I am really enjoying playing Cygames' digital card game Shadowverse. For fans of the insanely popular Hearthstone who are unfamiliar with this newer game, allow me to give you a compare and contrast.
So, What Is Shadowverse?
Released in June 2016, #Shadowverse is a free-to-play collectible card game that's apparently big in Japan.
Getting Past The Boobwall
At first I was resistant to playing Shadowverse because of the artwork, which is #anime or manga styled and features many female characters with absolute cleavage and varying degrees of nudity. It even showed the #Runecraft leader Isabelle getting nerfed in the US version of the game.
While I have no issue with the art being gratuitous, I thought this fan servicing downplayed the game's true worth, and at first I assumed Shadowverse would be all style, no substance. I turned out to be wrong. This game is extremely thought-provoking and challenging — but with a lot of breasts thrown in.
So Here Are The Differences Between The Games
The hallmark of Shadowverse is Evolve, a function that allows you to promote your followers on the field. Typically, a follower gets +2/+2 in stats and gains Rush, the ability to charge and attack an enemy follower. Other minions have more powerful abilities that come with Evolve, like dealing damage or gaining Ward (taunt).
Evolve gives the game an added layer of complexity as you charge and buff a minion of your choosing, allowing you to get rid of summoning sickness. This ability can be used offensively to add face damage, or trade on a minion. It can also be used defensively. Also, you're given two to three Evolves per game, so knowing when to use these charges is key.
In #Hearthstone, each of the nine classes are distinguished by class cards and the two-mana cost Hero Power. Certain classes have multiple workable archetypes, while others are stuck with one type of deck.
Shadowverse has seven classes, with individual class cards as well. But each class is completely different from each other, based on the trait and cards that work with the trait. For example, the control class #Havencraft has pretty much no way of becoming an aggro class, as the card rely on anti-tempo gamplay early on for big gain later. The Bloodcraft class is all about playing the game at 10 life to empower all the other cards. Dragoncraft will always be a ramp class, as those cards rely on getting to Play Point 7.
While both are digital card games, there are some key mechanical differences that influence gameplay. Hearthstone is a 30-life, 30-card game, while Shadowverse is a 20-life, 40-card game. Drawing to fatigue seems impossible in Shadowverse, while this happens often in a Reno mirror game in Hearthstone. With 20 life, your character seems to easily be in peril. Given that the Bloodcraft class thrives on 10 life, every game must be a thrill.
Another point of difference between the two styles of gameplay is that the baseline minions in Shadowverse are weaker than those in Hearthstone. Typically, there aren't good turn-one plays, and a 3/2 costs three, for example.
The Evolve mechanic encourages trading, given that the Evolved minion can only attack minions on the first turn. With the 20-life cap, trading could be more important in Shadowverse than in Hearthstone.
Turn planning is also extremely complex in Shadowverse — seemingly as complex or more complex than Miracle Rogue swing turns in Hearthstone. #Forestcraft decks, for example, have cards that require at least two cards to be played within that turn for an effect to be triggered. You just have to make a ton of turn-planning decisions on playing for tempo or effects and holding onto cards for reactive moves versus tempo. So many decisions to make, which vary by class.
Hearthstone has weapons, which gets the hero directly involved on the board. From what I can tell, the heroes in Shadowverse are just there to look pretty, throw out threats and get hit.
Shadowverse has Amulets, which serve as the card that isn't a minion or spell. Amulets are best defined as things that have effects, but can't attack and can't be attacked. Given Shadowverse also only allows five things on the board (versus seen in Hearthstone), the Amulets take a bunch of board space.
Oh yeah, and like any other card game, Shadowverse has less RNG (randomness) than Hearthstone. The Forestcraft has a bit of RNG, like Avenging Wrath, but some classes, like Runecraft, seem to avoid it entirely.
Going Second Possibly Balanced
There are well-known splits in Hearthstone of the first player winning games over the second player by a decent margin. And a common topic of discussion is how the Coin just isn't enough to make up for it.
Shadowverse gives the second player three Evolve charges (the first player gets wot) and lets the second player draw two cards on their first turn. I don't know if this makes things completely even, but I personally have felt getting three Evolve charges is well-worth going second.
Free-To-Play Considerations And Economy
Shadowverse appears as a very free-to-play game. Upon completing the tutorial, you get 10 free packs per set (30 total), vouchers and resources. There are additional rewards for leveling up and gaining achievements. While you get continual rewards in Shadowverse, it appears that decks require a lot more investment of resources to play. Really good decks require about 18,000 vials (dust) to play, for example. These rewards may be scaling to 40 cards per deck.
Hearthstone has a handful of achievements, but here is constant criticism about the game being anti #F2P or not being friendly to new players. But unlike Shadowverse, there are relatively cheap decks in Hearthstone that can be competitive.
Leveling And Ranking
Hearthstone's Ranked mode, which was created back in open beta, is known for being Levels 1–25, with a Legend rank above that. The devs recently have acknowledged the community's frustration with the grind it takes to level up.
Shadowverse has a points system, which drives you through tiers of ranks, and is similar to earning experience on a quest. So far in the D ranks, I typically earn a lot of experience when winning a Ranked game, while losing only a few points when actually losing. There may also be implications, where not conceding is the better route in salvaging experience, but I am not sure if this is true. I won 16 Ranked games to get from Beginner 0 to D1. Not bad.
One (Steam) Server
Hearthstone is known for having separate servers: NA, EU, TW/KR, CN, with different server reliability, whereas Shadowverse appears to have all players in the same #Steam server. When playing my first few games of Shadowverse, I encountered a number of players with Asian symbols as their battle names. This is not unexpected, given Shadowverse is a Japanese game.
Considering that everyone is on one server, there could be many disruptions, resulting in a certain disconnect. Indeed, I got my first Unranked, Ranked and Take Two wins in Shadowverse via disconnect.
Customization, U.I. And More
Hearthstone definitely has the more solid user interface, with things being where they should be. It is simple with not too much going on. The U.I. for Shadowverse is a little discombobulated in comparison, with cards in hand either being oversized or undersized. The emoting system is also more challenging to use, but they do limit you on three emotes a turn.
Shadowverse has a lot of avenues for customization. You can set custom emblems, flairs, and even a country flag for national pride. Emblems are awarded through achievements or when you get a legendary card. Further, you can customize things, like turning off emotes entirely. This request has long been desired by the Hearthstone community.
There are various leaderboards for public viewing in Shadowverse and various stats about your wins and experience. Replays as well!
Shadowverse is different from Hearthstone primarily through the more complex gameplay and turn planning. There is also a lot more customization from the game, possibly borrowing from feedback that Hearthstone players have communicated. On the downside, it suffers a little just by coming from a smaller company in #Cygames and therefore being a lesser-known quantity (no real lore ties), and having less polish in the U.I. holding cards. I must say, I am very impressed with the game, and will continue to play it.
Have you played Shadowverse or are you interested in trying it out? Sound off in the comments section below.