Lyn Reviews: Mabinogi Duel (Full Review)

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Developer/Publisher: devCAT/Nexon
Platform(s): Android, iOS
Price: Free to Play, with in-app purchases
Discovery: Random browsing on the Google Play store
Playtime: Approx. 60 hours

We have Mabinogi. We have Vindictus (Mabinogi Heroes). Next up is…..Mabinogi Duel! It is trading-card mobile game that takes place in the same world as the other two, and from my understanding happens even before Vindictus.

Now bare in mind, while I have played other games such as Hearthstone and Rage of Bahamut, Mabi Duel is by far the first TCVG (trading card video game) that I’ve really gotten into, so I don’t have much of a reference to compare it to anything.

When one thinks of Mabinogi, you typically expect fantasy: with villages and heroes and dragons and the like. So what was really interesting was to see the art direction of the game. The interface is very modern and you even have upbeat electronic music. Mabi Duel is very aware that it’s a trading card game, and you can even virtually unwrap cards that you buy!

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Oh, boy what could possibly be inside! Answer: one crappy card.

Cards have a rarity of up to five stars and fall under one of five attributes: mana, light, dark, nature, and gold. Nothing new, but cards from the mana camp, for example, tend to focus on spells , cards from the nature camp focus on creature summons, and so forth. Card packs can be earned via gold (1 per pack). Or the premium currency, gems (5 per pack). However, the game is quite generous with their gems and I have yet to feel pressured to pay for more. Gold is earned by playing one of the various modes in the game, which I’ll cover later.

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A virtual binder for my virtual trading cards!

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Decks consist of 12 cards and typically fall under creatures, spells, or more recently grave cards.

• Creature cards are ones you play directly on the field. They have health, attack, and some have defense. Defense is a shield that is worn down first before health. Most creatures also have abilities.
• Spell cards can be played on your turn.
• Grave cards must be discarded into your grave first and then have an “activation” condition. For example, Counter Spell activates, once in the grave, as soon as the opponent attempts to use a spell card. Once activated, they also consume resources so it’s important to keep track.

As for gameplay it plays very much like Hearthstone. You have avatars that may not have active skills, but affect gameplay and your main goal is to reduce the opponent’s health by attacking them directly, utilizing your deck as you face off against your opponent’s.

Screenshot_2016-05-22-17-34-34Mabi Duel features a variety of modes. After completing the tutorial, you can play the story mode/campaign, do the normal or drafted daily quests against NPCs, or battle against other players either casually or in arenas. While the Rookie Arena features player-made decks but are played by AI, the regular PvP Arena faces you off against players in real time. Drafted modes require you to work with a set of random cards that you must choose in a “hex” fashion, selecting by rows which card to keep or re-roll. With each duel you win, on top of flat rewards, you are given a chance to spin the prize wheel, which, honestly doesn’t have good rewards save for the occasional booster pack that can appear if you’re on a win streak. Even then you actually have to land on it.

Furthermore, players can earn cards outside of booster packs by trading with the ubiquitous Cat Merchant or by buying them with gold through player shops. What’s interesting is that cards have a trade limit and actually visually wear down each time they are traded/sold.

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The Good

+ Story Mode. Think of of it as an extended tutorial that teaches you some builds and tactics on top of an actually interesting plotline and decent awards for completion. To be honest, I’m not really a fan of PvP in general so I’m glad the game gives you lots of options for singleplayer, which is probably why I never got into Hearthstone – definitely a personal preference. I found the story mode to be really enjoyable and cleared it within a week or two of picking up the game. Which, I guess, I kind of weird there’s just so many people struggling or not even bothering with the mode based on what I see online.

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+ Constant flow of cards. I feel like Asian mobile games have this figured out more in terms of balancing progression and IAP. One of the things I disliked about a lot of TCVGs was that I hit a wall very quickly and felt pressured to shell out real money for better cards. Mabi Duel’s reward system in both completing dailies and giving you three free gold booster packs a day (which actually have a chance to get you good cards) allows me to at least feel like I’m getting better cards. And if not from the boosters themselves, I can sell them for gold and buy the cards I want. Even better is that I’m guaranteed gems at a good enough rate where I can get the premium boosters consistently.

+ Lots of varied and creative mechanics and abilities. I haven’t played other TCGs enough to compare, but I really like some of the abilities for cards that are in this game. An example is the fact that movement along the board plays a big role in this game. For example, my favorite card at the moment is “Persona: Hurk” (lol). After killing an enemy his health restores completely and regardless he will always move to the enemy with the highest attack. Knowing this, I can play my cards properly to set off a scenario where my other cards can deal the killing blow of the now empty space that Hurk just cleared – on the same turn!

The Bad

– WHAT IS THAT VOICE? Apparently it’s supposed to be an in-game narrator for the battle but wow, as soon as I had the option to reach settings I turned that option to zero. And thank goodness it had its own audio level.

– Lack of popularity/community. A real shame, but based on the amount of content and resources online it’s pretty clear not that many people play Mabinogi Duel, at least in the West. Another red flag is the fact that they had to merge servers so now there is one, global one. I feel like it is faring better in the East, though, considering how many of them I face in PvP. Don’t even talk to me about SoulLink, because I have yet to met a person in real life to use it with. 😥

– Some avatars/cards are badly designed and probably are never used.  Like, for example, the “Mister Metal Gobble Gobble” avatar. (Yes, that’s his name and the characters in this game based on the story mode are pretty amazing.) His ability:

70% chance of decreasing hero’s HP by 2 every turn. Adds resources when HP is not decreased.

Like, really. WHY would you ever choose this avatar when the trade-off is clearly not in your favor? There’s also the card “Pessimistic Ally”:

When summoned, – 1 HP of all friendly creatures and your hero. At the end of each turn, if one of your resources is 0, moves to your opponent’s battlefield.

Unless you have a deck centered around dumping bad creatures on your opponent’s field (which actually sounds interesting but probably not viable), there’s really little reason to use this card at all. There are so many more examples where I just can’t help but think, why? Conspiracy: Their only purpose is to screw over my chances of getting good cards in booster packs.

Improvements

• Reward Wheel needs to have better awards. While I did run into energy issues early on, it has gotten to the point where I am always above my cap by a good 100 energy because I gain a lot more than I actually spend. It’s become a non-issue and I’m not sure what the point is of energy is if this is the case. Gold, on the other hand, is very much needed and the rewards given out from dailies and the wheel are paltry compared to the actual costs of cards on the market. Your only real hope is to wait weeks to save up or get lucky in booster packs to fund your way. Arena rewards are much better but it’s a matter of time commitment to actually get to a high enough rank to earn them.

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• Player shops need a search function/better filters. Good luck if you have a specific card you’d like to have in your deck in mind. Even more so if it’s from past generations that are now discontinued. The only way to search shops at the moment is by shop title, which is predetermined. For example, “Huge Discounts” which is misleading because it could mean this Ultra Rare 5-star card is being sold at 99,999 instead of 100,000! Once there was a shop that said “Old Cards are available” yet had all current generation cards. The results also can only be listed by most recent registration (you need to pay 10 gems to list your shop for like a week, sort of like auction boards in MMOs but for shops instead of just items).

• I should be able to see how many cards I have when trading with the Cat Merchant. It’s difficult already to determine if the deal is good enough, especially if you’re new and don’t know the value of many cards. Well, let me just say that 95% they are not, or are just pointless. Even then, the game makes no effort to tell you if this is your only card up for trade making the valuation even worse. How am I supposed to keep track of how many Goblin Archer cards I have? I don’t know! (And you can’t have it anyway, Cat Merchant, ‘cuz your offer sucks!)

Final Thoughts

This game is extremely well done, and one where I didn’t feel like giving up because I felt so underpowered and stuck like that. I’m constantly on the move to find more interesting decks to create, and finding out what cool (or weird) combinations and synergies can I work with. And the best part? I can actually make it happen without feeling stuck or pressured to do things I don’t want to do, like PvPing more or paying for it with real money.

RATING:

• Gameplay – 10/10 The interesting abilities and interactions make for a limitless amount of possible deck combinations. Whether or not they are viable (competitively) is another story, however. But overall a very fun game.

• Story/Concept – 7/10 Having a story mode isn’t really a focus for a game of this type, yet Mabi Duel still makes an effort to have one. The only problem is that it hasn’t been updated since I first cleared it during the first month the game came out (so at least half a year).

• Graphics/Art – 9/10 Having good art can make or break a card game, but thankfully the cards are gorgeous. While the interface of the game is a bit of a mismatch with the world of Mabinogi, it is nonetheless very polished and visually appealing. I love me some shiny, rare cards.

• Audio/Sound/BGM – 8/10 Again with the mismatch in theme. However…the music is actually…pretty catchy. 😀 And the sound effects are really fitting as well.

• Bang-for-your-buck10/10 Free game, lack of pressure to shell out money. Overall really good game and again, it’s a shame not enough people are playing this.

FINAL SCORE: 8.8/10

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