I last compared digital card games when I compared Hearthstone with Magic Duels. I’m going to do a similar thing with a digital card game I recently started playing, Shadowverse. Because I am enjoying my time playing Shadowverse to a big degree, I expect to be blogging more about the game down the line. This is meant to be a more general comparison between the games, for Hearthstone players who are interested in trying Shadowverse.
What is Shadowverse?
Shadowverse is a digital card game, released in June 2016 by Cygames. I cannot name another game Cygames has made, so one can assume they are a smallish indie company. Apparently, it is the most popular card game in Japan.
Getting past the boobwall
This may sound absurd, but I didn’t play Shadowverse for a while because of the artwork. The artwork is anime/manga styled, and features a lot of female characters with absolute cleavage, and partial nudity on a few followers. It even led to the Runecraft Leader, Isabelle, getting “nerfed” in the US version.
While I have no issue with the art being the way it is, I thought this fanservicing concealed what the game had to offer, and that the game would be all smoke and mirrors. This turned out to be a horribly erroneous line of thought. This game is extremely thought-provoking and challenging. Just with a lot of boobs around.
Key differences between the games
- The hallmark of Shadowverse is Evolve, a function that allows you to promote your followers on the field. Typically a follower gets +2/+2 in stats, and gains Rush, the ability to Charge and attack an enemy follower. Other minions have more powerful abilities that come with Evolve, like deal damage or gain Ward (Taunt).
- Evolve gives the game an extra layer of complexity, as you get to charge and buff a minion of your choosing, allowing you to get rid of summoning sickness. This ability can be used offensively, to add face damage, or trade on a minion. It can also be used defensively. Also, you either get 2 or 3 Evolves per game, so knowing when to use these charges is key.
- In Hearthstone, each of the 9 classes are distinguished by class cards, and the 2-mana cost Hero Power. Certain classes have multiple workable archetypes, while other classes are stuck with one type of deck.
- Shadowverse has 7 classes, with individual class cards as well. But each class is completely different from each other, based on the class trait, and class cards which work with the trait. For example, the control class, Havencraft, has pretty much no way of becoming an aggro class, as the card rely on anti-tempoing early on for big gain later. The Bloodcraft class is all about playing the game at 10 life, to empower all the other cards. Dragoncraft will always be a ramp class, as there cards rely on getting to (Mana) 7.
- While both are digital card games, there are some key mechanical differences that influence gameplay. Hearthstone is a 30 life, 30 card game, while Shadowverse is a 20 life, 40 card game. Drawing to fatigue seems impossible in Shadowverse, while they happen often in a Reno mirror game in Hearthstone. With 20 life, your character seems to be in peril easily. Given that the Bloodcraft Class thrives on 10 life, every game must be a thrill.
- The baseline minions in Shadowverse are weaker than those in Hearthstone. Typically, there aren’t good Turn 1 plays, and a 3/2 costs 3 for example.
- The Evolve mechanic encourages trading, given that the Evolved minion can only attack minions on the first turn. With the 20 life cap, trading could be more important in Shadowverse than in Hearthstone.
- Turn planning is extremely complex in Shadowverse, seemingly as complex or more complex than Miracle Rogue swing turns in Hearthstone. Forestcraft cards for example, have cards that require at least 2 cards to be played that turn for an effect to trigger. You just have to make a ton of turn planning decisions on playing cards for tempo or effects, holding onto cards for reactive moves vs tempo, etc. Just so many decisions to make, which vary by class.
- Hearthstone has weapons, which gets the hero directly involved on the board. From what I can tell, the heroes in Shadowverse are just there to look pretty, throw out threats, and get hit.
- Shadowverse has Amulets, which serve as the card that isn’t a minion or spell. Amulets are best defined as things that have effects, but can’t attack and can’t be attacked. Given Shadowverse also only allows 5 things on the board (vs 7 in Hearthstone), the Amulets take a bunch of board space.
- Oh yeah, like any other card game, Shadowverse has less RNG than Hearthstone. The Forestcraft has a bit of RNG like Avenging Wrath, but some classes, like Runecraft, seem to avoid it entirely.
Going 2nd possibly balanced
- There are well-known splits in Hearthstone of the 1st player winning games over the 2nd player by a decent margin. A common topic of discussion is how The Coin just isn’t enough to make up for it.
- Shadowverse gives the 2nd player 3 Evolve charges (1st player gets 2) and lets the 2nd player draw 2 cards on Turn 1. I don’t know if this makes things completely even, but I personally have felt getting 3 Evolve charges is well-worth going 2nd.
- Shadowverse appears as a very free-to-play (F2p) game. Upon completing the tutorial, you get 10 free packs per set (30 total), a bunch of vouchers, and resources. There are additional rewards for leveling up, gaining achievements, etc. While you get continual rewards in Shadowverse, it appears that decks require a lot more investment of resources to play. Really good decks require about 18,000 vials (dust) to play for example. These rewards may just be scaling to 40 cards per deck.
- Hearthstone has a handful of achievements, listed below. There is constant criticism about the game being anti-F2p, or not being friendly to new players. But unlike Shadowverse, there are relatively cheap decks that can be competitive in Hearthstone.
- Hearthstone’s Ranked Mode, which was created back in Open Beta, is known for being Levels 1-25, with a Legend rank above that. The devs recently have acknowledged the community’s frustration with the “grind” it takes to level up in Hearthstone.
- Shadowverse has a point system, which drives you through tiers of ranks. It is similar to earning experience on a quest, and leveling up that way. So far in the D ranks, I typically earn a lot of experience when winning a Ranked game, while losing only a few points when losing. There may also be implications, where not conceding is the better route in salvaging experience, but I am not sure if this is true. I won 16 Ranked games to get from Beginner 0 to D1. Not bad.
One (Steam) server
- Hearthstone is known for having separate servers: NA, EU, TW/KR, CN, with different server reliabilities. Shadowverse appears to have all players in the same Steam server. When playing my first few games of Shadowverse, I encountered a number of players with Asian characters as their battle names. This is not unexpected, given Shadowverse is a Japanese game.
- Given everyone is on one server, there could be many disruptions, resulting in disconnects. I actually got my first Unranked, Ranked, and Take Two wins in Shadowverse via disconnect.
Customization, UI, and more
- Hearthstone definitely has the more solid user interface, with things being where they should be. It is simple with not too much going on. The UI for Shadowverse is a little discombobulated in comparison, with cards in hand either being oversized or undersized. The emoting system is also more challenging to use, but they do limit you on 3 emotes a turn!
- Shadowverse has a lot of avenues for customization. You can set custom emblems, flairs, and even a country flag for national pride. Emblems are awarded through achievements, or when you get a legendary card. Further you can actually customize things like turning off emotes entirely. This request has long been desired by the Hearthstone community.
- There are various leaderboards for public viewing in Shadowverse, and various stats about your wins and experience. Replays as well!
Overall, Shadowverse is different from Hearthstone primarily through the more complex gameplay and turn-planning. There is also a lot more customization from the game, possibly borrowing from feedback that Hearthstone players desire. On the downside, it suffers a little just by being a smaller company, and being a lesser-known quantity (no real lore ties), and having less polish in the UI holding cards. I must say I am very impressed with the game, and will continue playing it.