Marvel Trading Card Game Review

There have been a lot of collectible card games (CCG) in the past 14 years and the ones most people are familiar with are franchises such as Pokemon, Magic: The Gathering and Yu-Gi-Oh!. These and other TCGs all have similar mechanics in how they are played, but are also different from each other in regards to things such as their relative levels of complexity and gameplay features. A relative new comer to the block of trading card games is the VS. System which first appeared in 2004 and was published by the trading card giant Upper Deck Entertainment. The card game, which is based upon comic book characters, was received well, and now three years later, the video game version of the card game is on the scene: The Marvel Trading Card Game.

TMTCG follows its real life alter ego closely and plays in the same way that the live version does, but this immediately sets the game up for failure because unless you are a fan of CCGs, the game will either make no sense to you or have you wondering why this game was even developed as a video game. These words may be harsh, but the reality of the matter is that CCGs are an acquired taste, and unless you are a big fan of these types of games, there is little need to even pick this title up. Since the audience is limited, the game won’t appeal to the vast majority of gamers.

It’s too bad that this game is so heavily specialized because it does have some good features going for it. Instead of you carrying around tons of cards in your card box, you have the convenience of having them all nicely tucked away in electronic form. If you’re by yourself, you can have a good enough time battling it out with your computer opponents or online with your fellow gamers.

Gameplay revolves around the concept of breaking down your opponent until all of his endurance points are lost. Think of these as hit points in an RPG. Once the points are all gone, the team is defeated. In TMTCG the card sets are built from characters in the Marvel Origins decks and Marvel expansion packs. Single player offers a storyline mode where you begin your journey through the Marvel universe and still art cut scenes are introduced to reveal the plot of the game.

This title involves four steps for each turn — draw phase, build phase, combat phase, and recovery phase. During draw, each player is given two cards from the deck. In the build phase, you can recruit characters, put cards in the resource row, and place your cards in formation to get ready for battle. Combat is where the action is. Players face off against each other with their respective characters and try to stun or damage the enemy. A character is stunned when either his attack rating or defensive rating is less than the other player’s attacking card. Any damage which goes beyond the stats of the attacked player is considered "breakthrough damage" and decreases the overall endurance rating of the opposing player. Both players start with 50 endurance points, and as breakthrough damage accumulates against each team, the total diminishes until one player goes to zero or below zero in endurance points and is declared the loser. The last phase, recovery, allows one stunned character to be recovered.

There are other factors which can change the course of gameplay, such as using plot twist cards, location cards or equipment cards. These cards alter the character or the state of the game and can give advantages over the enemy. But the enemy doesn’t necessarily mean you are automatically the good guy. In TMTCG, you also have the option to play the villain, so Dr. Doom fans should be happy to hear that. Other features in the game also allow you to do team attacks where the stats of two characters from the same team can be combined in an attack. Reinforcement is a defensive move where other characters can come to the aid of an attacked member.

Playing this game reminded me of playing chess — you can pick up the basic skills in about an hour or so, but to be really good at it, you have to understand all the little details of strategy that goes along with a successful game. Personally, I’m terrible at chess because the pace is just too slow or I don’t possess the patience or interest in the game. And so it goes for TMTCG, as well. The action unfolds slowly as you set up your card formations, plan your moves and attack and defend, but the whole process seems to end up in a "so what?" sort of feeling. There’s a certain element of satisfaction in playing a well-planned move, but the game seems mechanical and uninspired. The multiplayer mode gives you the opportunity to play against real human opponents online, but for some diehard fans of the game, it will be a poor substitution for live play.

Graphics, as you well may imagine, are limited because, well, it’s a card game. There is a playing field where your cards and those of the other team are placed. Limited animations occur when cards are attacked, played or stunned. The status of a card can be seen by the way it looks. If your card character is stunned, it will be flipped over. If it is exhausted, it will be flipped on its side horizontally. If your character is healthy and ready for battle, it is upright and facing you. The card art is ok, but apart from the physical representation of what they look like, that is about the extent of what goes on graphically with this game. Yawn.

Sound for the game is passing, with some good comic book music and the occasional sound effects while your cards are in battle. Otherwise, the game is pretty bare when it comes to the audio portion.

Overall, the whole experience was disappointing. Although The Marvel Trading Card Game draws its inspiration from the popular VS. System from Upper Deck, the video game version fails to hold the interest of the general gamer. For fans of this CCG, they may find that playing the online version may be all that is of interest, if any, to them. The lack of animations, sparse audio, and rather slow and complicated gameplay makes this a title that is only for the extreme fan and leaves out almost everyone else.


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Author: GamerNode Staff View all posts by

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