Not-Smash-Bros Meets Not-Triple-Triad
I’ve been struggling to find anything of note to write about for the café. I’ve mostly been playing Final Fantasy XIV and working on my new career path, so the well of inspiration has been as dry as the release of interesting games as of late. Luckily Dan “Absolutely Not a Furry” Fornace was nice enough to do me a solid by allowing me access to the new mobile game in the Rivals of Aether universe, Creatures of Aether. And I’ve been having a blast.
Creatures of Aether is one of those games that you can’t believe doesn’t already exist the minute you play it. The elevator pitch: it’s Triple Triad on your phone. That’s it. It’s Triple Triad on your phone, and it owns. Frankly if that were the long and short of it, it would be more than enough. Anyone who’s played Triple Triad knows what I’m talking about here — it’s one of the most addictive mini-games to exist (and the little JRPG that they attached to it as an Add-On was pretty good too). However just like Rivals of Aether, Fornace and the team weren’t content to simply mimic an already solid existing gameplay style on a new platform. There are wrinkles here that make Creatures stand apart from its inspiration, and give it more depth and longevity than the design limitations of a PS1 might have allowed.
To sum up the game as a whole, Creatures of Aether is a card game that takes place on a 4 x 4 grid. Each card you put down has a number that represents each card side. If your opponent puts down a card with a higher number on its side then the card it’s placed next to, it’s flipped, and the card becomes yours. Once all 16 cards have been placed on the board, whoever has captured the most cards wins.
So far, so Triple Triad. What makes Creatures of Aether unique are all of the additions to this system that take it from a fun way to pass the time to a full-on competitive card battler. For starters, cards in Creatures have elements attached to them, and there are elemental field that randomly dot the playing board as well. Placing a card that matches the element on the field will increase the numbers on its sides by the number indicated on the elemental field. Then there are cards with abilities, such as Ally cards, which can create elemental fields around them, or defender cards, which, when placed, increase the number values on all the cards that you have control of on the board.
Most interesting of all, however, are Rival cards. While most of the other cards in your deck are based on new creatures in the Rivals universe Rival cards are comprised of the main cast of Rivals of Aether. You’re only allowed one Rival card at any time, but they’re all powerful and can easily turn the tide of battle. Zettaburn, for example, can burn up every elemental field on the board when he’s placed, and Maypul can capture multiple cards in a line. You’ll soon find yourself building your decks around your Rivals, giving the game a MtG quality to it that adds even more depth to what could have easily been a phoned-in Triple Triad clone.
You’ll be spending a lot of your time playing against other players to climb the Ladder in Creatures of Aether, but there’s a lot more to do than just that. You can spend resources to enter dungeons, allowing you to play matches against the CPU to find treasure and cards. The gold you collect can also be spent in the game’s shop to buy booster packs or specific cards (although the game is Free-to-Play, so spending real money will inevitably become an option once it exits Beta). Getting duplicates of cards allows you to level them up for slight stat buffs, and you’ll want to spend time doing that to make sure your deck is as powerful as possible. There’s lots to do, and I found myself bouncing between all the various modes to learn new strategies and improve my deck.
The above is an understatement, frankly: I’ve been playing the absolute hell out of Creature of Aether these past few days. I literally took a break from writing this blog post just to play a few games. The quick nature of the game’s matches makes it perfect for bite-sized phone sessions, and its “easy-to-learn, hard-to-master” mechanics allow for marathon playing as well. Every L I took on the Ladders had me back to staring at my available cards, trying to improve my deck bit by bit. I am not a very competitive person outside of fighting games, and I’ve never played a competitive card game at all beyond the Pokemon TCG when I was like eight years old, but Creatures has definitely gotten me there, and I always enjoy when a game is accessible and interesting enough to introduce me to a new genre.
CoA is still in Beta, so there are definitely some issues, especially in regards to UI/UX, where things can really feel slow once you’ve gotten used to the game’s layout. Also, the game has pretty much two songs at the moment, so you’ll be muting the game fast. But it’s stuff that can be easily fixed. Mechanically, Creatures of Aether is solid. If it can maintain a healthy competitive and monetary balance, I could see it sitting on my phone’s Home screen for a while to come. If you want to try it yourself, you can sign up for the now Open Beta here.