alternative to those paper Magic card things. My wallet cried tears of joy.

Crossposted from TK-Nation. TK-Nation's a South-East Asian gaming site that plays home to news about quality underdogs from the gaming world, indie cosplay and video game collectibles. 

Your Grandpappy says:


You kids have it so easy now, what with your horseless carriages and Internets and I-Things. We used to have it tough! Back in the old days, we used to walk five miles to school, both ways, in the snow, uphill, with wild wolves snapping at our heels!

And it wasn't easy being popular either! Back then it was hard to fit in! The jocks would stuff dodgeballs in your face and give you cancer (balls used to be made of lead and asbestos, not like your wussy rubber) and during lunch, the nerds would huddle near the corner table and flip their Serra Angels and Uncle IstvansIf you weren't good at dodging flying objects, you had to corner the weakest of the nerd herd and beg him for his used cards!

And even then, your charity deck was only fit to wipe your ass with! To win anything, I had to rob five banks and work three jobs just so I could pay for my Royal Assassins! And after I got out of jail two months later, I discovered that Wizards of the Coast had released those namby-pamby purple-looking cards that they were all using now!

What I'm trying to say, kids, is don't drink and smoke pot at the same time or else you'll wake up married to a vicious whore like your grandmother.

See guys? Being old sucks. And now for the review:

Elements is a 100% free online collectible card game (CCG) similar to Magic: the Gathering; like M:tG, you start out with a basic set of cards and customize it to your liking to face off against other players with decks of their own. 

Free is good, by the way, especially for a CCG. As the grandfather of collectible card games M:tG holds a special place in my heart, but the game quickly grew out of what my after-school job could afford. Wizards of the Coast must've stained their pants brown when they realized they could turn a bit of cardboard into a precious commodity just by dabbing some ink on top. 



1 dead tree: 13 pounds of carbon a year.
Printing machine: 1,000 USD.
Getting you to pay 2,000 USD for a piece of cardboard: Priceless.


In comparison, there are no microtransactions involved with Elements (although they do accept donations). That's right! You can be a cheap bastard and still do everything in the game!

Finally, it's also highly polished. As an old and retired veteran of M:tG, my initial cynicism towards Elements turned into gleeful surprise at its excellent design. Allow me to extol its many virtues below:

GAMEPLAY

The concept is easy: get cards, beat people, win more cards, beat more people. Upon creating an account, you're able to choose a starter deck of one of thirteen elements, each of which have their distinct playstyle - fire focuses on making things go boom, death focuses on disease and poisons, and so forth. To customize your deck and make it more powerful, there's a Bazaar which sells common cards for coins, which are earned by defeating computer and human opponents. Winning matches also takes you to a slot machine-type dealie which has the potential of giving you rare cards not found in the store.

Regarding customization, you're to free to mix and match any cards that you feel like, which means that with some understanding of the game you can pull off some scary and unexpected combinations to shock your opponents. Experimentation is easy, since you can choose the difficulty of your computer opponents before you step into PvP.



Yup, someone's "boned"...anyone? 


And if you feel the urge to start anew you can reset your account, wiping your win-loss record clean and selecting a new basic deck in exchange for losing all your previous cards. Considering how painless advancement is, this is hardly something to cry about.

 
CONTROLS

Even if you've never played a collectible card game before, don't worry - the game makes it easy to dip your toes in the water. For newbies, Elements provides a tutorial 'quest' system to guide you through the basics and give you some coins to buy new cards. During duels, Elements points out everything that you can play; cards in your hand that you can play are highlighted in white, cards on the board that you can use have a sparkly border. Your creatures attack automatically at the end of your turn. 

Everything requires two clicks at most: click the card, and click the target if necessary. It's so easy, even your (vicious) grandmother can play.


 
Author's Rating: 5/5 - "Same Great CCG Taste, Zero Calories!"

Elements combines a gentle learning curve with deep-but-simple gameplay to provide a collectible card game for casual players. Unlike M:tG, Elements doesn't require deep pockets, or mastery of an exponentially entangled ruleset fueled by the distributor's unceasing need to provide something new and sell more goods.

If you're the kind of person who enjoys the dynamics of CCGs but hates all the investment involved, I highly recommend trying Elements - but be careful. This article was supposed to be out two days ago, but I just couldn't stop playing One More Round™ long enough to write it.

Link to game: http://www.elementsthegame.com/
Link to game forum (for wussies): http://elementsforum.co.cc/

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