Bend’s work with the Uncharted franchise on Golden Abyss showed how the PS Vita could handle a proper, full console experience. It was a superb entry into the series: a lengthy adventure, gorgeous graphics and excellent controls. A sequel, then, shouldn’t be far behind, with Sony surely well aware of the pull of Drake and friends, regardless of the platform.
In the meantime, from the same developers (and with a little bit of help from One Loop Games) comes this surprise new entry: Uncharted: Fight For Fortune. This, as you’ve probably read since it was leaked a month or so back and then confirmed, is not a third person adventure – it’s a rather more sedate, cerebral card battler. It’s also, as far as I can tell, rather enjoyable.[drop2]The issue is that review code was only distributed yesterday afternoon, and the embargo was up today. That doesn’t leave a lot of time to really explore the intricacies of the mechanics behind the cards and the rules, but it does give us a chance to take a look at how it all works and give you some first impressions.
Those impressions are mostly entirely positive, and it’s far from the disappointment that first surfaces when the game was initially illustrated.
Card battlers are hugely popular, and despite an almost overwhelming brick wall of information and static help screens that do little to explain the system behind the graphics, Fight For Fortune is actually a pretty good use of the license, and an almost perfect fit for the Vita.
The game is based around Factions (which are characters from the Uncharted games – including Eye of Indra, nicely) split into three divisions: Heroes, Villians and Mercenaries. These Faction cards have health points, cost and attack points, and are placed on your half of a 2 x 5 grid, facing you but battling against your opponent. You play the Faction card first, then on top of that you add a Fortune card, and start to build a vertical stack.
Fortune cards are picked blindly from a random selection of three, and are used to increase your wealth (should the battle be successful) or can be cash immediately, for a smaller value. Resource cards (which cost Fortune) are added on top, and these act as modifiers – guns, or special abilities – to the Faction card at the bottom of the stack.
In the attack phase, the statistics are all calculated and health points are deducted appropriately. It’s far from flashy, but it’s functional enough and, once you’ve realised that you need to zoom in and out to read the text and numbers, presented reasonably well. It’s not a visual game – yes, the menu system looks like Golden Abyss, but don’t be expecting fancy effects. Even some of the cards look a little blurry, especially when you’re viewing the whole table.
The goal is to battle with the Faction cards to ultimately reduce the health of your main character, who hides behind the cards. Your first is Doughnut Drake, an easily dispatched foe who makes way for Drake proper in round two. Winning a faction battle removes their card from the table, and it’s best practice (at least from what I’ve gathered so far) to have a facing card as soon as possible to defend your character.[drop]Some Factions combo up if they’re related – which is smart – and artifacts found in the game (and those collected already from Golden Abyss) can be used in the battles once unlocked.
The game asks to scan the Vita for a Golden Abyss save from the LiveArea screen, so if you’ve been collecting the bounties you’ll have a bit of a head start, although new treasures do seem to come into play fairly frequently anyway.
Our review copy came with two additional packs of cards for Uncharted 2 and Uncharted 3 as extra (tiny) downloads – it’s not clear whether these will be additional DLC when the game launches, but apart from a couple of high powered Faction cards it seems the most these do is increase the variety available and offer up more combos – a further play will hopefully reveal deeper significance to these extra elements.
The game offers up a decent single player game, but also a few multiplayer options (and even a pass-the-Vita two player mode) and the option to fine tune your card sets should result in plenty of tactical variety for those prepared to invest some time in the rules and systems used here. It feels like one of those games you’ll play between the big hitters, and with that in mind (and assuming it’s price well) this could well be a sleeper hit for Sony.
Uncharted: Fight For Fortune is out this month for the PS Vita, as a download from the PlayStation Store (it’s only about 300MB, too). Our full review will follow.