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PoxNora [PS4] – First Look

PoxNora is a strategy CCG that has been around for a while now and it is making its way to console. The game is currently in closed beta on PS4 and will be one of the first CCGs to offer cross platform play. While the idea of a pre-established CCG coming to console with full cross-platform play sounds like a great hand, the gameplay and presentation leave me looking for a mulligan.

I want to start this off by saying that the PS4 iteration of the game is my first exposure to it. I’ve already raved on this channel about how much I love the concept of a hybrid SRPG-Card Game. Just check out my Duelyst video. So naturally, when I was presented the opportunity to check this one out, I leapt at it.

PoxNora attempts to take a Magic: The Gathering style card game to its next logical step; tabletop, war-game style play. Players are given a base and generate Nora, the game’s resource, each turn. You spend it to play creatures, spells, and equipment for your units. Like in Duelyst, there are fonts on the map that you can capture which up your resource generation giving you an advantage. Unlike Duelyst, creatures have more than a few stats, and multiple keywords that grant them additional powers. There are several maps, each with terrain that changes how creatures perform much like in Yu-Gi-Oh with field cards. This can create some interesting match-ups, and turn what was, on paper, a one-sided match-up completely on its head. This works to the game’s favor most of the time. Honestly, there are a lot of systems at work in the game and it can be a lot to take in. This is the first place where the game really suffers. The tutorials included are severely lacking. They teach you the absolute most basic things about the game, but fail to cover things like keywords or terrain effects. Compare this to games like Magic: Duels of the Planeswalkers, which takes the time to explain the steps of the game as well as every facet of the cards included in the demo so that you understand the basics well enough to branch out. This game fails to completely build that knowledge base before setting you loose on the rest of the game. This kind of problem is exacerbated by the dreadful User Interface. I can see this layout working well on PC, as you’d have a mouse to quickly navigate the screen with. On the PS4 however, it’s clunky and slow. Cycling around the map is dreadful, made even worse by the isometric camera view, and sometimes elements of the UI will stop working altogether. I had a few moments in matches I played where I had resources but couldn’t play a creature, couldn’t move a unit, and couldn’t even end my turn. I had to go back to the home screen and force-close the application to get it running again. This made playing matches against opponents who already had a massive card advantage go from a mild frustration to a raging inferno.

Thankfully, there are a lot of single player campaign missions to play that offer a decent challenge and serve to generate gold and unlock things. Each match of the game, especially where the campaign is concerned, feels like a mission straight out of an RTS like Warcraft 3. This certainly isn’t a bad thing and despite the bland and dated visuals offers a good deal of fun.

This is where the second falling off point for the game is, and it ties into the biggest drawback of them all; this game has a ton of paywalls. A bunch of the game’s campaigns must be purchased. That, in and of itself, isn’t a huge problem. A developer wanting to make money for something they’ve created is perfectly fine. When you get into playing PVP or trying to clear campaigns on hard is where the wheels fly off the car and take out a toddler in the second row of the stands. Building a deck that is even remotely competitive in PVP is going to cost serious cash. The best way to get rare cards is to buy packs. You can buy them in singles, which will cost you about 2 dollars per pack, or you can buy them in sets of 10 and up your chances of getting more powerful stuff for a good bit more. Some of these boxes cost as much as 17 dollars. When you factor in that you only have a 5% chance to get something better than rare (and there are two rarities higher than just plain old rare) it’ll be quite some time before you have something viable. And believe me, you’ll need those legendary and exotic cards to be viable.

Now I’m all for cutting slack where it’s due. Part of this isn’t the game’s fault. It’s been around for a while now and had several expansions. This is what happens as CCGs age. The longer a game has been around, the more money it costs to get to a competitive nature with it. It happened with Magic, it happened with Yu-Gi-Oh, it happened with digital card games like Hearthstone. It’s unavoidable. What is avoidable is making the grind to get cards take forever. Packs cost in the thousands of gold if you don’t want to spend real cash and you get about 50 to 75 gold per match played. Considering each match takes 15-20 minutes or more, you’ll be here for a while.

The game isn’t all bad though. When it works, it’s fun and has a ton of depth to it. It even offers cross platform play with PC. One of my favorite things about this is if you’re someone who has spent a lot of time or money on the PC version, you can move your PC account information over to the PSN so you can pick up on console right where your PC account is and continue without losing a single thing. My hat’s off to Desert Owl for that, as it’s something you don’t see super often in a world where f2p pc games are turning up on console more and more frequently.

All in all, the PoxNora is a great idea on paper that suffers from a ton of paywalls, an old and somewhat bland aesthetic, and a user interface that got seriously lost in translation. If you’re looking for a Strategy Card Game, you may want to skip this one and check out Duelyst instead.

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PoxNora [PS4] - First Look