SolForge, Gather Your Digital Magic

by Neco | Nov 27, 2015 | SolForge | Beta Version: 5.1.0

Note: This article is over 12 months old, covering a game that was in development and the game may or may not have changed since this article was published.

A trading card game born and bred for the digital world, SolForge bears quite a few similarities with the mother-of-all-collectible-card-games Magic: The Gathering, but it shines with its own uniqueness and gameplay.

Given the heritage of SolForge, envisioned and realized by many Magic champions and one of its creators, the similarities are hardly a surprise. Cards and effects, certain synergies and moves that come out of them do remind Magic. However, they are not simply transferred from the classic to this new title. Instead, they are reborn, imbued with new flame and new possibilities.

It could hardly be otherwise because the core mechanics of SolForge are strikingly different from any other collectible card game to date. Taking full advantage of the digital format Stone Blade Entertainment have given their cards a scaling ability which is the bread and butter of mostly any other PC game: leveling up. Simple yet genius when it comes to cards.

It goes like this: each player starts with a deck of 20 cards and holds 5 cards to chose from; s/he can play only two of those per turn, the rest are discarded. There is no mana or other cost attached to the cards but those played level up. The discard pile essentially is the deck-to-be, because once the 20 starting cards are played or discarded, the discarded spells and minions become again the active deck. Only that those that were played are stronger now.

Neat, eh?

Balancing between playing the right card and the card for the right moment separates victor from loser.

Balancing between playing the right card and the card for the right moment separates victor from loser.

Neat and certainly impossible for any game with real cards as a matter of practicality. This unique mechanic makes SolForge a game with great strategic depth. Choosing the right card in the right moment is all that matters. With 5 cards to choose from every turn playing correctly is bound to deliver the stronger versions of the cards you thought important to level up. Of course, there are endless variations but opting for certain synergies that are very likely to happen makes both deckbuilding and situational awareness a real emanation of strategic mastery. So far, there are virtually no RNG mechanics, yet the game does not suffer any major balance issues.

This is true mostly for new players. SolForge in general is generous toward new players. It is a free-to-play collectible card game, which tries to dodge the pit in which most card games naturally fall. Now, let’s make something clear: it is a game in which collecting cards is important. There is no way to acquire the strongest cards and make the most unRektable decks ever after a few hours of play. It simply doesn’t work this way. On the other hard, persistence, logging in once a day, playing a couple of games, playing throughout the campaign, and so forth are things that pay off almost immediately.

There are many ways to obtain cards in SolForge without paying a dime, but they require persistence. Building a collection takes time after all. Still, the game has ways to introduce new player to its world rather seamlessly and with not that much effort. One can choose between two modes of ranked play: with or without legendary cards.

Those of great skill who wish to begin proving their strategic aptitude can do that relatively quickly as well in the numerous SolForge events where players match their skills in tournaments, clashing decks and skill for great rewards. I imagine that one of the things the makers of SolForge wanted to see and experience was an accessible card game with A WHOLE LOT of tournament play where all deserving players could demonstrate their skills against the best.
So far, Stone Blade Entertainment are doing outstanding job. The client has many features, which help a great deal toward proper tournament organization. When you think about it, this should be the cornerstone for any card game: make more people participate, show their skills, improve their abilities, help the game grow. In SolForge events happen on regular basis for quite some time now.

Earning cards is easy, which feels like an essential part of any truly free-to-play card game.

Earning cards is easy, which feels like an essential part of any truly free-to-play card game.

I enjoy playing SolForge quite a lot and have been coming to it regularly over the last few months. There are some balance issues but as a casual player I have felt their impact mostly not at all. What I like a lot is the fact that I am gaining cards every time I log in and then again and again, depending on my activities and skills. Even without investing much time I am able to refine my decks. I feel I am rewarded more than adequately for the invested time.

What bothers me the most about SolForge is the client. There were promises to overhaul it completely and this would be more than welcome because now it looks very clunky. Managing the cards is not as natural and fluid as it should be. For me, the whole outlook of the game board is a bit dull and does not help with the immersion at all. Let’s hope the upgrade will come soon enough so that I could really dive headstrong into SolForge and see whether I am as handsomely skillful as my mother thinks I am.

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