Board Gaming · Digital Review

Digital Review: Sentinels of the Multiverse

Welcome back to my 2nd digital review. In case you’ve forgotten the preface before my BattleCON review, here it is again:

Let’s start by saying this won’t be in the format of my typical review in the sense that I won’t be giving an overview of the game or how to set up/play it. Instead I’m going to dive right into some pros & cons for the Online version of the game and wrap up with my final thoughts. And look for at least one digital review to appear each month (hopefully) as I tinker around in the realm of apps or Steam-based versions for your games.

As I will mention later, my loss on being unable to use a code is your gain. I’m actually going to give away two codes: one for Google Play and one for Steam. To enter, leave a comment below telling me who your favorite hero is (or who you think it might be) in the Sentinels of the Multiverse. Be sure to also let me know which of these you’d like to enter for – it can be for both, but I would hate to pick someone to win who cannot use the code.

I’ll use Random.org to select the winner on 9/5

**Also note: This game is part of a Humble Bundle deal. Grab a copy on Steam while it is cheap! I’ve made the timeline on the contest a little short to accommodate the bundle, so you can get it still once this contest ends.

***

+++Note: You can look at my solo review of Sentinels of the Multiverse and apply many of the comments on that game to the Online version. Rather than rehash those same things, I’ll focus on what applies exclusively to the Online version.

+ This game takes one of the biggest detriments of the physical game and solves the problem for you. The math, the remembering what effects are active, the tracking what triggers when…all of those things are managed by the game itself so you can focus on taking down villains without all that extra legwork. This is especially key for a solo player, as it can be easy for one person managing 3-5 characters to overlook things.

+ Gameplay on this is, inevitably, faster than playing the physical version of the game as well. Not only are tasks automated for you, but things like reshuffling and searching through a deck for specific cards are also accelerated greatly. The game also helps identify potential targets for abilities, making it easier to figure out what can be affected when using One Shot cards, abilities, etc.

+ The music is fantastic on this. I love the soundtrack with each level, as well as the sound effects that go with this game. It really adds to the experience overall with the game, and is something I want to incorporate into physical plays of the game. My friend did this once already when playing in Omnitron IV and, whoa, it was really awesome. Kudos to the composers of the soundtrack!

+ The artwork on this is equally amazing. This game setting as a comic is very suited to a digital format, and it really comes through in this presentation. I love the art and presentation on the cards in the physical game, but this immerses you on a whole new level in a way that is quite delightful.

+ The game has the ability to rewind a little. Did your card not do quite what you expected? You can backtrack. Some players might use and abuse the system, even though it only goes back a short distance, but I find it is great to help prevent misplays, misunderstandings, and general accidents which can happen in a digital format. Like forgetting that you take damage against Omnitron because he has a Device out that hits you whenever you draw a card. Oops, shouldn’t have played that Draw 2…rewind.

+/- There is a lot to unlock. Unfortunately, you have to pay to unlock it all. I’d love if there was a way to earn at least some of it through play, such as getting X achievements to unlock some of the smaller expansion materials. For someone who wants to own everything, it isn’t that much cheaper than purchasing a good chunk of the physical game to play.

-One of the things I really dislike about the digital version of games that require you to read text on cards is that you need to pull up each card to read what it does. Until you know the game well enough, you will be doing that quite a bit. It isn’t a big deal, as the app doesn’t time you, but I frequently have to pause and go revisit an environment or villain card to see what on earth it is doing. That is the nature of a digital game, and with time this wouldn’t be such a big issue as you know the cards better.

– My phone couldn’t use the app, so I could only test out the Steam version of the game. I tried using a code that was supplied and it would never let me redeem it. The Play store didn’t flag it as being incompatible, but I wasn’t about to pay extra to find out. That is unfortunate, though, because I really wanted this to be something I could play on the go. This probably won’t apply to you, but I would definitely check specs before downloading to be sure.

Final Thoughts

I really enjoy playing the digital format for Sentinels of the Multiverse, as it definitely speeds up the process of playing the game and provides an overall ease to managing the flow of things. All of that bookkeeping and tracking how many times you’ve targeted things and how much damage is boosted or reduced…it all “vanishes” when playing this. At least the task of doing it vanishes, allowing the upkeep of the game to get out of the way so a player can enjoy the experience of the game.

This also makes it a lot easier to manage several decks at once, since it takes no extra space and there is no chance of mixing up cards. All you need is a way to interact with what is on the screen and you are able to play the game…no table space or other humans required. You can save the Multiverse one battle at a time digitally.

This is a really polished presentation of the game in digital format. I love how intuitive this makes things, and helps players cut down to the core of their experience. Some players don’t need to know how a thing functions, just see the end result. And so those players will greatly enjoy the damage being factored for them, and the environment and villain turns being automated by the game.

However, if you don’t understand something there isn’t really an easy way to know why. I still don’t completely understand Omnitron because I haven’t taken the time to really look at both sides of his card to see when he flips and what he does on each side. Because I don’t need to know – he just does his thing and sometimes it really sucks for the players. That isn’t a game problem, but it is something I find happens a LOT for me when I play app versions of board games: I can’t fully learn the game because too much is automated, skipped over, and/or is difficult and slow to open and read every single thing.

This app is excellent for those who aren’t sure if this game is going to be for them, as it allows them to get a taste for the flow of the game and the mechanics of playing as the heroes before needing to worry about handling upkeep, etc. But at the same time, it can be annoying to have to stop and “open” every card to where you can read, for the 7th time, what exactly it does before deciding to play a different card in your hand for the 7th turn in a row. This makes me appreciate the physical version so much, as it is a lot easier to read and reread the cards in my hand and on the table.

I prefer the physical, but that is because I am yet to find any app-based board game that I like to play moreso than the cardboard version. However, I definitely can recommend this as a very good implementation of Sentinels of the Multiverse, and I look forward to picking up the expansion packs (slowly) so I can face down more than just the base game villains and play as more than the base game heroes.

****

As alluded to, my loss on being able to use a code is your gain. I’m actually going to give away two codes: one for Google Play and one for Steam. To enter, leave a comment below telling me who your favorite hero is (or who you think it might be) in the Sentinels of the Multiverse. Be sure to also let me know which of these you’d like to enter for – it can be for both, but I would hate to pick someone to win who cannot use the code.

I’ll use Random.org to select the winner on 9/5

**Also note: This game is part of a Humble Bundle deal. Grab a copy on Steam while it is cheap! I’ve made the timeline on the contest a little short to accommodate the bundle, so you can get it still once this contest ends.

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Board Gaming · Digital Review

Digital Review: BattleCON Online

Today I’m going to do something a little different than usual. There is no denying that we’re seeing a boom in the amount of board games that are going digital. While I don’t prefer to play games in a digital format (I’d much rather have the human opponent at the table and touch/feel the components), there are a few that I do play more often than others. And when Brad from Level 99 Games mentioned I could review BattleCON Online, I wasn’t sure how that might fit in with my personal playing preferences.

Let’s start by saying this won’t be in the format of my typical review in the sense that I won’t be giving an overview of the game or how to set up/play it. Instead I’m going to dive right into some pros & cons for the Online version of the game and wrap up with my final thoughts. And look for at least one digital review to appear each month (hopefully) as I tinker around in the realm of apps or Steam-based versions for your games.

***

+++Note: You can look at my review of Trials and apply many of the comments on that game to the Online version. Rather than rehash those same things, I’ll focus on what applies exclusively to the Online version.

+ The game has built-in timers, both on number of rounds and some countdowns associated with how much time you get to make decisions. These both help the game move along and fall into that 20-30 minute range without overstepping to the 45-ish mark. I really enjoy the speed of the match itself when playing because it never feels like it runs too long.

+ The AI opponent option is a great thing to use when you just have a brief amount of time or if there isn’t an available opponent. Or to get better with a character (or even just familiarize yourself with them before using against someone else). This was a recent addition, and one I really like having in there. I just wish you earned coins by facing the AI, apart from getting those small achievement goals for bonus coins.

+ There are a good number of characters available, and a host of them that could still be added. I’m not sure how many are planned to be unlocked at the start, or which ones might be the first characters you can use (it recently changed to a new set of 4, which surprised me in a good way). But you gain the currency to unlock by playing matches against other people and/or accomplishing one of three current objectives (such as Spend 30 force, or Deal 60 Damage, or use a Specialist 3 times, etc.) to get bonus currency. As long as the characters remain “free” to unlock, this isn’t a bad thing. It’d be nice to be able to use any of them against something like a Training Dummy, just to know before unlocking a character whether you like their style, but you can see info about the character and their cards and draw some conclusions that way.

+ This game helps with some visual elements, showing you the combined stats of your cards being played and showing the spaces your attack could hit. This takes some of that guesswork out and helps you make sure you make better plays. It doesn’t always help me – I still make mistakes – but I believe I make fewer mistakes on that front. Most of the time. It also takes care of any upkeep you may have, which helps progress the game right along.

+ The music, the voices and sound effects, and the animations all make this game come alive. It feels even more like a fighting video game, but without the button-mashing or combo memorizing. This has a toe in both worlds, tabletop and video game, and will hopefully help unite players in both of those realms. Some of those themes will stick in your mind, and it is fun to hear how some of the characters sound.

+ The best thing about the Online version of BattleCON is the community associated with it. There is a really strong, dedicated core of players who are willing to play and, in many cases, provide some feedback afterwards on how to more effectively use that character. I recently got obliterated with my first play as Marmelee and got a significant set of recommendations on how to more effectively use her, which turned out to be much better when I put it into practice. If you have any interest at all in playing BattleCON Online (BCO), joining its Discord community is the best move you can make.

+/- Tying in with that, the most effective way to get a match is to hop on Discord and mention you’re looking for a match. This may change when it gets a wider official release, but just idly waiting for a match could take over half an hour. Pinging the Discord, though, could get you paired within minutes.

+/- But beware: finding a match could get you paired with someone about 100 tiers above your current skill level. There is nothing wrong with that – I am a firm believer in you learn through losing at games – but some people might get frustrated and/or put off from that experience. Especially when a match becomes one-sided. Add in the fact that certain characters do better or worse in specific matchups, and this could easily snowball if you are on the wrong end of the character matchup AND playing against someone with a lot more experience.

– A big thing I noticed with this is that it runs a little on the slow side. It might be completely on my own machine as the cause here, as I have a computer that isn’t designed for online gaming, but I suspect that at least the initial opening/loading screens and the Victory screen after a match are both slow outside of my own computer. It isn’t a deal-breaker, but the delay is quite noticeable. I also get random pauses during a match when selecting/revealing cards but it is brief and I suspect more a result of my own machine for those. Just know that it won’t be lightning-fast through everything like you’d expect from a PS4 game or anything.

Final Thoughts

I love BattleCON so much. I actually played this before I got a review copy of Trials, and the learning game and a match against the Training Dummy were enough to raise my excitement. So when I had a chance to also get a physical copy of the game, I had to pounce on that! The game does a great job of teaching the basics and managing those small details that are easy to be confused by or overlook in person for those first games. I like the speed of the individual matches, and as long as I plan in advance I can get the game loading early so it is ready when I want to find a match.

I’ll probably still always prefer the cardboard version of the game, but that is more of a “me” thing than anything. When I don’t have someone to play against in person, I have a really fun way to get some matches played. It lets me try characters I don’t own, which can help me decide upon the next set I want to try and pick up. And, since I believe this is still in Beta form and getting updated regularly, everything about this will continue to get even better.

Yet if BCO didn’t change at all from the form it is in today, it would still be something I would recommend to anyone who love BattleCON or is interested in the game. The music, the voices, and some of the animations really make a great game come alive in a new way that provides a fun and fresh experience. And the availability of playing with others around the world, of a variety of skill levels, makes this even better.

There is organized play for this which can help you to earn points. There is a sheet in the Discord for filling it out – I haven’t used it myself yet because I need to know my opponent’s number to submit the form. It hasn’t been important enough for me to try and figure that out yet, and some people won’t care at all about the organized play and possible rewards. I mention this to point out that it exists, and it sounds like a great thing to get excited about. I plan to figure it out on my own eventually, hopefully before the current season ends on June 30th, so I can possibly get the first tier of rewards between my plays of this and my teaching players the physical game…