Earthcore: Shattered Elements, available for iPhone and iPad (version reviewed here) from the Apple iTunes App Store, is a deceptively simple card battling game that is actually pretty deep and offers complex layers of gameplay and strategy. What first appears to be a ‘rock, paper scissors’ game dressed in fancy clothing soon morphs into a truly satisfying romp that is probably the best card battle-type game on the App Store.
The majority of games like this tend to use the cards as an excuse for summoning monsters and minions, and build the game from there, but Earthcore is a little different, as it actually plays like a proper card game in many respects, and I believe the game is all the better for it.
Players must take turns filling out three columns of cards, and once each column is complete, the game compares the cards to see who has played the most powerful hand. Each card plays host to a different element, from Earth, Wind and Fire, as well as an interesting fourth element, dust which is weak to every other element, but can be used wisely by a canny player.
Cards can also have different powers that allow them to be copied, moved and much more, all adding to the strategic element at play. The best thing to do to learn the game is to play a few easy rounds, you will soon get the hang of it and be ready for online play and the surprisingly in-depth single player mode.
Here, straight from the developer, are the app’s best features:
ELEMENTS OF WAR
Fire burns Earth, Earth absorbs Water, Water extinguishes Fire. You use your cards’ skills to outsmart your opponent and, like in a real battle, you gamble on your life every time you use a card.
IT’S ALL ABOUT SKILLS
Strategy and later on tactics is achieved through hundreds of skills you can use in various combinations. What skills are those? Maneuver, Direct Damage, Skill Theft, Element Change, Lower Risk and more!
CARDS ’N’ GLORY
A revolutionary Card Crafting system lets you create 500,000+ unique card-combinations with powerful skills. Discover the most dangerous card combos to annihilate your opponents!
VENI, VIDI, VICTORY!
Test yourself in quick duels against friends, challenge strangers for loot, or climb the ranks of the multi-layered League that only the best players can reach! Like any good commander, all you have in the midst of battle is your army and your wits.
The single player game actually has a decent story to get into, and there is plenty of content in this mode to keep you going for a very long time. When you are ready for the PVP mode, there is a lot to like here as well.
I must warn you to make sure you have mastered the basics 100% before venturing online, as the standard of play is very high and players are absolutely merciless. However, it is the quickest way to learn advanced strategies, and slowly but surely you will start to get wins using those same strategies and become far more accomplished online than you were when you first dipped your toe into PVP.
In terms of presentation, everything in Earthcore is top-notch, with some nice battle animations and effects, decent storytelling and impressive sonics throughout. I never had any technical issues during my time with the game, and all the online features worked without a hitch. The only real problem I had with the game was in the first hour or so, as I felt things could be a bit better explained from the outset.
With intense PVP matches, an extensive single player campaign and true card based play, Earthcore: Shattered Elements is the best thing to happen to card games on the App Store in years.