**Note: This is an overview of the fighting system as a whole, not a review of any particular box from the seasons of the game. Some of those may enter the pipeline in the future, though…
Titles in the EXCEED Fighting System come in one of two forms: standalone games that contain decks that allow two players to compete against one another, and individual decks. The standalone games are being released in “seasons”, with each season containing sixteen fighters from various franchises or worlds that are packaged into four-character boxes. Any deck can be played against any other deck, allowing you to compete across seasons and across worlds.
Season 1 of EXCEED features the art and characters of Jasco Games’ Red Horizon, which was first featured in the UFS Collectible Card Game. Season 2 of EXCEED features the monstrous heroes and villains of Seventh Cross, an upcoming game world from Level 99 Games.
A huge change from BattleCON is that it becomes a “you go, I go” system and not every turn will consist of an attack. There are other things to do, such as drawing more cards or boosting your next attack or even moving around the board, and these add some nice, small decisions for the players. Attacking spends cards, all other actions at the least gain a card at the end of your turn. So eventually you’re going to either need to do something other than attack or just spam Wild Swings.
Wild Swings are what make this game exciting. Seriously. There’s something amazing about landing a strike that you couldn’t have otherwise done from your hand. I had a situation where I was 4 spaces away, my max range in my hand was 3. I gambled with the Wild Swing and flipped a card I didn’t even know existed yet that had a 4-6 range. It was an amazing feeling. I’ve also pulled off a finishing blow with a Wild Swing, as my opponent was at 4 health and both my hand attacks dealt 3. So I gambled on the Wild Swing and brought them down. Is it a reliable tactic to use often? No. But it is great to have that option for when you don’t have the right cards, or desire to keep your hand in-tact.
I love how thematic it feels to need to land hits in order to use your stronger attacks. Every successful hit is added to your Gauge, which is essentially a currency you can spend. Each character has a few cards (called Ultra Attacks) that can only be played by spending Gauge. It can also be spent as Force, providing more for fewer cards. It is like your fighter is using momentum throughout the match to hit harder and (usually) faster than a normal attack. While they lack any finishers, these are a close enough substitute that it feels right.
The Exceed mode on each character brings a nice decision into the game, as it also takes Gauge to flip your character. Gauge isn’t always easy, or fast, to come by. Spending 2-4 Gauge is a critical decision at times, as using it for Exceed will make it so you probably can’t afford an Ultra Attack. However, the continuous boost/change to your character might be worthwhile. Deciding when/if to Exceed is a critical decision at times, and one I enjoy having available.
EX Attacks are a fun twist to add in there, yet another thing that adds some flair to the gameplay and makes it exciting. When you play a strike, if you have two cards of the same name you can put them both down. What this essentially does is add +1 to everything but range on the attack, making it faster, stronger, and provide more defense. This has been the difference between being stunned and making a connection on an attack, and is a simple yet wonderful tactic.
There is balance in the game. Honestly, it felt like there wasn’t during my first two games as the fighters I used are polar opposites (one is all about ranged attacks, the other about being right next to the opponent). Yet as I played more, using the same matchup against the same opponent, that perceived disadvantage disappeared. Do they dictate some of the playstyle? Sure, which is the beauty of a game where there are currently 32 fighters, not counting bonus ones. You just need to find the one that resonates most with you.
These things are worth mentioning even though all I have is a demo deck. These could be things that have been changed/fixed already and I just don’t know it. But here goes: The board is 9 cards. While it isn’t a bad thing, having a board (other than via purchasing a mat) would be a nice bonus. I understand the cost savings of this method but it also leads me to wonder if there is a way to track health in the box. No board or mat leads me to have to find alternative methods for tracking our health.
The rules I have are disappointing. Yes, you can learn the game from them and play without much issue. The few questions we ran into in the last play session were either answered in the FAQ or quickly answered by the amazing fan community. However, they are a folded poster. Yes, that makes it portable. But I don’t want a massive rule sheet on the table while playing, and folding/unfolding it is annoying during play. I would honestly prefer more of a book – something I hope to discover upon opening a box rather than just a pair of demo decks…
I got my first introduction to Exceed: Fighting System at Gen Con from the Level 99 Games booth. I distinctly remember talking to Brad Talton while playing Temporal Odyssey beforehand, asking him how he felt Exceed and BattleCON could co-exist while providing the same concept of fighting game. I simply didn’t understand how this game could be different enough from BattleCON, a game I had already played and came to love, to merit consideration in a person’s collection. But Brad was right – turns out the designer of the games knows what he is talking about – this game is different enough to co-exist in a collection.
Both of the games are going to scratch different playstyle itches. BattleCON is deep in tactical and strategic layers because you have a set of cards that are known to both players, and that are available in a cyclical system of rotation. This provides both its greatest strength and greatest weakness in the same blow, as it allows you to plan for every possible combination your opponent could play and to think ahead by several turns on your own moves.
Exceed, on the other hand, has elements of both but is a lot heavier on the tactical side of things because it adds in randomness into the mix. You won’t always have the exact card you need for the situation, and the number of specific moves is finite in that deck. While it loses the ability to plan with perfect information, it gains a lot more emotional moments instead. Rather than doing well because you outplayed your opponent, you gain the thrill of connecting on a hopeless Wild Swing strike and drawing the exact card you need at just the right time for your circumstances. It provides more of a roller coaster of excitement and layers of tension that are sometimes lacking in the BattleCON match. All the while feeling like a brand new system that still feels as though it will reward the experienced player.
My experience so far with Exceed is limited to two characters, those demo decks I picked up at Gen Con, and that is why I feel there is some value here in reviewing the system as a whole. This avoids diving into X is broken or Y is underpowered or Z is the best box to purchase because it has A in there. This is my taking a look at the mechanics of Exceed and providing a review of the mechanics alone.
And that is enough. Honestly, it doesn’t matter as much about which box you pick up or which season of Exceed you purchase because the core of the game is great. I’m still not sure if I prefer this or BattleCON, and I don’t know that I will ever make that decision. I know players who are likely to prefer the open information of BattleCON and the feeling of outplaying your opponent to win. I know others who prefer a little luck in their game and will really dig the use of a Wild Swing as a mechanic. I enjoy them both equally.
Which says a lot about Exceed, since my expectations were pretty low going into the game. It provides a faster experience, while opening up a lot more small decisions to the player because it is not just about pairing attacks every single turn. You can not only do smaller actions to help position your fighter or load your hand, but you can also Exceed to unlock your more powerful side and play EX attacks to boost your strikes. I love the tweaks made on this fighting system, and if you like a little luck in your game and a box that has an excellent entry price, then definitely check out one of the eight available boxes of Exceed.
Check out more of our reviews at the following Geeklist and be sure to let me know what you thought of this game.