Gaming peripherals come thick and fast every year; if it isn’t the latest breed of guitars and drumkits, it’s either something quite inventive such as Skylander’s cross-platform figure portal or something completely silly, take Tony Hawk: Ride’s embarrassing skateboard peripheral for example.
Coming into the current generation of consoles I was somewhat of a peripheral virgin; sure I got plenty of mileage out of the EyeToy but in terms of something truly tangible I hadn’t experienced anything before going out and grabbing a copy of VR trading card game, The Eye of the Judgment (EoJ) for my brand new PlayStation 3. In its nice looking, Velcro-laced box the bundle contained the game disc, a deck of cards, a playing mat, and a plastic scaffold to support the PlayStation Eye that was also included; being in my mid-teens at the time you could say I was just a little bit over excited.
The concept behind Eye of Judgment’s VR tech is simple; you plug in your PlayStation Eye, slot the base into the scaffold provided and tilt it directly downwards as to capture to entire playing mat, a simple fabric 3×3 grid. When it’s your turn to play a card, you lay it face up on the grid, the PlayStation Eye detecting a unique printed code that will spawn an animated figure on-screen. The starter deck also includes a handful of function cards, used to command the creatures under your control.
Equal parts frustrating and rewarding, I often found myself agitating the playing mat or elbowing the scaffold forcing me to recalibrate the amalgam of odd peripherals to resume play.[drop2]Gimmicks aside, the actual gameplay itself proved just as enticing as the level of interaction. So many trading card games focus on a strict model in which players summon creatures and other artefacts, items and whatnot in attempt to deplete the life source of their opponent; The Eye of Judgment however is a struggle for dominance, the first player to occupy five of the nine grids being hailed as the winner.
The game isn’t completely without conventions it must be said, mana is still used as a resource from which players activate their cards and there are also several different element types (colours) though in The Eye of Judgment their role is extends beyond aesthetic purposes.
Each card comes with a attack and health count, also attached with a summon cost and attack/defence patterns. The former are fairly self-explanatory, attack value dictates how many hit points are deducted from your opponent after a successful attack, each card also having their own battle formations marked at the bottom centre. These diagrams depict the 3×3 grid and which directions a card can both attack and defend.
For instance one creature may be specialised in ranged combat and therefore only be able to target the grid two squares in front of them, meaning that playing this card in the centre of the playing field would be ineffective. It’s not just the combat mechanics you have to keep an eye, positioning and formations also play a key part in every card battle.
As mentioned before, summoned creatures each belong to a specific school or element such as fire, earth, water etc. You will also notice that each square on the battlefield has its own element; another vital gameplay feature.
Naturally, elements will compliment each other when matched up, fire grids granting occupying fire creatures with +2 life points, though if a fire creature were summoned onto a water field, then it would lose 2 life points. Among EoJ’s library of cards are numerous spells which manipulate the battlfield, capable of flipping grids and changing their elements; it’s a dynamic system and ensures that you and your opponent are constantly aware of the in-game environment.
Playing Eye of Judgment and watching as my first card came to life was fantastic, it left me marvelling not only at the tech but the game’s stunning visuals too. However, once the novelty had worn off I soon realised that EoJ didn’t offer anything outside of the instant action one-on-one showdowns; bar its online component, which is now out of operation, there was little to keep players coming back after a few quick duels.
It was innovative, but as a full package The Eye of Judgment simply failed to square up even among the somewhat mixed post-launch lineup for the PlayStation 3. That’s not to say that it didn’t find success; relying on the sales of booster packs and decks the game’s business model seemed to hold up well as Sony issued two expansions even giving EoJ a huge update which introduced a new game mode and trophies.
Last year also saw the release of The Eye of Judgment: Legends, a PSP adaptation of the game which did away with VR tech and focused primarily on the game’s fiction and tactical gameplay. Without the peripherals it still proved enjoyable; although it lacks some of its big brother’s visual flair, in particular the 3D battle scenes triggered after each attack have been omitted.
With the PlayStation Vita on the horizon it wouldn’t surprise me if we saw a comeback in the next few years. Using the handheld’s camera, there is plenty of opportunity to develop a system which still makes use of the original game’s CyberCode tech.