Atomic Brawl - Review

When it comes to browser based games, two popular genres are "trading card" styled games, as well as turn based strategy. Both of these genres work very well with browsers, due to their nature, and there's quite a lot of them out there; however, not all of them are unique. Typically most of these games are the same old thing, and you'll either find one you like and stick with it, or you'll move onto another only to find that it isn't much different form the last one you played. A lot of strategy games focus on either war, sci-fi, or fantasy (most of which are inspired by other well known strategy games), and a lot of card games all come down to collecting cards, and having the better hand. It is a pattern which repeats itself time and time again, and sooner or later people get tired of it. That is, until something different comes along.

Not too long ago we here at Netto's Game Room were contacted by Chris Shorrock, and Ken Pratt. They are Ex EA developers who broke off on their own, and they wanted us to check out their new indie game titled "Atomic Brawl." At first glance the game looked interesting, but we personally were not too sure if it was something we would like or not. Its just that there were so many other games out there like this, and the art style was a bit strange as well. It didn't appeal to many of us, but we decided to look past it and give the game a chance. Lets just say, we didn't regret it!

Atomic Brawl is the perfect example of "don't judge a book by its cover." Even if the art style doesn't appeal to you, don't let it keep you from trying this one out. But, just how good is it? Well, lets find out, shall we?

The Gameplay:

Atomic Brawl is a game which mixes turn based strategy with cards. While the cards are used for just about everything, the game itself plays out a lot like a chess game (as it takes place on a game board where your units can move freely). At the start of each game, players start out with some randomly selected cards from their deck, and they take turns placing their cards on the game board. Although units can only be placed next to the player's "Core," which is something you must defend, there are other type of cards which can be placed elsewhere on the board as well. Trap cards are cards that can be placed in a space next to any of your units, while item cards can be used on any unit on the board. At the start of each turn, players draw a new card, and can then freely use them as they see fit; however, it isn't quite that simple.

Each card has a lot of depth, and they can be used in different ways. Every unit card starts with a set amount of HP, defense, attack power, as well as movement speed, but they also have their own special abilities as well. For example, the Bully card has a knock back ability which launches whoever he attacks across the board. This ability makes the Bully a great card to use for spacing, and it can also be used to force your opponent to the space you want them to land on. While playing this game with fellow NGR writer GlacialLeaf, he did just that. By using his Bully, he was able to send my unit across the map in front of another one of his units; which then proceeded to kill me. It was a great tactic to use, and one I never saw coming.

Other cards have abilities such as counter abilities. While the dog card isn't a strong attacker on its own, it deals damage to whatever hits it. This makes it a high risk unit to attack, and it makes you think about how you want to deal with it. You could take a loss and just attack it directly, or you could try to kill it with a trap. How you deal with it requires strategy, and so does using it. On top of the counter abilities, there's also cards which can move a large number of spaces, cards that can throw other cards, ones that can attack at long range, and even cards that can increase the stats of others. There are all just a few examples of the abilities your cards can have, and they all help make this one interesting game, with some very interesting tactics.

Besides the units, the trap cards and item cards play a major role as well. Each trap and item has a different effect, and they can be used in some very creative ways. Some traps, such as the landmine, can be used to kill units that have just been placed on the map (by placing the mine in front of a core), others can be used to slow your opponent down, and one card even forcefully returns a unit to the other's hand. By being creative with your traps, you can gain the upper hand in a match, but you also have to remember that the other player may have done the same thing. Since you cannot see the other player use traps, you never really know what
is waiting for you on the board.

Item cards also have a wide verity of effects, and can either help your units, or hurt the other player. Some items will increase your unit's stats, and some will heal them or remove status ailments. Meanwhile, some item cards exist only to lower your enemy's stats, or even prevent them from moving for a turn. Besides the standard item cards, there are also structure cards such as the wall which you can use to protect your base or trap someone in, as well as the scarecrow which prevents anyone from stepping on the spaces around it. These cards really add to the strategy in this game as well, and they can be used in some very creative ways.

Although you can place or use any of these cards whenever you want, there are actually some restrictions. In this game, the best cards do not always win. To use any card, you must use energy, and you are limited on how much you have each turn. When you first start the game you only have a low amount of energy to work with, but with each passing turn you gain 5 more. This means that not only can you only use a few cards during the start of the game, but you are also only able to use weaker cards as well. You cannot place your strongest cards, which you may have been lucky enough to draw, and expect to win, simply because you can't use them. If you draw your strongest card which requires 90 energy to use, and you only have 65 energy, you'll have to wait quite a few turns to use it. In the mean time, you'll have to defend your Core with weaker cards, and attack your enemy with them as well. This set up helps keep the game balanced, and adds a sort of high risk, high reward element to the game; especially when it comes to building your deck.

Card Decks:

After you have played a match or so, you can then begin to build your own custom deck. When you first start the game, you are given 50 cards and a starter deck, but by winning matches, and spending your earned cash on boxes, you can get more cards to add to it. Cards are randomly selected (which is nice considering it prevents players from only buying the "best" cards), and it is up to you if they go in your deck or not. While a card deck has to have at least 50 cards, you can add many, many, more if you wish to do so; however, this too has its risks.

When building your deck you have to take into consideration just how balanced it is. You don't want too many of the same type of card, or you may find yourself in trouble. As you add more cards to your deck, you have a lower chance of drawing the cards you want to use, so in some cases it may be best to keep your deck as small as possible. This is a problem I personally ran into when playing against writer Cheerfuljochan. I had a deck of about 70 cards against his deck of 50, and while he was drawing cards to attack me with, I was getting mostly item cards. Because of this, he was able to easily attack me early on, and even after I managed to have a comeback, I started drawing items which wouldn't help me, and he was able to come in for the kill. My poorly built deck didn't stand a chance against his well balanced deck and tactics.

Overall, there is a bit of luck involved when it comes to building decks, but it mostly comes down to you playing smart. You can also build more than one deck, so you can easily switch between them before a match depending on your needs.

What Atomic Brawl Does Right:

Even though Atomic Brawl is still in its early days, it is a game that does a lot of things right. The fact that it is a mix between a strategy and card game is a nice change from the norm, and it is also a game with a LOT of humor. A lot of the cards are parodies (such as the Mushroom mixing the Mario 1-Up Mushroom with Mario himself), and there is a lot of humor in the game's writing as well. A lot of the characters are flat out ridiculous, and you can do some funny things such as putting a pink dress on your opponent's body builder. The game has a lot of craziness, and it is sure to make you at least smile from time to time. Even though most of us here at NGR didn't care for the style at first, we ended up liking it in the end.

Another VERY nice feature is the fact that you do not have to be constantly active while playing this. You can actually start a few games at once, and you can set how often you must make a move. If you only have the time to play once or twice a day, you can set the minimum amount of turns per day to "once a day," or if you want to drag it out for a few weeks, you can set it so each player must move at least once a week as well. Sure there is also the "fast game" where you must be actively playing from start to finish, but when you work or go to school, this may not be an option. Once you finish a match a replay is saved of it as well, so you can go back and watch it at anytime. This too is also a very much welcomed feature!

The gameplay itself is also very solid, and it works very well on both PCs and mobile devices (download NOT required). There is a lot of strategy involved, matches can last quite awhile, and there's also unranked and ranked games. It is a system which works well, and the game seems to be well balanced. The only real issue with this is that if you pay using real money, you will have an advantage; simply because you can buy more/better card packs faster. Other than that, people who pay do not have access to exclusive content, so that's always a plus. Sure it takes more work to earn the prizes by simply playing the game, but it can be done; unlike in most free to play games. The game also rewards you everyday for playing, so there's always a reason to check back, and that is pretty nice.

It is also worth mentioning that there is also a very challenging challenge mode for you to tackle, and you can test your card decks against a training bot as well. These single player "modes" are a great way to practice before heading online, and you might just learn something new while using them. That's always a plus!

What Could Be Improved:

With Atomic Brawl still being in its early days (with this review being written on 2/3/2014), there is a lot that can still be improved on. In game you can actually submit feedback directly to the developers, but here's some things we noticed which we would love to see improved.

One of the biggest issues we found with the game, came from its community and profile settings. In your profile you only have the option to pick from a few preset images, and that is it. There is no bio for you to let the world know more about yourself, and you really can't customize your profile at all. You either select a picture to use, or you never even bother messing with the profile field. Its only real purpose is your friends list; which even that could use some improving. Currently there is no way to search for players, so you either know their username and invite them to be friends, or you keep guessing until you get lucky enough to find them.

The chat system in game is also poorly done. It uses a pop up box which covers the whole screen, and cannot be opened while you try to play. While this set up works well on a mobile device, where there isn't enough room on screen to have a chat and game open, it doesn't work well on a PC. The game would be better off to use a chat box either at the bottom left of the screen, or directly below your hand, with an option to toggle it on or off. Some people like to actually chat as they make their moves, and it can be annoying to switch between screens just to read or send a message. Here at NGR, we actually used a messenger program to chat rather than the in game option.

Besides having a strange in game chat, the game's forums are a bit strange as well. While it doesn't directly impact the game, the game's forums use Reddit instead of standard forum software such as Invision Power Board, Vbulliton, Lithium, phpBB, or one of the many great free forum softwares. It's just that Reddit is extremely outdated, and very cumbersome to use. It would be nice if the players had a nice, simple, forum where they could meet up and chat. Still this really doesn't impact the game itself.

Another addition which would be nice is if there was more than one game board to pick from. Now sure, this is a chess like game so there should just be a standard board, but it could be fun to change it up once in awhile. Maybe have different size boards, or have boards with different shapes/holes in the middle you must navigate around, etc. It could really help add to thee strategy, and help keep things from getting stale later on down the road.

The final addition which would be nice is to the game's sound and animation. As it stands now, there's very limited sound effects, no music, and little to no in game animations. While the game doesn't actually need sprite animations to be fun, it would be nice to see a little something other than the card's single sprite. Music also isn't technically needed, but a lot of people may prefer to listen to something while playing; especially if it helps draw them into the experience.

Even so, none of this actually drags the game down. It is a game which will always be improving over time, so you shouldn't let the lack of features put you off.

Should You Play This:

So, with all of that being said, is Atomic Brawl worth playing? Well, the answer is yes. If you're a fan of strategy games, or card games, you have nothing to lose by checking this one out. It only takes a few minutes to sign up, and you can jump right into it almost instantly. The game is simple and easy to learn, but it has enough depth to keep you coming back for more. It is a strategy game in every possible way, and it can be a lot of fun; especially when you play against friends. As of right now there are almost 200 possible cards to collect, so there is plenty to experience. Sure the game could also use a lot of improvements, but you also have to understand how early on into its life this is. Games such as this advance quickly, and there are endless possibilities as to what can happen. Just about anything you can think of can happen, and it can evolve into something truly great. This is just the first step. Trust me, I've been through this with one of my own games. What is today a small browser game with a lot of depth, can become one of the biggest games on the web. Overall we give Atomic Brawl an average score of 8/10. It's fun.

When it comes down to it, Atomic Brawl is a promising game with a great start, and it deserves a chance. If you would like check it out, simply go to the link below:

Or you can register using the following URL to let them know we referred you:

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