final assault

PAX South 2019 Preview: Wage Tabletop VR Warfare in Final Assault

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While once prolific in the 90s, real time strategy games have ebbed in recent years. Controlling multiple units while managing resources, maintaining map awareness, and researching new weapons of war is a daunting task when armed with a mouse and keyboard, and nigh impossible anywhere else.

Yet I was blown away by how well Phaser Lock Interactive’s VR real time strategy game, Final Assault, captured all the fun of a real time strategy game while streamlining all the messy bits, creating an immersive virtual tabletop wargame.

At PAX South 2019 I was able to get some hands-on time (and heads-in for VR) with the 1v1 PvP mode for Final Assault, on the Hill-512 map.

I was immediately pleased with the aesthetic and size of the battlefield. Final Assault smartly keeps the World War 2 battlefield small and intimate so you don’t have to spend any time jogging around your living room or slowly pulling yourself across the contested war zone.

The cardboard and plastic art style is very reminiscent of the classic Army Men toy soldiers, or popular miniature wargames like Memoir ’44, giving the entire game an enjoyable tabletop vibe. Several times during the demo I was so distracted by the detail of the units, animations, and buildings that I fell behind in troop deployment.

“We used train sets as references. It’s amazing how detailed those train sets can get,” says Michael Daubert, CEO, Phaser Lock Interactive. “We wanted to make it a compelling and beautiful environment. It helps as well with performance and being able to build big environments and run at 90 frames per second.”

“One of the things I like about our maps is that if you look off into the distance, it doesn’t look like you’re in a fake world. I feel like I could go look and see what’s on the other side of those hills,” says Todd Bailey, Creative Director.

final assault

 

There are no resources to mange nor fog of war to worry about. A single currency level gradually ticks up, creating quick decisions on which units to buy, or to wait and unlock more advance units. Supply boxes will periodically air drop onto the map, granting a quick boost of money to whoever gets there first.

“Originally we created an entire RTS game, and it was crazy. There was way too many buttons, but when we took that out, you were waiting too long for stuff to build up. When you’re in VR you want to get into the action as quick as possible,” says Daubert. “What we did is focus more on the combat itself. We took away base building and tech trees. I wanted to focus on the faster gameplay of what an RTS can be. We’ve created a happy medium between RTS and MOBA that gets the player in as quickly as possible without the mental fatigue of trying to manage everything.”

A console-based strategy game is going to live and die by its control scheme. Final Assault’s drop-and-drag system worked perfectly to quickly get units out on the battlefield and into the fight.

The clipboard UI looks and feels great. I hold my tech tree catalog in one hand and simply grab the unit I want, like a biplane or tank, and plop it onto the map. Final Assault uses the lane-based combat of MOBAs to provide an easy way of handling multiple units. If a unit is dropped into one of the main lanes on a map, they’ll automatically follow it, engaging enemy forces along the way.

Infantry will constantly spawn and push the lane, creating a constant tug-of-war. It’s up to me to purchase and deploy the right units, and set them up in strategic places. Bombers can soften up tanks, while anti-air guns will help prevent an aerial ambush, and artillery can bombard fortifications from afar.

final assault

The demo ended as I deployed my Axis forces’ ultimate weapon – a V-2 rocket. I watched in gleeful satisfaction as it physically launched from my base and soared toward my opponent’s to the warning sounds of klaxons.

I came away really impressed with how quickly I was able to grasp the controls and flow of the lane-based warfare, despite having very little VR  experience. Final Assault already looks and plays great, and is shaping up to be a worthy competitive experience for any VR general.

Final Assault is coming to Steam Early Access on February 12, with a full launch later this April on Oculus and Vive. It will launch later this Summer on PlayStation VR and support cross-platform play. The final game will feature a single player campaign as well as online multiplayer PvP with 14 maps at launch, and more factions to arrive as post-launch DLC. It’s rated E10+.

pax south

The 20 Most Exciting Indie Games from PAX South 2019

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The fifth annual PAX South convention took place this month in San Antonio, Texas. The convention is smaller than other PAX shows, with an emphasis on indie games and tabletop games. A few big publishers were in attendance showing upcoming games, such as Capcom with Resident Evil 2 and Sony with Days Gone. But often these shows are a great opportunity to see smaller games and meet passionate developers.

Here is our alphabetical list of the 20 most exciting indie games we saw at PAX South 2019.

A Fold Apart

Developer: Lightning Rod Games
Platforms: PC, PlayStation 4, Switch, Xbox One
Release: Spring 2019 (PC and Switch, other consoles to follow)

A Fold Apart looks at first glance like a platformer, but there’s no jumping. Instead you’ll need to fold the pages of the world to bring the partners together, who are struggling with a long distance relationship. It’s based on a true story from lead designer Mark Laframboise. You play as both characters, choosing each of their genders. Something that seems sweet from one character may be viewed differently by the other as you see both sides of the complex relationship.

Bee Simulator

Developer: VARSAV Game Studios
Platforms: PC, PlayStation 4, Switch, Xbox One
Release: Spring 2019

In a shocking twist, Bee Simulator is all about playing as a bee. Set within Central Park in New York City, the life of a bee is fraught with both beauty and peril as you collect honey from flowers, defend your turf from wasps and spiders, and be wary of the most dangerous animal of all – humans. Varsav Game Studios are all too aware of the endangerment that bees face in our world and have produced the game with a socially conscious heart. But more importantly, it’s fun to fly around as a bee and pop balloons.

Bombfest

Developer: Sudden Event Studios
Platforms: PC, PlayStation 4, Switch, Xbox One
Release: Jan. 31

Mario Party-style multiplayer mini-games were definitely in vogue at PAX South 2019, but Bombfest stood out thanks to its adorable wooden block art style and easy pick up and play format. Up to four players choose an adorably dressed wooden block figure and compete in small household arenas like toy boxes and play mats. Players try to knock each other out of the ring, not unlike Super Smash Bros., through a variety of bouncing, freezing, and good ol’ fashioned exploding bombs. The family-friendly style and simple controls make Bombfest particularly well suited to the Switch.

Dark Devotion

Developer: Hibernian Workshop
Platforms: PC, PlayStation 4, Switch
Release: Early 2019

Dead Cells meets Dark Souls probably sounds like gibberish to a number of gamers, but for the rest of you, it’s an intriguing mixture. Dark Devotion is a side-scrolling RPG with the challenging but rewarding rhythmic combat of a Souls game with a Dead Cells 2D pixel style. The dungeon designs bear the dark inspiration of eldritch and Gothic horror. I died several times during the short demo at PAX, and still I wanted to come back for more.

Dicey Dungeons

Developer: Terry Cavanagh
Platforms: PC
Release: Spring 2019

In Dicey Dungeons a typical adventuring party has been transformed into anthropomorphic dice. The six-sided heroes navigate a series of roguelike dungeon crawls acquiring new loot cards, leveling up, and rolling dice during combat to activate abilities and attack enemies. All of the character classes play very differently from each other. The Witch gets spells instead of the usual loot and uses dice to cast them, while the Robot has a neat push your luck element when it comes to rolling dice each round. The turn-based combat could easily stand alone as an intriguing solo board game, and I particularly enjoyed the whimsical characters and art style.

Disjunction

Developer: Ape Tribe Games
Platforms: PC
Release: 2019

Disjunction is a cyberpunk stealth action game wrapped in a top-down pixelated art style. It’s Deux Ex indie style, and it’s damn good. You take on the roll of three characters, each with their own stories and playstyles as you dive into the classic cyberpunk themes of corporate espionage. Enemies have clear vision cones that must be avoided – although you can certainly treat every level like a guns-blazing bloodbath if you wanted, which has repercussions for the story. I opted to use my various gadgets, including smoke grenades and a paralyzing dart, to quietly take out foes and hide the bodies. It’s been three long years since Deus Ex: Mankind Divided and Disjunction is looking to fill that void quite nicely.

Evolution: The Video Game

Developer: North Star Digital
Platforms: PC, iOS, Android
Release: Feb. 12

Evolution: The Video Game has the quirky honor of being on our most anticipated PAX South list for the third year in a row. The digital adaption of the award-winning board game has been in development for a long time, but it’s looking better than ever, with gorgeous art and animations, cross-platform play, online multiplayer, and a full single player campaign that unlocks new AI for skirmishes. I’ve been playing the beta throughout the last year and have been consistently impressed with the updates and additions with each new patch, and very much looking forward to one of the best digital board game adaptations around.

Fantasy Strike

Developer: Sirlin Games
Platforms: PC, PlayStation 4, Switch
Release: 2019 (Currently available via Steam Early Access)

If you’ve been disappointed by the recent trend of fighting games, either from complexity, input lag, or style, Fantasy Strike hopes to bring you back into the fold. It’s billed as an accessible 2D fighting game with intuitive one-button controls and easy to grasp mechanics, developed by a master fighting game craftsman, David Sirlin. Fantasy Strike looks and plays nice but a fighting game lives and dies by its community. Time will tell if it can pull fans away from Street Fighter and Mortal Kombat.

Final Assault

Developer: Phaser Lock Interactive
Platforms: PS VR, Oculus, Vive
Release: 2019

I had yet to play a VR game I truly enjoyed until Final Assault. Slotting a traditional management-heavy real time strategy game would have spelled disaster, but Phaser Lock Interactive smartly took cues from the MOBA genre to create a much more streamlined and fun experience. Final Assault plays more like a real time miniatures wargame as you and your opponent survey the tabletop-size battlefield, dropping troops, unlocking advanced forces, and watching the destruction unfold all around you.

Ion Maiden

Developer: 3D Realms
Platforms: PC, PlayStation 4, Switch, Xbox One
Release: 2019

3D Realms is back and they brought an impressive Duke Nukem 3D clone to PAX South. Ion Maiden is a classic first person shooter done entirely within the original Build engine, which featured a pseudo-3D world with pixelated graphics and 2D models. It’s a massive nostalgia trip for anyone who lived through 90’s PC shooters, but it’s also a solidly enjoyable fast-paced action game with labyrinthine level designs full of secrets and plenty of fun weapons and enemies.

JackQuest: The Tale of the Sword

Developer: NX Games
Platforms: PlayStation 4, Switch, Xbox One
Release: January 24

The 2D action-platformer is probably the most common genre for indie games to explore. But that shouldn’t discredit the good ones, like JackQuest: The Tale of the Sword. JackQuest features a boy and a really big sword as they adventure through a cavernous dungeon. Like Shovel Knight, JackQuest nails the pixelated aesthetic and old school level design while featuring tight controls and satisfying movement and combat.

Last Epoch

Developer: Eleventh Hour Games
Platforms: PC
Release: 2020 (Steam Early Access in 2019)

The traditional Diablo-style action-RPG has ebbed and flowed over the last several years, mostly relying on indie games like Grim Dawn to provide that classic loot-obsessed gameplay. Last Epoch takes the “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” mantra of design, adhering closely to past and recent juggernauts such as Diablo, Path of Exile, and Titan Quest. Last Epoch will feature multiple classes with specialties and augmented skills, an endless supply of loot drops, multiple end game systems, and a Chrono Trigger-inspired story featuring time-travel.

MageQuit

Developer: Bowlcut Studios
Platforms: PC, Switch, Xbox One
Release: 2019

MageQuit is one of the best kind of games to show at conventions: a 10-player multiplayer brawl that ends in shouts of joy and cries of defeat. Every round players draft spells for their wizards, with each round gaining a new spell to add to their repertoire. Spells are elemental-based, such as fireballs, rock walls, and air-dashes, and the too-small arenas are designed to get wizards blasting each other quickly and hilariously. MageQuit is available now via Steam Early Access, and best played with a large group of friends.

Mowin’ and Throwin’

Developer: House Pixel Games
Platforms: PC, PlayStation 4, Switch, Xbox One
Release: 2019 (available now via Steam Early Access)

Silly name aside, Mowin’ & Throwin’ is a delightfully fun competitive mowing game. Players take on the role of mischievous lawn gnomes in 1v1 or 2v2 with the goal of mowing their side of the lawn before their opponent. Power-ups fall from the sky while gnomes can chuck rocks and plant more grass onto each other’s yards. The level designs take a page from Overcooked with numerous challenges and hazards, such as rotating platforms, fences, and water.

Project Witchstone

Developer: Spearhead
Platforms: PC
Release: 2020

The developers behind Stories: The Path of Destinies and Omensight have their sights on a very ambitious new game, tentatively called Project Witchstone. Witchstone aims to be a massive tactical RPG that grants player freedom and meaningful choices in a fantasy world. Witchstone is still very early in development, but Spearhead is planning on a completely open development process, beginning with a Kickstarter campaign later this year.

Projection: First Light

Developer: Shadowplay Studios
Platforms: PC, PlayStation 4, Switch, Xbox One
Release: 2019

Projection: First Light is a 2D puzzle-platformer starring a shadow puppet named Greta. Greta’s primary ability is to manipulate the shadows around her using a controllable ball of light with the right stick. The shadows create new platforms for Greta to traverse past obstacles. I found it incredibly challenging to think along an entirely different dimension with the way shadows were cast from the light’s positioning, but intrigued to try more.

Rezplz

Developer: Long Neck Games
Platforms: PC, Xbox One
Release: 2019

Rezplz is another 2D puzzle-platformer with an intriguing twist – your primary ability is to resurrect your partner. The young sibling wizards start only with the ability to ‘rez’ each other, making death a means to overcome the many enemies and hazards that lie in wait. To get over a bed of spikes, for example one of them can jump in and die, while the other can use their body as a platform, then resurrect them on the other side. The death animations are hilariously macabre, and the Lost Vikings-style level designs have a lot of potential for both single player and co-op.

Splitgate: Arena Warfare

Developer: 1047 Games
Platforms: PC
Release: 2019

While many competitive multiplayer games chase the Battle Royale bandwagon, Splitgate: Arena Warfare is firmly fixed on the past. That could be a winning strategy when you combine two of gaming’s most beloved franchises: Halo and Portal. The old school arena shooter looks and plays great with Halo-style guns and pacing. The obvious twist is the ability to create matching portals to zip around the battlefield, creating an entirely new dimension that further rewards map awareness and quick positioning.

Stygian: Reign of the Old Ones

Developer: Cultic Games
Platforms: PC
Release: 2019 (A demo is available on Steam)

Most Cthulhu stories revolve around the prevention of eldritch armageddon, but Stygian: Reign of the Old Ones places you firmly in the post-apocalypse when the old gods have already wrecked havoc. The old school cRPG checks all the right boxes with stat-based character creation, an open world full of consequences and choices, and turn-based tactical combat.

ToeJam & Earl: Back in the Groove

Developer: HumaNature Studios
Platforms: PC, PlayStation 4, Switch, Xbox One
Release: March 1

Seeing a new ToeJam & Earl game releasing in 2019 is eye-rolling, but I was pleasantly surprised with ToeJam & Earl: Back in the Groove. Taking its cues from the 1991 original, Back in the Groove features randomly generated levels as our stranded alien friends try to find the missing pieces to their spaceship. The isometric levels are literally stacked on top of one another as up to four players can explore on their own pace using dynamic split-screen, avoiding enemies, finding powerups, and listening to funky tunes and remixes.

 

furiends

Walk Your Virtual Dog with Furiends AR Mobile Game

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Furiends is a mobile AR game designed to motivate players to get up and move around. Instead of hunting for Pokémon, however, you’re walking the dog.

“Furiends offers the one-of-a-kind experience of adopting a dog in augmented reality,” said Kyra Constam, Blue Goji. “These virtual dogs can go on any adventure, making for some unreal photos along the way. We encourage players to play, train, and take their best shot.”

The goal is to play and walk with your furry friends as much as possible. Stars are rewarded for playtime while Coins are rewarded for taking steps using your smart phone’s step tracker. Stars and Coins can be traded in to gift your pet with food, toys, clothes, and accessories for photos.

Players are encouraged to upload their AR dog pics to Furiends’ official Instagram account for a chance to win prizes.

Furiends will be playable at PAX South this weekend, taking place in San Antonio, TX. The mobile game is currently free to download on iOS, and supported by in-app purchases to buy more toys, accessories, and other items for your virtual pet. Blue Goji is donating a portion of the proceeds to non-profit pet rescue organization Austin Pets Alive.

An Android version is set to arrive later this year. Furiends has a rating of 4+ on the App Store.

dauntless

PAX South Preview: Dauntless is Part Destiny, Part Monster Hunter

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Dauntless either has terrible timing or brilliant timing. Indie developer Phoenix Labs had one of the largest booth at PAX South to show off their free-to-play monster hunting game. The booth lie in the shadow of the even larger Capcom booth, whose gigantic Rathalos statue beckoned people to play one of the biggest releases of the year: Monster Hunter: World. Dauntless offers a much more streamlined – and more importantly free alternative to the niche hunting genre.

“We’re big fans of the hunting genre,” said Reid Buckmaster, combat designer for Dauntless. “We wanted to bring together elements of games we all enjoyed to build the ultimate co-op game that we at the studio always wanted to play. We’re using elements from Monster Hunter, but also gameplay loops from Destiny.”

After several crashes on the demo PC I finally loaded up into a mission with a group of three other hunters, called slayers. Four weapon loadouts were available, and I chose the war pike.

Dauntless uses an easy to understand combo system with two attack buttons, as well as a special attack that varies depending on the weapon. My war pike could focus a laser beam, while the dual blades could either be hurled to close the distance, or used to vault away from a monster to avoid danger.

Combos are quickly accessible from the pause menu, teaching me basic strategies for getting the most out of my weapon – button mashing only gets you so far.

“We want to push players to switch between the weapon types,” said Buckmaster. “Players should want to feel like they have a main weapon, but be able to quickly switch out depending on their party composition or the encounter.” There are five weapons currently available: sword, hammer, axe, dual blades, and the war pike. A sixth weapon is being planned for open beta.

The four of us landed on a floating island to begin our hunt. The islands are relatively small zones and contain a number of gatherable resources and plants, which can then be used to craft potions and items back in the hub town of Ramsgate.

As in Monster Hunter we were given a time limit to hunt the monster. “We’re shooting for an average hunt time of about 15 minutes,” said Buckmaster. “If you have the right gear and really know your way around, you could finish one as quickly as five minutes.”

We stuck together and soon found our prey: Skarn. Skarn was a large four-legged dinosaur monster equipped with giant plates of rocky armor. It could knock the armor off and use it as a weapon, or slam the ground and cause rocky spires to jut out and impale us. The four of us surrounded it and began hacking it up, getting knocked around in the process. A big part of the strategy is learning to read a behemoth’s attack patterns and weaknesses, and a live demo on the show floor isn’t the ideal way to tackle it.

dauntless

Skarn retreated to a different area, giving us some breathing room to apply healing before chasing after it. There were some glowing blue outcroppings on the ground we could activate for an additional healing font. We also came equipped with several healing potions. If someone went down we could revive them, provided someone else distracted the monster away.

Sadly the behemoth ended us before we could take it down, though we gave it a valiant effort. Monsters scale with the number of players, and Skarn represented a Tier 2 behemoth. Normally it would not be the first monster you face.

Skarn is one of 18 behemoths currently available in the closed beta, spread out over five different difficulty tiers. The starter monsters at Tier 1 are easier versions of other behemoths, while a few later behemoths repeat the base monster designs but with different coloring and attack patterns.

Fighting behemoths is more than just trying to kill them. Targeting specific body parts and destroying them will nullify some of the monster’s attacks, as well as rewarding you with that body part. Body parts are used to craft more powerful weapons and armor, which in turn allow you to hunt more dangerous prey.

Dauntless is currently in closed beta, with an open beta arriving this summer on PC. Since it’s going to be free to play, Phoenix Labs admits that the open beta will essentially be a soft launch. “For open beta we’ll have the outline of our campaign,” said Buckmaster. “The goal is to have a full story campaign with voice acting and cutscenes. It’s not unlike Destiny where the 10-15 hour campaign shows you the ropes and gets you into the universe. Beyond that you’re grinding out for better stuff and going for the top accolades.”

dauntless

Phoenix Labs promises the game will remain free to play, with no pay-to-win elements. “We are very firmly against pay-to-win type mechanics,” said Buckmaster. “You won’t be able to purchase anything that will affect your gameplay. The only things available to purchase will be cosmetics, like designs for flares and armor.”

Dauntless is planned for a PC launch initially, but Phoenix Labs are eyeing console releases for the future, though no consoles have yet been announced.

Can Dauntless survive now that many hunting fans are knee deep into the recently released behemoth of the genre, Monster Hunter: World? “The hunting genre has been pretty niche and sometimes difficult to get new players into,” said Buckmaster. “That’s something we wanted to do focus on with Dauntless – having a really inviting game that has depth, but easy enough to jump into and start hitting buttons.”

Lightseekers trading card game

PAX South Preview: Lightseekers Trading Card Game

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The future of the toys to life genre may look bleak, but PlayFusion has a few cards up their sleeves to remain optimistic. Their Lightseekers cross-media brand had a successful Kickstarter campaign in 2016, and began releasing last year. But it’s the collectible trading card game I checked out at PAX South 2018.

The Lightseekers Trading Card Game is no mere tie-in or side project, this is a fun, full-fledged card game with unique mechanics and 386 cards, each of which becomes an augmented reality card when scanned into the Lightseekers mobile game.

“Lightseekers is a really fun game that’s easy to learn and difficult to master,” said Willie Wilkov, Chief Marketing Officer for PlayFusion. Wilkov was kind enough to run through a full demo of the game for me at PAX, surrounded by an ongoing Lightseekers cash-prize tournament and numerous play stations.

The card game, like the digital game, revolves around heroes – the Lightseekers. Every deck must contain a single hero, which is set in front of each player. This hero provides the player’s health bar, a unique Hearthstone-like ability, and determines which type of cards you can play. I played with the Mountain Starter Deck and the hero Dolo the Mighty. Each hero has access to three elements, which in total make up each of the six Orders. Mountain has Fire, Earth, and Crystal.

Each deck is made up of five combo cards and 30 action, buff, or item cards. Combo cards are more powerful, but require a certain combination of elements in your hand. For example, to play my Stream of Tantos combo, I’d need to also have Fire, Earth, and Crystal cards in my hand. I spend those cards by shuffling them back into my deck and play the combo.

Action cards simply do their action, and can be played up to twice a turn depending on the hero’s preferred element. This is in stark contrast to many CCG’s which often involve summoning creatures to battle one another. In Lightseekers it’s the heroes themselves doing the battling, and each player is playing cards to do instant damage, heal, or defend against incoming damage.

The bulk of the strategy seems to be about timing. The main way to draw cards is to not play cards, so there are odd times of both players passing back and forth as they build up their hands, hoping to unleash a powerful combo while setting up defenses.

Healing and damage mitigation were quite prevalent in both my Mountain deck and Wilkov’s Nature deck, causing our health to fluctuate back and forth during the relatively quick match. Not having to worry about multiple creatures on the board with individual health bars help streamline the entire experience and made Lightseekers feel unique.

The other unique factor were the nifty rotating buff cards. “There’s a rotating buff mechanic where the cards at the start of your turn rotate 90 degrees, changing the value of the cards,” said Wilkov. “A lot of players really like that and it’s where a large part of the strategy comes into play.” Buffs are cards are placed in front of you with ongoing effects. Most have numbers in their corners, and they’re designed to rotate at the beginning of each of your turns, possibly changing how effective the card is, or setting up some cool traps.

I played a Prism Cannon, which rotated on my next several turns. It did damage according to the number at its current rotation, but this was a patient trap. The first three numbers were ‘X’, doing nothing, but at the fourth rotation it would blast my opponent for eight damage, provided they didn’t find a way to get rid of it first.

The rotating buffs mesh well with the idea of planning for big turns. At that same time my Prism Cannon went off, I had a second buff, the Colossi Ritual Site, rotate from its ‘X’ position to ‘3’, increasing all damage I dealt by that amount. It boosted my Prism Cannon’s damage from 8 to 11, perfect timing!

Every card is also imprinted with a unique digital code, represented by dots on the border. “You can scan and use these cards in the action-adventure roleplaying game,” said Wilkov. “Each card grants rewards and abilities in the game. It’s a blend of the physical and the digital.” The Lightseekers mobile game (iOS, Android, Amazon) is a rudimentary free-to-play action-RPG. Most cards activate temporary buffs, abilities, or allies, while combo cards unlock permanent new skills for your heroes.

Lightseekers looks like it’s designed for standard one-on-one battles, but it actually scales for multiple people. “We’ve played in the office with up to seven players,” said Wilkov. The multiplayer rules (and the cards themselves) specifically make separate reference to targets and enemies, and uses a system of gaining victory points for eliminating your personal targets.

Each of the six orders are available as a starter deck, containing one hero, 5 combo cards, 30 action cards, and a booster pack, as well as a tuckbox for storing cards. Each booster pack includes nine cards, and always contains one hero card, one rare, and two uncommons.

I was given the Intro Pack, which contained starter versions of the Storm and Tech Orders, two fold-out paper battle mats, and a booster pack. The battle mats are a nice way to keep things organized, even though Lightseekers is already very light on card clutter given only the buffs and items remain on the board.

I have played a lot of collectible card games, and many that were aimed at a younger crowd. It’s not hard to see the instant appeal of Lightseekers. The artwork is solid, the rules straightforward, and rotating cards to access different variations is a neat system. You can build entire deck strategies around combo cards, though pulling too many from booster packs can be annoying since you can only ever include five in your deck.

I can see Lightseekers filling a nice mid-tier void somewhere between Pokémon and Magic: The Gathering. I hope it can succeed among the always competitive marketplace of collectible card games.