Preview: EA mixes real time strategy with trading card games

BattleForge is an online-focused fantasy RTS game that blends traditional strategy elements with card collecting.

Having been in development at Germany-based EA Phenomic for over three years, we recently had a chance to check it out ahead of its March release for PC.

"BattleForge is a unique mix of trading card games and real time strategy," EA Phenomic marketing director Keith Anderson told us.

"At the heart of it it's a real time strategy game and you use virtual cards to construct your army. These virtual cards you can play instantly, so there's no base building, no production queues and no waiting for the game to do things for you. You take the cards and play them directly into battle."


Initially the game will feature 200 different playing cards, 50 for each of the four elemental factions (Fire, Frost, Nature and Shadow), which in turn are divided into units, spells and buildings. You can combine cards from any of the four factions to form a deck, although it's "harder to manage" four different factions in your army.

Power and orbs are the resources used for in-game production. A card's orbs, between one and four and of different colours, are displayed in the top right corner of the card in question.

"There are two resources in the game which you have to try to get control of," explained Anderson. "One is monuments, which generate orbs. When you capture a monument you can choose the colour of the orb you want from it.

"The other is power wells. These give you power which accumulates over time and is then depleted as you cast a spell [or bring into play units and structures from your deck].

To play a unit, building or spell you simply select its card icon at the bottom of the screen and click an activation area on the battlefield where you want to summon it. You'll need to summon cards in the vicinity of your other units or buildings - the closer they are, the more powerful they'll be.

Plus, once your power is completely depleted you'll have to wait for it to build up before you can cast spells again, or bring more units and buildings into the world.

"So strategically you want to have power wells so you generate energy but you also want to make sure you capture monuments so that you have more and more orbs available to you which allow you to cast the high end spells in your deck. To get four orbs you'll have to make significant inroads into enemy territory to capture their monuments," said Anderson.

"Within BattleForge there are also certain strategic points in the game that aren't just power wells or orb generators," he added. "These are fortifications.


"Where there are no enemies present and if you have sufficient power you can build fortifications within the board. You can choose which way they face and then man them with certain units - range units are ideal, so you can position your archers on the top of the fortifications and they can then start firing at the enemy.

"For the enemy to get through them it has to beat down the walls and break down the barriers you put in place before it can start attacking you."

Before jumping straight into the action though, your fist step will be to formulate your deck and strategy in the Forge. Essentially the Forge is a sandbox where you can start playing around with the cards and armies at your disposal, a pre-constructed scenario where you can construct your basic deck and get a feel for how it will play out in battle.

Your basic deck consists of up to 20 cards, displayed across the bottom of your screen, "much like you'd see an MMO ability selection", said Anderson.

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