Board games are always fun. They create a sense of imaginary landscape to explore, bind families together, and allow friends to unleash the demons within them. But it sucks when there isn't anyone around to play with.
In a sense, South Asian game developer, Boomzap Studios, has re-created the sense of playing a digital board game with "Legends of Callasia."
They have pitched the game to me a few months ago, and I found their description utterly ridiculous, "Simultaneous turn-based world conquest strategy game mixed with board game and card game mechanics with no hotseat waiting."
I contemplate to this day if that pitch was intentional to get my attention. It did, actually, but not in a good way, to be honest. If this was the literary world, a pitch like that would be hauled to the farthest nuclear test site and would be ravaged twice over just to ensure it wouldn't spread some cosmic airborne virus. They could have just said that it's basically inspired by a board game or a tabletop RPG.
Half-meant jokes aside, "Legends of Callasia" turned out to be fun. It allowed me a modicum of exploration of what's it like to actually play a board game, within the confines of my own four-walled room.
Multiplayer mode allows conquests against other players, which should serve a refreshing experience per play through. The game is simple, straightforward, and quite well-thought of. Players command heroes, who go into battle against other enemies. Combat is determined by the heroes the player has and each turn, players are given a card that offers a small advantage during combat.
Beyond that, there is nothing much else to offer. Combat is automatic, and while graphics are pretty, you sit back and watch the arrows, axes, swords, and fireballs flung here and there, without a clear explanation what the hell is going on. I suppose, we can call it a somewhat, chaotic order. The game is flashy, that much I can promise. You cannot choose what kind of attacks each hero will execute, each one already as his role in the game. Much of the combat then, falls on luck and timing through each card drawn per turn. Another thing, the screen changes during combat, reminiscent of "Final Fantasy" and other JRPGs many of us grew up with, and while Callasia's backgrounds look pretty, there is nothing to see or grasp here. The only view are the hero cards and their attacks flying back and forth. While the combat itself is fun to watch, it makes me wonder if the change of background is really necessary other than look good.
And the cards do make a difference, a simple 50% increase in defense could save heroes from defeat, allowing them a chance to retreat in the next turn. I wasn't able to build a deck in the game - I'm not even sure if there's a deck builder. Or if there will be one in the future. It would be amazing if it did, however, I think that would defeat the purpose of the game being a fast-paced action tabletop-inspired RPG.
They have the option to defend, liberate, or raze a specific area they are in. Which adds to the overall strategy in the game. Liberating territories from enemy control will net you more gold, and razing areas - while I haven't actually figured it out completely, I suppose it's meant to destroy the land to delay enemy conquest.
Season changes in each turn. Though, it plays no vital role whatsoever, than offer a minuscule information about the passage of time. I yearn for something more complex. Creatures gain more strength, or become weaker, depending on the season. Or unlock new skills or cards when the proper season corresponds to a certain action. The lands, cities, and enemy behaviors would vary based on the season. Something that complex would breathe a deeper, meta-game. Â There's definitely a lot of room for development here.
This pulls me back during the PlayStation years, "Chrono Cross." It featured a game mechanic, where, each spell has an element that represents a color. Red for fire, blue for water, green for air - you get it - and each time a spell is used, it creates this color field that would strengthen the effects of the same colored spell on the next turn. It would add a whole new depth and strategy to Callasia if this were so.
Funny enough, while testing out the demo, the overall game gave me a small sensation that I'm playing Sid Meyer's "Civilization." Even funnier still, when I checked out their Kickstarter page, that was exactly what they were aiming for. That sense would have broadened into a wider spectrum if only, again, we get to some tidbits of information about the world - but once more, doing so wouldn't fit the game's style.
While the game features a fun gameplay mechanic, it lacks content that would make it a richer and deeper experience. There is little lore in the game, almost none, really. Cities, towns, general areas, and characters, don't have any concrete background.
But looking at it differently, that was never the point of the game. It's a multiplayer game, meant to be played for five to ten or so minutes per round, with different people. No one would give a shit on deckbuilding or the lore behind the world. What matters is someone is controlling the enemy heroes, real-time, and you want to kick his ass. In this case, "Legends of Callasia" triumphs, boasting an excellent measure of detail in its artwork and simple mechanics.
It was never meant to have such high ambitions. But it is looking for an audience that will appreciate it.Check out their website here.