One down-side of the sheer madness of planning for, scheduling meetings, and actually attending two back to back conventions (GDC and PAX) was the amount of things that slipped through the cracks during that time. I've been going back and pouring through releases from the last few weeks and one that sticks out is Shadow Era [Free], a collectable card game by Kyle Pool, the man responsible for bringing Battle for Wesnoth [$4.99 / HD]. Shadow Era is universal, and there's even a browser version that can be played at ShadowEra.com. There's also plans for additional clients for PC/Mac/Android, with all of your cards and decks synchronized online.
The one drawback of that kind of cross-compatibility is that Shadow Era requires an internet connection, but as someone who is constantly frustrated by having game saves that are trapped on a particular device, this seems to be a worthy sacrifice. Gameplay seems to be a cross between Magic: The Gathering and the World of Warcraft card game. An in-game tutorial does a great job of explaining how the game works, but if you really want to get in to the strategy of the game I'd recommend taking a look at this thread on our forums as well as the Shadow Era forums themselves.
Judging by the overwhelmingly positive response on our forums about this game, I know I'm in the minority here, but these kind of collectable card games drive me crazy. I've played Magic: The Gathering on a competitive level on and off for close to 15 years now and all of these home-grown CCG games just pale in comparison. The card pool is limited, gameplay feels like an amalgamation of elements from existing games, and so much of the fun of playing a CCG is the social aspect-- Something sorely missing from Shadow Era. But would you pick up on this if you haven't spent most of your life playing collectable card games? I doubt it.
That being said, the way Shadow Era is being sold is a fantastic representation of what freemium games should be. It's totally free to download and try, and you're given one starter deck from the get go that allows you to just go to town playing the game. Similarly, winning games awards you an in-game currency which can be used to buy more cards. You can either slowly grind this currency up by playing, or you can just flip out a few bucks and buy whatever you'd like. Also, because this is a strategy-based game, throwing money at it doesn't necessarily make you any better, so it's not like you're at much of a disadvantage if you only ever play with what you can get for free.
Even though it's easy for me to complain about nitty gritty CCG details that likely few people even care about, I still highly recommend giving Shadow Era a try. I hope the game is wildly successful too, as maybe it will prompt Wizards of the Coast (or Hasbro via EA or whatever corporate dragon is sitting on top of the M:TG pile of gold) to release a iOS version of either the Magic: The Gathering Online client or Duels of the Planeswalkers. I'd be satisfied with either.
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