Alteil Horizons is yet another game franchise that has been saved and commandeered by a devoted staff of developers, and put up on Kickstarter for the community to look after. As of this article, the funding for the project is over their initial goals; there’s clearly a demand for digital, online card-trading strategy games. Many of the artists and devs working on Alteil are industry vets that have been involved in titles as ranged and varied as Final Fantasy Tactics, Star Ocean, Zelda, and Valkyrie Profile.
Though it’s fairly common knowledge now, for those that aren’t familiar, Kickstarter is a unique website that was set up to allow consumers to directly fund projects they believe in. It’s a method of direct investment that limits the involvement of middle-men and publishers (Electronic Arts, for example). Since its inception it has been wildly popular and instrumental in acquiring funding for a number of inventions, games, and media projects that would have otherwise never been taken on by traditional investors. In short, Kickstarter is a kind of absolute investment democracy, and is changing the way many people think about funding projects and ideas.
The setting of Alteil Horizons takes place in a world called Lavato, and like Magic: The Gathering, it has various card types that have benefits to working with one another. One of the more interesting aspects of the game is that a player’s deck is not shuffled and drawn from at random, but instead players are allowed to pick and choose from their deck to play cards as needed, lending more skill than chance to the way the game is played and victory decided. There is a heavy emphasis on cards that utilize conditional effects, such as Lycanthropes that become stronger at night, as well as cards that synergize through buffing themselves and other cards of the same type on the field.
Combat is turn-based, naturally, and lanes of enemies operate on two opposed grids of three-by-three. This allows players to form orderly regiments of units, with melee at the front, and ranged units further back. When I played it in alpha, it seemed like a solid system, and I especially enjoyed the colorful art on the cards. Though the preview was too brief for me to really plumb the depths of the game’s systems, it seems that the core gameplay is rock-solid, and knows exactly what genre it’s in. The introduction of soul cards, which occupy a space to the left side of the battlefield, apparently allow players (called Iczers, in this setting) to use specialized attacks or spells against the enemy, as well as abilities to buff their own units.
The primary issues I saw in the alpha (which will no doubt be corrected) were horrendous typos and text glitches in the dialogue. But given that this game was originally Japanese and is still in the earliest stages of development, that can obviously be forgiven. The real question that has to be asked is whether or not the world needs another digital trading-card game. Obviously there’s a fan-following for this particular game, or it wouldn’t be funded. But whatever happened to actually physically trading cards? The rainforest is no doubt grateful for alleviating the paper demand through continual digitization of these types of things, but nothing really beats the feel of physically holding your precious cards in your hand. This point might be lost on the latest generation of gamers, but older gamers remember a time not too long ago when cards weren’t vulnerable to system hiccups and solar flares.
Not that your trading cards would be much use in the collapse of society that would follow a solar flare, but still. It’s important to have a sense of permanence to the things you own. This article has become sidetracked. Moving on!
Regardless of your opinion on whether or not trading cards should be digital or physical, Alteil Horizon certainly shows a great deal of competence with its solid core gameplay and smooth aesthetic design. Their donation rewards seem generous, and on the kickstarter page it looks like they’re awarding actual boxes of cards. I tried to find out whether or not they’re awarding real cards in boxes for donating large amounts, but the search came up inconclusive. It certainly would be neat, but also would require them to invest a great deal in manufacturing them. There might be something to this only-digital business, after-all. At the end of the day, rewards or no, Alteil Horizons is a solid title with ambitions to put up permanent servers for advanced matchmaking and PVP. These things aren’t cheap, so fans of Japanese pop art, turn-based strategy, and socializing over our era’s equivalent of competitive chess, really shouldn’t pass up the chance to help fund this project and get involved. At the very least, we should all be pleased we live in an age that allows consumers to vote with their wallets so easily.
Tagspeech is the alias of author W.B. Wemyss, who was responsible for the bizarre cyberpunk fever dream called Children of Athena.