You’d be forgiven for thinking that Might & Magic: Duel of Champions - Forgotten Wars is some kind of trading card video game, but that’s short-sighted. No, it’s an investment opportunity of a lifetime – a chance to hand out huge amounts of money in return for digital versions of cards that your other half probably wouldn’t let you keep around the house anyway. Do you hate microtransactions? Fantastic, because Ubisoft has invented a whole new form of DLC: macrotransactions. After all, why charge small when you can aim big? Beneath the Windows 98-style pop ups and constant nagging, there’s definitely still a card game here somewhere – although it’s mainly just included to offer short breaks between opportunities to pay up.
Like any card game, Forgotten Wars is going to be an acquired taste. Although the rules are simple enough, it’s apparent that the developer didn’t expect any new players to pick up this game. You’ll race through a tutorial that largely leaves you to your own devices, and then you’ll be forced to choose from a series of decks that you won’t fully understand. In truth, you shouldn’t have too many problems playing, but that doesn’t excuse the title’s lack of communication.
Then you’ll get your first advertisement. We don’t know if this is a limited time deal or if it’s going to be a permanent part of the game, but upon finishing learning the ropes, you’ll be offered a one of a kind, will not be repeated chance of purchasing all of the additional content for a tiny slice of its usual cost. If you click no and leave the promotion, then later decide that you’d rather have put the money down, you’ll be out of luck – and, if you choose to buy it, completely out of pennies.
From here, you’re ushered into the card store – remember, you won’t have actually played a proper match at this point. The store works like a slot machine, with five drums offering a single card each. With every roll, you’ll be able to buy one of two cards – the other three are part of packs that you won’t own yet – and clicking them will take you to a purchase screen. You’ll have a decent amount of gold from the get go – enough to build up your deck for the first 10 to 15 stages at least – although you can always purchase more currency if you just want to use real money to power through the game’s collection segments. Fancy laying out £80 on a bunch of fake dosh? Ubisoft’s only too happy to allow it.
Before you dare rush off towards the actual game, you’ll be told to check out the new cards that you just bought in the deck creator. That’s all the information that you’ll get on that. There’s a distinct lack of help when building up your card army, and it’s not even laid out in an especially interesting way. If you’ve just paid real money to access a bunch of digital artwork, you’d at least expect a decent display case; sadly, there’s nothing of the sort.
Finally, now without distraction, you’ll be allowed to start a match. The difficulty is fairly well balanced, although the random aspect of picking cards from a deck does mean that you’ll be slaughtered time and time again, with really nothing that you can do about it. Like Blizzard’s popular Hearthstone, you and your opponent will take it in turns accruing action points with which you can summon bigger and stronger monsters or spells. The battles offer a mixture of both luck and tactics, which is genuinely enjoyable once you get past the payment model.
Graphically, the board is fairly disappointing. The computer moves so fast that you won’t be able to keep up with everything that’s happening on the screen, and that means that you’ll end up wasting time on your turn trying to figure out what moves your opponent’s just made. The images that fill your deck are nice enough, but don’t quite seem sharp enough to replicate a real card.
Win or lose, you’ll be taken back to the card shop, where you’ll probably be prompted to shell out some real money. Matches tend to last less than five minutes – just enough time to pop your credit card back into your wallet. Well, it wasn’t going to stay there long, was it?
The single player is quite decently sized, although the only difference between opponents is how difficult they are and what they look like. There are loads of stages, and you’re prompted to play through each one with several different decks. Alas, what it lacks in variety it makes up for in sheer length, and even the Trophies have been chosen with hundreds of hours of play in mind.
There’s an online mode as well, although as of writing we’ve been unable to get into a match. Multiple attempts, each timing out after a ten minute wait, make it seem like nobody is actually playing, and, of course, each failed connection pushes you straight back to the real money store. We all know that if there’s one thing that makes you feel better after an unsuccessful multiplayer attempt, it’s a bit of retail therapy.
Might & Magic: Duel of Champions - Forgotten Wars isn’t a terrible game, and in fact it can be quite fun once you’ve figured everything out and settled into a few comfortable strategies. Unfortunately, it’s all very poorly framed by adverts and requests for real money. There are free-to-play games entirely built around microtransactions that have more gameplay than this, and come across less financially demanding. If you have to have your Might and Magic fix, though, you probably won’t be disappointed – bankrupt, but not disappointed.