I’ll start with the obvious: I’m a “PC Gamer”. I did start with the arcades and a “fake” NES at home, but switched to PC around 13 and never looked back… until I moved to a new city for work and only had a tablet for a while. Then I started mobile gaming. I mean, I did play Snake on Nokia, but Snake shouldn’t be compared with mobile gaming. Snake is Snake. Anyway, since that iPad, I’ve been trying out a variety of games. The game I’ll talk about, Gems of War, is one of, if not the game that I spent the most time on my mobile devices. It looks simple, but it’s far from that. Let me tell you more.
You may look at a few screenshots and decide GoW is a match-3 game. You aren’t wrong, but you aren’t right either: While the “core gameplay” happens in a m-3 environment, there is so much more going on during gameplay. And on top of that, there is the “meta” part, which is very wide.
In short, you will be forming teams from up to 4 “cards”, which may be troops or weapons wielded by your hero. A troop has its own stats, passive traits and an active ability. Stats are increased by level, which is increased by spending resources. There are 3 traits per troop which are also unlocked by spending resources. Active ability is there from the start, but its effect will usually be boosted by the stats. If you want to use your hero, you will choose a class (you will unlock many of them during the game and can switch before starting a game as you wish) and a weapon. Class and level defines your stats, class defines your traits and the weapon defines your activity. In short, your hero works like a troop, except it’s two selectable parts.
Of course, your enemy will also have a similar team. You’ll “generate mana” by matching gems. As you can guess, you get more mana if you match more than 3 gems and more importantly you will get another turn, meaning if you keep matching 4 or more gems, you can keep doing it with no limit. You generate mana of the colors you match (ie if you match 3 greens, you get green mana) and the first card in your deck with that color will absorb the mana. If they fill their mana bar, they will be able to use their ability. Unlike some more casual games, you choose when to use these abilities.
GoW doesn’t have crazy gems that destroy in patterns, but you do have an exceptional gem: The skulls. These gems, when matched in 3, will make your top card to attack the enemies top card. Think “face attack” from Hearthstone.
And that’s pretty much all, actually. Simple concept. Easy to learn. But. There is a but. The game is actually quite complex since the combination of different traits, abilities, mana costs and colors open up to an incredible amount of possibilities. At this point, I should mention that the game is developed by the developers of Warlords: Battlecry III and Puzzle Quest.
And just like these games, GoW is full of magic, color and lots of gameplay options. The game does have a lot of “RNG” (new gems that fill in blanks, chance to get more mana when matching 3, some skills that generate or destroy gems) but mostly, your success will depend on your team setup (strategy) and your actual moves (tactics.)
That said, when RNG is “against you”, the game gets really frustrating. You just watch as the enemy scores a 4 match after 4 match, get lucky drops and take out your cards one by one, helpless. As someone who is almost always a calm player, I found out GoW brought out the angry little monster in me.
Sounds less simple, right? Is this a game for hardcore players then? Not necessarily. The good thing about the game is that it presents tons of things to do and a lot of them have different and selectable difficulties. This way you can choose when you want to push for harder difficulties or just play a chill game.
Let me give you some examples of the activities:
Kingdoms: These are probably the first activity you’ll focus on. The game has about two dozens of kingdoms, all of which have a quest-line. Completing quests will grant you a special card (related to the quest line) and unlock challenges, which are replayable fights related to that kingdom. You also increase your income from that kingdom. As you collect more cards and weapons from a kingdom and upgrade them, you’ll be increasing your kingdom level, which in turn will grant you more resources and even some stat bonuses. These bonuses per Kingdom aren’t high, but as you unlock more, you’ll feel the difference. Finally, once the questline is over, you’ll be able to “explore” this kingdom, which gives you a bunch of random fights that help you with a certain resource.
PvP: You can do it ranked or unranked. Regardless, it’s asymmetric (meaning you don’t actually connect to a live player, but play their defense team run by AI) and there are 3 tiers to choose, so you can fight with lower level enemies if you are new and move up the ladder in time.
Delve: In addition to the “surface” kingdoms, there are ones underground. Instead of challenge and explore, you unlock “Delve” in these kingdoms. A delve is a series of “Ironman” fights: If you lose a card, it will be missing in the next one! Also, each team you defeat will increase your final rewards but grant a bonus trait to the enemy or your team for the rest of the fights. Some fights are optional, so you have to weigh each of them and decide if they are worth the risk. As you do delves, you’ll increase the size of the treasure hoard in each kingdom, which will give your troops a stat boost when delving. You will also increase the hoard quality, which will improve your rewards.
As you can see, each activity in itself is almost like a mini-game and I haven’t even mentioned half the possible activities! There are pet fights, a craft system, boss fights, guild wars and much more!
Social is the Future
Mobile games are traditionally social and GoW is no different: If you enter a guild, you can invest some resources to unlock rewards for the whole guild. While per person return of the investment doesn’t sound much, when 30 people invest in it, the outcome is great and you should definitely join a guild. There are also weekly activites and special guild chests that have exclusive loot. There is really no reason not to join one.
Thankfully, the game doesn’t force you to ask your friends for energy or whatever. It’s the good kind of social.
Resources and Rewards
I won’t get deep into this but there are a multitude of resources and rewards. Resources are gathered and used for different actions. I have to say, overall it’s a pretty tidy system but it may take a short while to learn each part.
Rewards are either resources, cards or keys. There are a variety of keys, each of which unlock different chests. There are differences in quality of cards you get from each of them.
Managing Monetary Investments
The game does allow you to invest a lot of money and you could technically get a lot from it. That said, I’ve never felt the game was pay2win. You can choose the difficulty of actions, anyone can farm resources and especially if you are in an active guild, you’ll be getting tons of stuff.
A loyalty scheme called the VIP System rewards you permanently for purchases and if you think you’ll play the game I’d definitely suggest investing in a high level armor and reaching the VIP level that automatically scouts the enemy. You really don’t need any more.
That’s the investment I made years ago and never felt I should spend more. I do buy a small (2$ range) pack now and then to support the devs but it’s not really required.
Remember how I said GoW was mobile? I lied. Or rather, I didn’t tell you the whole truth. You can find GoW in console devices and steam as well!
I’ve written so much and believe me, I’ve just been scratching the surface! I will be sharing some teams and getting a closer look at some systems in the game later. I would strongly recommend the game as someone who isn’t into card games!