Friday, 12 April 2013

#5 Amber Route Review [Android, iOS]

        While impossibly deep and rich, the Slavic folklore is somewhat neglected in gaming. Sure, we have the two Witcher games overflowing with it, but apart from that, there are only a few minor titles. As a Slav myself, I am always happy to see a game set among the drowners and rusalkas, so I have been happy to be able to try out Amber Route. Did it meet my expectations?

        While abundant and colourful, Slavic legends are also quite specific. This specificity shows in multiple ways, from the stories being surrealistic to the way of depicting the bestiary. To some it will appeal, to some it will not, so the best way is to see for yourself. And if you want to see it, make double sure to try Amber Route! I must admit that this is one of the most Slavic games I have ever played! While the Witcher took the folklore and turned it into something more high-fantasy-like, Amber Route remains loyal to the original, for good or bad. You will most probably love it or hate it right away.

        The game itself is a card game played against a computer opponent or in hot-seat. Matches are rather quick, making it perfect for mobile devices. Your goal is to get the amber caravan from one side of the map to the other and to stop the opponent from doing so first. You will achieve this by playing different cards from your hand. Oh yes, the cards. They are beautiful. Simply beautiful in every aspect and I am full of respect for the game’s artists. We also have three resources – Runes, Meat and Gold – which we use to pay for actions, as well as Amber and Escort, two values defining our caravan. In our turn we can play a card, discard a card, move the caravan at the cost of amber and escort or draw a divine card, if we have enough resources. These special cards are as powerful as they are unpredictable, oftentimes harming the one who played it, but usually giving them a great edge.

        As for the game modes, there are several of them, but all come down to playing the same type of match. Sure, the games vary in terms of board length and additional victory conditions, but the whole thing is repetitive, which diminishes the amount of fun. Also, the cards are fully random, so it is usually impossible to play by some greater strategy. We use what we get, hoping for a lucky draw. It is a bit too random if you ask me.

        The biggest flaw of the game is the balance, be it in terms of AI, card wording or card power. I have a feeling that the devs had lots and lots of ideas to implement, but did not take the time for thorough testing. This leads to situations when the AI wins in the first few moves or kills itself by playing harmful cards. Also, some cards are way too powerful, while others have poor wording, leaving us unsure what they actually do. There is a lot of space for improvement to be sure.

        Summing up, Amber Route is a game worth giving a chance. Featuring astonishing illustrations, an interesting setting and a solid, yet unflawed, mechanic, it will surely be a great addition to any device’s game library. Also, as far as I know, the devs are still aiming to improve the title, getting up the hopes for more modes and overall balance.   

  • Interesting setting
  • Quick, dynamic matches
  • Astonishing illustrations (!)
  • A few modes...
  • ... but hardly varying
  • Poorly balanced cards
  • Poor AI, often harming itself
  • Too much randomness
  • Sometimes the cards' wording is inaccurate
- best played on a tablet

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