Skyworld: Kingdom Brawl makes me think of the children’s card game Yu-Gi-Oh. Not the physical card game; the early iterations had overpowered cards such as Pod of Greed and Exodia which, when used together, players can automatically win games after a few rounds. No, I am talking about the anime, where players can throw down cards that became animated, rising from the ground to march forwards, slashing and shooting.
The player experience is excellent, and it felt great to slap down some cards and watch as your army laps the other side. It felt great to command a battlefield the size of a desk. But the lack of instructions or help makes for a confusing experience with little guidance.
Skyworld: Kingdom Brawl and the heart of the cards
Players start by standing over a massive circular table. On the table is a castle, some garrisons, an inn, and other buildings. It felt like looking over a map during World War II, only with more dragons. The Oculus Quest is a great fit for the software.
A short introduction led me to my first match, against an AI goblin. The table flipped and I now stood on a battlefield. In my left hand was an array of cards, and in front of me were two castles. The goal: knock the enemy stronghold down.
The mana system is relatively straightforward. Over time the mana regenerates, leading to a maximum of ten crystals. Cards are worth several crystals, which are spent when putting them to play. A random card replaces the one placed in the hand.
The soldiers do not stand still. This is not like some card games where people stand around and look intimidating. The small army of troops march forward, and when they sense an enemy, slash in their direction. In the end, one army reaches the other side and wins.
As someone who likes tactical games as well as card games, it tickes me in all the right ways to see my little footsoldiers beat other soldiers senseless, or to shoot them down with a fireball.
Confusing to play the game
It felt great to play; but I had no idea what I was doing. I had a repertoire of creatures, machines and humans I can deploy to march forward, but I am unsure how to counter the opponent.
Typically, games provide a tutorial which goes over the mechanics of the game. While Skyworld: Kingdom Brawl shows the basics of game, it is done by putting me into one with very little preparation. It’s a bit like training a toddler to swim by throwing it into a pool and shouting instructions as it struggles.
The reason why I felt this way is that I can sense there is a rock-paper-scissors vibe with the gameplay, but the game did not describe in detail what it is. For example, I knew that archers would beat footsoldiers. Cool. But what about a large knight against archers? Why are battle balloons so overpowered, and how can they be countered? And why not just save up all the mana for a literal dragon, instead of using lots of smaller units?
The gameplay is also in real-time. While that makes the game fast-paced (which I love), it means there is a steeper learning curve to experiment on the fly.
It felt frustrating sensing that there is deeper complexity in the game, but without much guidance on how to look further into it.
Fun online play
While the gameplay seemed daunting, it is great fun to play with other players. A German publication is playing the game at the same time as I, and we both waved at each other before playing.
Camaraderie like that is great, as it gives enough freedom to show your thoughts. Though it is difficult to see if the other player raises a middle finer too.
Crafting soldiers to use in Skyworld: Kingdom Brawl
Like other card-based games, players can also craft new cards in Skyworld: Kingdom Brawl with the money they earn from battles. The cards can then be put into a deck and used for gameplay.
Like with the other games, I felt a bit lost making a new deck as very little is explained. I can see what the cards were, what the stats were, and their costs, but I had no idea what is good and what is not. I needed to have a piece of paper which shows me what counters which units, and then I would be more willing to make purchases.
All of this contributed to my feeling that more instructions would have been beneficial. But surely Minecraft had no instructions initially, and people were satisfied with experimenting or using a Wiki? Perhaps, but at least outside of VR I can switch tabs.
Commanding a battlefield
Skyworld: Kingdom Brawl is made for the Hearthstone players. Bored with the online card game, its for players who want to try something news, with a new dimension of gameplay.
It succeeds in that it’s fun to play and experiment with. However, the lack of instructions makes the barrier of entry very high.
The game is designed for those who are willing to take off a headset and make some notes on what works and what does not while going through tonnes of matches to work out what works best. While that is great for some players, I felt I needed more hand-holding to enjoy the experience more. For everyone else, it’s time to duel.